New Surface At Watkins Glen To Greet IMSA Competitors in 2016

When the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to Watkins Glen International July 1-3, 2016 for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, teams will have to throw out their notes from previous events, and start a new notebook.

The 3.4-mile natural road course is undergoing a complete repaving – the first for the historic racetrack since 1998 – that should substantially improve the racing surface, both for sports cars and for the NASCAR series that race there.
“This is a significant project for Watkins Glen International," said Michael Printup, track president. The resurfacing will improve grip, and smooth out some of the bumps that have developed in the 17 years since the last repaving.
And so far, so good, Printup said. “The weather has really cooperated. Things are moving along really well."
The unpredictable weather was enough of a concern for Printup to cancel all the remaining events for the track in 2015. They’ll reopen in April of 2016 with a major charity event, “and I want to make a big splash with it," he said. “I’m trying to get 15 or 20 cars out for it – a Formula 1 car, some IMSA sports cars, some NASCAR racers, everything we can."
Printup grew up two and a half hours from Watkins Glen, and he says it’s an honor to be the curator of a facility with a history that dates back to 1948. He is also encouraged by the current raised level of interest in road racing.
“I give a lot of the credit to IMSA. That merger," between GRAND-AM and American Le Mans Series, “was a great thing. I’m a huge fan of sports car racing across the world, but right here in our back yard, we have a product that is as good as anywhere. That’s our DNA at Watkins Glen."
The improvements are part of a $35 million investment made by International Speedway Corporation to improve the racing and enhance the fan experience. The repaving itself is expected to cost around $12 million.
The repaving began with “The Boot"(the section of the Watkins Glen “long course" incorporating Turns 6, 7 and 9) in July, just after the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship completed this year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen there.
“The Boot" is not used during the NASCAR weekend, but immediately following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 on August 9 in front of a record crowd that saw Joey Logano sweep the weekend, repaving began on the entire track. Avoiding using “The Boot" effectively shortens the track to 2.45 miles, which seems better suited to the big NASCAR Sprint Cup cars.
That said, there are discussions about NASCAR using the 3.4-mile long course when the new surface is in place. A lot of that talk began, Printup said, when NASCAR racer Tony Stewart and Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton swapped cars, and Stewart drove on the full IMSA course. Stewart liked the full track so much that he and some other drivers have been lobbying to run on it.
We’ll see, said Printup. “It’s an ongoing discussion. We would need to improve the infrastructure in that part of the track for it to happen – I prefer to think of it as something we could do three to five years down the road, rather than flipping a switch and making it happen next year."
After the NASCAR race this year, Logano capped his victory by manning a Caterpillar excavator, digging up part of the front straight. That signaled the start of the repaving on the NASCAR portion of the track.
While the entire 2016 season hasn’t been announced, the track typically hosts SCCA and Vintage events, as well as the NASCAR and the WeatherTech Championship weekend, which will also include a Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race.
Fans are able to witness the project from the Fans R1st Viewing Area in the Argetsinger Grandstand. That area will continue to be free and open to the public through the end of October. Fans also will be able to follow the progress of the project via Facebook, Twitter and www.TheGlen.com.

– See more at: http://www.imsa.com/articles/new-surface-watkins-glen-greet-imsa-competitors-2016#sthash.VPI1omfK.dpuf

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