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Watkins Glen track adding new twists to old turns
Some major changes are coming to Watkins Glen International, including alterations to a part of the racetrack that was the site of three crashes during last year's NASCAR weekend.

The changes were announced Sunday in Concord, N.C., at the National Motorsports Press Association convention. Alterations will be made to the Inner Loop, Turn 5 (known as Turn 9 on the 2.45-mile short course used by NASCAR), Turn 10 and Turn 11.

Changes include removal of gravel traps and grass, modification of catch fences, installation of SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers, and relocation of guard rails.

This will be the most significant renovation project at the track since catch fences were installed before the first IndyCar Series race there in 2005.

"We make it a point to evaluate our entire facility every year and we identified these areas as needing improvement," WGI President Michael Printup said.

"The feedback we received from each of the sanctioning bodies was very positive and in agreement with our recommendations. We think the drivers will like what they see when they return here, and (the changes) should lead to even better on-track action for our fans."

Printup said WGI is committed to having the changes completed in time for the IndyCar Series' Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen weekend from July 2-4. He said some of the improvements should be finished before the track's season-opening Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen weekend from June 4-6. Work will begin after contractors are hired.

Among planned alterations:

* Turn 5, better known to NASCAR fans as Turn 9, will include the removal of grass to pave an extended runoff area. A rumble strip will be installed along the track edge of the pavement. The guard rail will be modified to install a crash attenuator system to help absorb impact when cars make contact with the wall.

* Along the Inner Loop, also known as the Bus Stop, the gravel trap will be replaced with a paved runoff area, a move designed to allow more side-by-side racing. Also, a SAFER barrier will be installed along the interior concrete wall and the catch fence will be replaced with a modified fence.

* A portion of the gravel trap at Turn 10 will be replaced with a paved runoff area. The rumble strip will be extended along the track edge of pavement.

* A SAFER barrier will be installed in front of the guard rail at Turn 11. Also, all grass areas between the SAFER barrier and the track will be paved to provide better traction if drivers go off the track. Star-Gazette

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