Editor's Notebook, July 1999
The June Sprints were held at Road America for the fiftieth time this year. Almost five hundred race cars, of every type, participated. Sleek formula cars, from little FV's to Formula Atlantics, powered their way around the track, wending through Thunder Valley and disappearing under the Billy Mitchell Bridge. Powerful purpose-built stock car racing machines, the cars that the SCCA calls GT-1 in its amateur classes and Trans-Am in its Pro Series, thundered most appropriately through Thunder Valley. All forms of showroom stock cars, sports cars, modified cars, and vintage cars, with a range of skills behind the wheel, tested themselves against the fourteen turns of Road America and enjoyed the peace and beauty of Thunder Valley.
Susan and I arrived at Elkhart Lake late on Friday, towing our scooters. We settled into our room at the charming and well-appointed Bed and Breakfast just around the corner from Siebkens. The air conditioning of the guesthouse would be a welcome relief during the weekend from the heat and humidity at the track.
Early Saturday morning, we met our fellow houseguests, two couples, young race car drivers and their wives, who had traveled to Road America for the Sprints from the West and East Coasts. (The fourth couple staying in the house were corner workers. We never saw them as they were up and out early and returned late.) The drivers were excited about the weekend and the track and the wives were supportive.
We grabbed some juice and coffee, avoided the wonderful-looking spinach omelets, and headed for Munchwerkes, the food stand at the track just next to the false grid. In the early morning air, we drank more coffee, ate Munchwerkes' Famous Eggers (like McDonalds's Egg McMuffin, but way better) and enjoyed the sounds and sights of the race cars gliding through turn fourteen and heading up the hill towards Start/Finish.
Later in the day, we scootered over to say hello to Kathy Lyle, a Thunder Valley Featured Driver campaigning her BMW in the T-1 class. Kathy's new race car was immaculate and well prepared for the battle ahead.
We also stopped in to see Jill Peeters, SCCA GT-1 driver and Thunder Valley Featured Driver. She'd crashed her car in practice and her crew was feverishly busy rebuilding it. Jill took the time to put a couple of Thunder Valley Racing decals on her machine before pitching back into the rebuilding process.
In the afternoon, Susan and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Nancy James. Nancy has been driving race cars for more than twenty-five years. Now that she and her husband, Ted, are retired, they travel around the country from one race event to another. They travel in a combination mobile home and race trailer. Up front are the bedroom, bath, and kitchen. At the back is the loading and storage area for the car and workshop.
Nancy is currently driving a D Sports Racer and credits much of her great success to the engineering and computer enhancements provided by her husband. They make a great team. (Sort of like the couples at our Bed and Breakfast, but with the wife getting the glory.) I'm hoping that Nancy will become involved with Thunder Valley Racing in some way.
On Saturday evening, Susan and I had dinner at Bruce's Supper Club (where I had proposed marriage to her not many years past) and retired, exhausted to our room. We took a leisurely Sunday morning, with a wonderful guest house breakfast and the newspaper in the sitting room.
Racing began in earnest after noon. We watched the first race from Thunder Valley. The Formula Fords and Formula Mazdas put on quite a show for us, with lots of dicing for position, cars sliding to track-out (and, frequently, into the gravel and grass waaaay past track-out) at Canada Corner before fighting for position at turn-in for thirteen.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at various vantage points around the track, enjoying the people, the air, the race cars, the scenic views, the competition, the pork chop sandwiches, the sounds, the heat of the day and the wisp of cloud cover that gave us temporary relief.
By the drop of the last checker, we were sated. We loaded the scooters and made the trek home. We've already marked our calendar for the 51st running of the June Sprints, in the next century.