Friday, August 7, 2009

Back to Road Course Racing. And I'm Glad

Don't like the road courses in NASCAR? Once upon a time, I didn't either. I've changed my mind on that over the last few years though.

Many NASCAR purists have never thought much of the so-called 'road ringers' that inevitably show up at Infineon in California and Watkins Glen in New York every year. Many of these drivers are seldom heard from during the rest of season. Some of them have no interest in running oval tracks at all. Some of them would love to be full time NASCAR drivers, but don't have the backing to run anywhere else besides the road courses. I suppose it's always better to showcase your talents when you have few opportunities to show what you can do.

Most of the regular drivers in NASCAR seem to look at the road courses as a challenge, in a few cases, an unwanted challenge. Success on oval tracks does not always translate to success on road courses, but a surprising number of drivers primarily known for their success at tracks such as Daytona, Bristol, Darlington, or Martinsville have been successful on the road courses over the years. For some reason, the reverse seems to rarely be true.

For instance, Robby Gordon is considered a serious threat at any road course, and has indeed won at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen in his Sprint Cup career. Robby's first win came, however, at New Hampshire. Robby's only other NASCAR win was in the Nationwide series, of all places, at Richmond.

Of todays current Sprint Cup drivers, Mark Martin has won at the Glen 3 times, so the driver with the most wins currently in 2009 shouldn't be counted out here. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart have each won 4 times at Watkins Glen. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch each have a win here.

In the Nationwide series, Ron Fellows has won 3 times since 1998. Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Marcos Ambrose have also won the Nationwide race at the Glen. Believe it or not, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won at the Glen in 1999 in the then Busch series.

Some drivers attempting to make the field at this years Cup race at the Glen include P.J. Jones, Boris Said, Ron Fellows, Max Papis, Brian Simo, Tony Ave, and Andy Lally. In all, there will be 11 cars not in the top 35 in points attempting to make the field, a total of 46 cars on the entry list, so 3 of these 11 cars will not make the race.

Probably the main thing I'm personally looking forward to this weekend is the fact that the races will likely not be boring. There will be spins and passing. There will be tempers flaring.

In other words, there should be good racing at Watkins Glen this weekend.

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