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NASCAR Watkins Glen Preview

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, August 5, 2009


NASCAR's Sprint Cup teams are busy preparing for left and right turns this Sunday when the series takes on the challenge of the second road course event on their schedule at New York's Watkins Glen International Raceway.


The Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips at the Glen is 90 laps, 220.5 miles, around one of the most challenging road courses in the country.

One of the major challenges the drivers will face this Sunday is protecting the brakes on their cars to insure they don't get overheated. Hot brakes can lead to wheel hop and wheel hop, in turn, can easily create a spin out or a crash.

NASCAR's recent implementation of the double file restart could also loom large in Sunday's race. The new restart rule created a major source of excitement for the fans, and worry for the drivers, during the series' first road course race, in Sonoma-California, last June.  At Watkins Glen the cars can easily handle a side b y side restart down the front stretch and even through turn one. But, once they exit turn one, they are going to have to quickly form a single line. There's no way they can run side by side in the S turns that follows turn one.

The race has 46 entries. Eleven of the teams are on the go or go home list meaning they are outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points and must earn a starting berth based on their qualifying speed.

Kyle Busch is the defending race winner from last year. 2008 was a great year for Busch on road courses. He proved that he can do the left and right thing with a great deal of skill. Now, if he can figure out how to the "right thing" after the race then he's got it made.

Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart share the track record for most wins at four each. But it’s Mark Martin who leads the consistency stats at Watkins Glen. The 50 year old Sprint Cup icon has the most top five finishes with 12 and also leads the top ten category with 16.

Martin shares the track record for most pole positions with Dale Earnhardt Snr with three each. Jeff Gordon owns the qualifying record, 124.580 MPH, which was set back in 2003.

When it comes to individual race stats Watkins Glen is quite capable of running from one extreme to the other. For example, the 1991 race had 14 lead changes but in direct comparison a non NASCAR race there back in 1957 only had one race leader. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series didn't start sanctioning races at this track until 1985.

Tony Stewart holds the track record for most laps led by a race winner, 83, set back in 2005. But in 1988 Ricky Rudd only needed to lead four laps to win that race.

Watkins Glen International Raceway has smiled on Chevrolet teams over the years. The bow tie brigade holds the track record for most manufacturer wins at 14.

The race will be broadcast live by the ESPN Network beginning at 1 pm eastern time.


Watkins Glen International Raceway's road course is an extremely challenging 2.45 miles long. The course has 11 turns with banking that ranges from six to ten degrees. The 11 turns are connected by two straightaways measuring 2,141 and 1,839 feet respectively. 

The track opened its gates to the public in 1956 and presently has grandstand seating that will accommodate 41,000 fans.


Back in the day, when NASCAR sanctioned a race at a road course, team owners often opted to put drivers in their cars who excelled in this form of racing. These drivers were often referred to as road course ringers.

In these modern times the need for these ringers have diminished. That's largely due to the younger drivers who have road course racing experience on their resumes from kart racing programs when they were children. Also, over the years, there's been a heavy influx of road racing schools across the nation that can easily teach an oval track driver to make right turns.

However, that doesn't mean this Sunday's Sprint Cup race won't have a handful of distinguished names from the road racing world. These drivers include:

Patrick Carpentier will drive Michael Waltrip's #55 Napa Toyota.

P J Jones, son of racing legend Parnelli Jones, will pilot the #04 Toyota and will serve as a team mate to team owner-driver Robby Gordon.

Boris Said, a very successful road racer and a part time Sprint Cup driver, will drive the #08 Ford owned by John Carter.

Ron Fellows, another established star in American road racing, will drive the #09 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing and owner James Finch.

Max Papis, who currently campaigns a part time Sprint Cup schedule, will be behind the wheel of the #13 Geico Toyota for Germain Racing.

Brian Simo, another well known road course ringer, will be driving the #36 Toyota for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Andy Lally will pilot a second Chevrolet for TRG, The Racer's Group, and will be a team mate to TRG's regular driver David Gilliland.


Apologies to all of you big time gamblers this week. At absolute final column deadline the boys in the back rooms in Las Vegas had not posted odds for the Watkins Glen race yet. Perhaps Las Vegas is closed this week while they're remodeling something.

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