Video of the Day: The 1963 Road America 500

Let's celebrate the national park of speed's decision to run the June Sprints and International Challenge with spectators! Here's a genuine slice of road racing history

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Road America, set in the undulating hills of South East Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine, is a beautiful place to see a race – and always was! The track will be welcoming the “rites of summer” with its traditional SCCA June Sprints in a fortnight. To celebrate, we have a piece of genuine history for you.

There are so many connections to the fabled circuit, and ANY driver who has run there lists the place amongst their favorites. John Morton told me once, “It is like going on a journey every lap.”

In 1963, Carroll Shelby’s Cobras made their first appearance in Elkhart Lake. Shelby came to win. Beyond an arsenal of amazing bespoke race cars, he brought incredible talent in Dave MacDonald, Bob Bondurant, Bob Holbert, Ken Miles and Lew Spencer.

This endurance classic, as part of the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) also brought together the most amazing sports cars of the day. Elva Porsche, Ferrari 250 TR, Maserati Tipo 151 “Birdcage,” Porsche 718 RS and the “new” C2 Corvette.

The list of drivers was a who’s who of the day including Briggs Cunningham, John Fitch, Walt Hansgen, Augie Pabst, Roger Penske, Don Devine, Skip Scott, Mike Rahal (yes, Bobby’s dad), Charlie Hayes, Don Wester, Dr. Dick Thompson, Skip Hudson and Harry Heuer – just to name a few.

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Bill Wuestoff and Augie Pabst in the winner’s circle at the 1963 Road America 500. Photo from video.

Augie Pabst and Bill Wuesthoff, who would be on the future Road America board of directors, won the race in an Elva Porsche. Pabst himself would do double duty, also sharing the Ferrari 250 GTO with Roger Penske. Two of the three Shelby Cobras would finish 2nd and 4th.

The film shows a much different track than today, not that the layout has ever changed. The track is in the same configuration as when Cliff Tufte, a Wisconsin highway engineer, built it 65 years ago. However, the Road America circuit in this film is unspoiled by concrete k-rail and catch-fencing, almost like the days of racing on public roads.

When I think of the 52 years and great times I have spent at the four-mile road course (I was very fortunate to have spent many race weekends there by way of my race-promoter father), it warms my heart to have a look at the way-back machine and see the cars and stars of a gilded era running in what is truly one of my favorite places on God’s green earth.

A special thank you to Rich MacDonald (Dave’s son) for sharing this wonderful film.

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