America's 17 Best Race Tracks
We're fortunate to have dozens of beautiful road courses in the US, but some tower above others as "must-drive" destinations. Below are the 17 best in America. Check to see if you're close to any of 'em. If so, take a day and go drive one.
Seriously, please go do this—we're stuck in the office and want to live vicariously through you.
UPDATE: As a few of you observed, Road America was originally absent from this list; we blame it on getting lost in the ordering shuffle during the editing process. It has been put in its rightful spot.
17. Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, OklahomaHallett's a small track that's been around for nearly 40 years. It's one of the shorter tracks on this list, but it's highly technical, and features plenty of elevation changes—none more pronounced than an up-down-up, left-right sequence that's so tricky its official name is "The B*tch."
16. Miller Motorsports Park, UtahOne of only two acceptable reasons to go to Utah (along with skiing), Miller Motorsports Park is the pet project of late local dealership magnate-slash-Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller.
15. Lime Rock Park, ConnecticutThis 1.5 mile, tree-lined course is fast enough to have undergone a few modifications to slow cars down since it opened in 1957. No matter—it's still a must-drive for anyone in New England.
14. Barber Motorsports Park, AlabamaDesigned by the same guy that drew up Miller Motorsports Park, Barber's probably the most pristine circuit here. Spin off and damage the grass or the wall? Fixing your car might be cheap by comparison. Still, Barber is a must for any gearhead.
13. Sonoma Raceway, CaliforniaKnown for decades as Sears Point and briefly as Infineon Raceway, Sonoma is a winding path in the middle of wine country just north of San Francisco. Its combination of rhythmic sweeping corners and long straights is irresistible even to NASCAR, which makes its drivers turn left a bit every year.
12. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, OhioMid-Ohio has been one of America's preeminent road courses since before most of America's preeminent sports cars were even designed. Long straights, fast sweeping turns, and tighter technical portions are what make it great.
11. Willow Springs Raceway, CaliforniaOver 60 years after the concrete was first poured for Willow Springs about an hour north of LA, Willow Springs remains a deceptively complex track. It's bumpy, it's technically demanding, and if you're not prepared to steer your car with your pedals, you'll never truly be fast here.
10. Road America, Wisconsin
The only thing that rivals the high speeds you’ll find at Road America is the rich character of one of America’s most traditional road courses.
9. Sebring International Raceway, FloridaStarting just a few years after the end of WWII, this converted airport has been one of the fundamental pillars of international endurance racing. The track is so demanding and so bumpy that it has a reputation as a car killer, making it a sort of proving ground for teams prior to the ultimate challenge at Le Mans.
(Heads up: keen eyes will note that that's Steve McQueen in the photo above.)
8. Watkins Glen International, New YorkThe spiritual home of Formula One in the United States has undergone many changes over the decades, evolving from a street course to a wide-open grand prix circuit. You want hallowed ground? Racing where people like Sir Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark won is a good place to start.
7. Road Atlanta, GeorgiaYeah, there are plenty of opportunities to go fast at Road Atlanta, but the real fun is in The Esses.
6. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IndianaYou can make a solid argument that Indy has more history than any other track on Earth. Most of that history is on the legendary oval, though, not the road course cutting through the middle of the infield past manmade lakes and a golf course. Still...it's a road course at Indy cutting through a golf course, and that's enough to make anyone's bucket list.
5. Virginia International Raceway, VirginiaYour boss might play golf, but VIR is basically the country club where your boss's boss goes to play. In its longest configuration, more than two dozen turns are spread out over four miles, including a tight right hander where an oak tree once stood. After 200 years, the tree fell last year, and it was so popular they're working on cloning it, so you can grow your own.
4. Circuit of The Americas, TexasBuilt primarily for Formula 1 but also supporting events like concerts and the X Games, COTA is dominated by a very steep four story climb to the top of turn one, which is followed by a long downhill winding section. The track itself is great, and the facilities are among the best in the world, but watching the morning mist lift off of turn one is life-affirming.
3. Daytona International Speedway, FloridaLike Indianapolis, Daytona is known to the general public more for its oval racing than its road course, but the 24 Hours of Daytona is one of the world's finest endurance races. It's where the GT40s began in earnest their legendary assault on Ferrari. It's where someone like Paul Newman found himself drawn again and again. The braking zone from the high speed oval down into the first corner has caught more than a few drivers off guard over the years.
2. Thunderhill Raceway Park, CaliforniaThunderhill just added a second course that ties into the first, and when they're both used at the same time, the result is nearly five miles of elevation change, deceptive turns, and blind corners—you have to assume you know where the course will be as you accelerate toward that which you can't see. The only thing better than the layout is their annual 25 hour race.
1. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, CaliforniaThere aren't many tracks in the world with a turn as iconic as The Corkscrew. Flat out up a hill over a long straight, followed by braking hard for a slow left hander as you're basically falling off a cliff? Yeah, it's been the scene of some great racing over the years.
Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor. His first ever track experience was driving The B*tch at Hallett in the rain years ago, and he's been hooked ever since. Follow him on Twitter if you're similarly addicted.