ELKHART LAKE â Youâll get no argument from the Irish guy who moved to Elkhart Lake to race open-wheel cars.
This might be as diverse a racing weekend as Road America has seen.
âYeah, strange,â said JamesÂ Roe Jr., who is here with the Formula 3 Americas series. âTrans Am, NASCAR, stadium trucks âŚ weâre like the black sheep out there.â
Indeed, the open-wheel, single-seat F3 cars do stand out on a weekend headlined by the NASCAR Xfinity Seriesâ CTech Manufacturing 180 on Saturday.
Trans Am, with its muscle cars, is a staple at the 4-mile course. The Speed Energy Stadium Super Truck series came last year, bringing off-road-style vehicles that bound over ramps on a short version of the track. And hereâs F3, a relative newcomer to the list of development divisions available to aspiring drivers.
Roe, 20,Â landed in the United States last year to advance his career by racing in F2000 with the Elkhart Lake-based Arms Up Motorsports.
âIn Europe there was no real opportunity, and the outlook is that if you win a championship or you do well, you just get a clap on the back and thereâs no real help from anyone,â Roe said. âBut in the U.S., thereâs scholarships up for grabs. You win a championship, you get a scholarship to progress. Thereâs prizes for poles, fastest laps, all this kind of stuff.
âSo a driver can get support just from doing well within a series. âŚ I could see the opportunity that if all pans out well, I will get rewarded for my success. Thatâs just whatâs so nice about U.S. motor racing. Even with this championship, thereâs a lot of support for the drivers who do well.â
F3 America is based on an international platform; the cars are identical, the Honda engines put out about 300 horsepower and the entire package is designed with cost-consciousness in mind. The series is designed to lead toward international FIA Formula 3, then Formula 2 and Formula One.
For Roe, a more likely progression would be two seasons in F3 Americas and then maybe Indy Lights.
âThe ultimate goal is to just have âŚ a paid long-term career, whether thatâs in single-seaters like Indy cars, or sports like the IMSA stuff, I donât mind,â he said. âWhatever I can pay the bills from by doing something I enjoy doing, Iâm game.â
More immediate goals are to challenge for victories in two races this weekend, at 11 a.m. Friday and 9:10 a.m. Saturday, and to quell his curiosity.
âFor sure I want to see what the NASCAR stuffâs like,â Roe said. âAnd the stadium trucks, as well.â
Trans Am leader Chris Dyson, a seasoned 41-year-old sports-car veteran, is racing in Wisconsin for the second time this season. And no, the first time wasnât during the IMSA weekend at Road America; it came in a USAC Silver Crown car at the half-mile Madison International Speedway.
Dyson was third-fastest in the official practice session Friday behind two-time defending series champion Ernie Francis Jr. and 2018 Road America winner Boris Said.Â Francis and Said split fast-lap honors for the two test sessions.
The three NASCAR regulars using Trans Amâs TA2 class for extra track time all were in the top 10 in at least one of the three sessions Friday.
Justin Haley ranked second in the official practice session, 0.084 of a second off Rafa Matosâ pace. Â Haley, who is ninth in Xfinity points, was the surprise Cup Series winner at Daytona in July in his third start in the series.
Christopher Bell, the five-race winner headed for Cup next year; and Brandon Jones, who finished fourth last August; also are competing in TA2. A year ago, Ty Majeski won, leading NASCAR drivers to three of the top four positions.
The TA2 cars make less horsepower than the Xfinity cars, but they are lighter and more aerodynamically efficient, giving them similar overall lap times.
All Trans Am classes qualify Friday afternoon. The TA2 race starts Saturdayâs activity at 8 a.m., and the TA/TA3/TA4 race is scheduled for 11:40 a.m., after Xfinity qualifying.
NASCAR Xfinity Series practice is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. and 2:35 p.m. Friday, qualifying for 10:40 a.m. Saturday and the CTech 180 for 2 p.m. Saturday.