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There’s something different about Road Racing and it wasn’t always like it is today. It is a big difference and if you haven’t been around NASCAR all that long, you probably don’t recognize it, but trust me… it is much different than it used to be.
So what is this big difference? Well, once again that is a good question and I am glad you asked it. The difference these days is that there are so many good road course racers in NASCAR that it is getting harder and harder to tell which one of them could win the Cup race this Sunday afternoon. Sure, there are some that are still better at it than the others, but the competition is so tight these days that it could be anyone of most of the field; (Yeah, I know there are some that still just don’t like road courses and simply suffer through them looking forward to next few weeks when they get back to their comfort zones of ovals (both large and small.)
Many of the teams used to bring in drivers with road racing backgrounds called “road course ringers” in the hopes of getting a better finish with the “ringer” than with their normal drivers. Some times they would do better, but there was always the problem of the driver not being able to spend enough time with the crew chief and team for them to be able to communicate well which usually translated into a less than lackluster performance for both.
These days, most of the drivers enjoy the challenge of the different types of tracks they visit during a season and that means road courses as well as ovals. Like I mentioned before, some are still much better at the road courses than others and they generally finish at, or closer to, the front by the end of the race. The others still “suffer through” these races but even they perform better than some of the substitute “ringers” used to.
I’ve heard some ask what the difference is between the track at Sonoma and the one at the Glen. Well, if you ask the driver’s, many of them will tell you that the track in Sonoma is a finesse track and Watkins Glen is much more of an “attack” track. The one is a track that leaves very little room for error and the other is one you have to press the envelope but not overstep the limits to have fast lap times and hopefully end up in Victory Lane.
It is this fan’s opinion, The Glen has a couple of areas that separates the great from the good and one of those is the “S’s” and the other is the “Bus Stop.” If you don’t carry enough speed through the S’s, you will lose ground to your competitors and missing the Bus Stop hurts lap times the rest of the way to the start finish line.
From this fan’s view (and judging from the practice and qualifying sessions) the race this weekend at The Glen could be one of the more interesting road course races. It is awfully hard to argue with the top five or six qualifiers being contenders at the end of the day. Three of those, in particular, should do well and that would be Marcos Ambrose, A J Allmendinger and Jimmie Johnson all starting out front and I guess I shouldn’t rule out Juan Montoya either. This fan’s problem with Montoya running well is that he just hasn’t had the greatest of luck this year and I’m not sure how he is going to do, even though he did practice and qualify with a fast car.
Once again, the Hendrick teams didn’t qualify that well and all of them but Jimmie Johnson will be starting outside the top ten. From my view, that could mean one of two things when the race starts. Either they will adjust to the track conditions and move up toward the front or they will be mired in the middle to back of the field for most of the day. My gut tells me they will finish much better than they qualified but I do see they’re all up against some pretty stiff competition this weekend and it depends on whether those other guys have problems how stiff that competition will be.
The same holds true for the Childress teams too. Their best qualifier was Clint Bowyer and he is starting nineteenth. As for the rest of them, it only gets worse from there. That inspires the thought that they, too, will perform better than they qualified but they do have a long way to go to get to the front, not exactly what any of them were hoping for, I’m sure.
I don’t have to tell you, running one qualifying lap is a lot different than running the whole race and the key to winning is consistency. There are a lot of good road racers in the field for tomorrow and there are a number of them that can win, but they are going to have to consistently maintain track position and fast lap times. Kyle Bush has looked the fastest for the weekend so far and, from my view, he has a great chance of taking home the trophy. I am not at all saying he has a lock on it, but he is starting from the pole and the rest are starting from behind him.
There are two, in particular, that have a very good chance at winning their first NASCAR Cup race this weekend and those are Marcos Ambrose and A J Allmendinger. Both are great road racers and of the two of them, Marcos has the better chance in my opinion.
I am looking forward to a very interesting race and a lot of competition amongst many. The only thing I’m not sure of is whether or not he weather is going to cooperate. If it doesn’t, it could be a a long weekend for everyone…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 13, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and Nascarfansview.com
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