On the way to Elkhart Lake, Wisc., you can pick up polka music on the car radio. You will see signs for Sheboygan and Johnsonville — of bratwurst fame — and you will see more barns and grain silos than actual people.

But when you get to Road America, you won’t mind polka music at all, and you’ll probably get a hankering for some cheese.

NASA Midwest and Great Lakes played host to the Central Region and even a few racers from the Rocky Mountain Region August 1-3 for some great racing at one of America’s premier racetracks.

Great Lakes and Midwest Regional Director Jay Andrew even welcomed guests from the Pirelli Porsche GT3 Cup series and some professional IMSA drivers warming up for the pro races the following weekend.

“This is a big event at a legacy track, and it took a lot to put this together,” Andrew said. “We had do to a lot of planning. We were doing promotion far in advance of what we do for other events to get word out about this weekend.”

It must have worked because the paddock was full, with about 250 HPDE, TT and racecars on hand to tackle Road America’s 4-mile-long, 14-turn road circuit.

Road America’s history is similar to that of Watkins Glen. In the early 1950s, the town of Elkhart Lake staged sports car races on the streets in and around the lake itself. Eventually, the state legislature banned racing on public roads, which prompted a group of local citizens to build a permanent racecourse in Elkhart Lake. The brainchild of a local highway engineer named Clif Tufte, Road America opened in April 1955.

The track itself is essentially the same as when it opened 59 years ago, but the grounds and facilities have seen numerous improvements over the years. Road America attracts some 800,000 visitors a year and generates more than $100 million annually.

NASA competitors were eager to take on this track, with its deadly fast “kink” and the brake-burning turns 5 and 12, also known as Canada Corner.

“We’ve been here in the past in the early spring and late in October when the weather was not very predictable with a lot fewer cars and drivers. The first weekend of August has a lot to do with the success here,” Andrew said. “We never had the opportunity to have dates at this time of year at this track. They never offered them to us, so we jumped on that, and we’ll try to make it a regular thing. The more times you have a successful event on the same date, the more people get used to it, especially at a legacy track like this.”

At the end of the day, when the sun began to set, barbecues filled the air with the smell of simmering sausage and bratwurst. The delicious local brews flowed — and if you set your car radio just right, you could tune in to some polka music.

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Turn 14 is a great place to shoot in the morning. Ray and Alan Sweers went round and round nose to tail in Saturday practice, along with a bevy of American Iron cars and C5 Z06 Corvettes.
Turn 14 is a great place to shoot in the morning. Ray and Alan Sweers went round and round nose to tail in Saturday practice, along with a bevy of American Iron cars and C5 Z06 Corvettes.
It was nice to see high-end Italian hardware on track at Road America.
It was nice to see high-end Italian hardware on track at Road America.
Corvettes aren’t exactly a rarity at NASA events, but catching a C6 Z06 and a 1965 C2 on the same corner in the same frame kind of is. Look for a full feature on the 1965 Corvette in a future issue.
Corvettes aren’t exactly a rarity at NASA events, but catching a C6 Z06 and a 1965 C2 on the same corner in the same frame kind of is. Look for a full feature on the 1965 Corvette in a future issue.
NASA Great Lakes is home to some of the best CMC racing in the country.
NASA Great Lakes is home to some of the best CMC racing in the country.
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Spec E30 is as competitive in the Great Lakes/Midwest regions as it is anywhere.
Spec E30 is as competitive in the Great Lakes/Midwest regions as it is anywhere.
Nice to see an 1980s Porsche being put to good use in TTD rather than gathering dust in a garage.
Nice to see an 1980s Porsche being put to good use in TTD rather than gathering dust in a garage.
If you ever wondered what became of this Miata from a Shutter Speed image in our July 2013 issue, well, it’s still out there racing. It’s a little charred on its back side, but it’s still whole.
If you ever wondered what became of this Miata from a Shutter Speed image in our July 2013 issue, well, it’s still out there racing. It’s a little charred on its back side, but it’s still whole.
This group of people might look like one racing team, but there are several different classes of cars among their ranks. They just like hanging out at NASA events together, and that’s team enough for us.
This group of people might look like one racing team, but there are several different classes of cars among their ranks. They just like hanging out at NASA events together, and that’s team enough for us.
Ever wonder how you got interested in racing? This boy won’t have to wonder. He’ll know.
Ever wonder how you got interested in racing? This boy won’t have to wonder. He’ll know.
NASA Great Lakes and Midwest Regional Director Jay Andrew kicks off the awards presentation Saturday night.
NASA Great Lakes and Midwest Regional Director Jay Andrew kicks off the awards presentation Saturday night.
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The sunlight glinting off the paint, wheels and decals on this E46 attracted our camera lenses every time it came around.
The sunlight glinting off the paint, wheels and decals on this E46 attracted our camera lenses every time it came around.
S195 Mustang prices have come down far enough that they’re becoming more prevalent on racetracks across the country — and they make such a sweet exhaust note.
S195 Mustang prices have come down far enough that they’re becoming more prevalent on racetracks across the country — and they make such a sweet exhaust note.
How about a little love for road racing the Gen. III Camaro? This one was particularly speedy.
How about a little love for road racing the Gen. III Camaro? This one was particularly speedy.
Some cars from the Pirelli Porsche GT3 Cup series, and some professional IMSA drivers warming up for the pro races the following weekend, joined in NASA Super Unlimited and GTS5 classes.
Some cars from the Pirelli Porsche GT3 Cup series, and some professional IMSA drivers warming up for the pro races the following weekend, joined in NASA Super Unlimited and GTS5 classes.
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A fixture at NASA Great Lakes events, Dr. Audrey Zavodsky shoots out of Canada Corner during morning practice.
A fixture at NASA Great Lakes events, Dr. Audrey Zavodsky shoots out of Canada Corner during morning practice.
One look at all the skid marks should tell you how tricky it is to get Canada Corner right.
One look at all the skid marks should tell you how tricky it is to get Canada Corner right.
While everyone is out on track, the tech shed is open for business.
While everyone is out on track, the tech shed is open for business.
2012 Honda Challenge National Champion Jason Kohler was double-dipping in PTE and TTE in his Mazda Miata.
2012 Honda Challenge National Champion Jason Kohler was double-dipping in PTE and TTE in his Mazda Miata.
Two Boss 302 Mustangs exiting Canada Corner at full song.
Two Boss 302 Mustangs exiting Canada Corner at full song.
Greg Vannucci had good showings in ST1 and TT2 in his Lotus.
Greg Vannucci had good showings in ST1 and TT2 in his Lotus.
TTU had a number of Corvettes taking part, including this one all decked out with downforce devices.
TTU had a number of Corvettes taking part, including this one all decked out with downforce devices.
The safety crew at Turn 5 was always at the ready.
The safety crew at Turn 5 was always at the ready.
The leaders of CMC were never far apart and often overlapping at corner entry. This region is home to some of the best CMC racing in the country.
The leaders of CMC were never far apart and often overlapping at corner entry. This region is home to some of the best CMC racing in the country.
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This Spec Miata driver was fortunate there’s a gravel trap at the exit of Turn 5, though he’ll be picking gravel out of his car for weeks.
This Spec Miata driver was fortunate there’s a gravel trap at the exit of Turn 5, though he’ll be picking gravel out of his car for weeks.
It’s always nice to see an Acura NSX being wrung out on a racetrack. Ayrton Senna would approve.
It’s always nice to see an Acura NSX being wrung out on a racetrack. Ayrton Senna would approve.
In addition to hosting all the Pirelli Cup cars, NASA Great Lakes and Midwest have a large contingent of GTS cars.
In addition to hosting all the Pirelli Cup cars, NASA Great Lakes and Midwest have a large contingent of GTS cars.
NASA Great Lakes and Midwest have one slick stacker trailer for race control. It’s decked out with radio communication, full power and air conditioning.
NASA Great Lakes and Midwest have one slick stacker trailer for race control. It’s decked out with radio communication, full power and air conditioning.
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Images courtesy of Brett Becker and Tony Esposito