Road Racing at the Glen from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
NASCAR hits the Road Circuit at Watkins Glen this weekend and it will be the third different two mile plus track they’ve been at in as many weeks. The last two weeks have been challenging for crews and drivers alike, but from this fan’s view, this weekends race will probably be the most challenging of the three tracks. I mean, think about it… they’ve gone from four turns at the Brickyard to three turns and an exceptionally long front straight away at Pocono to seven turns (and most of them to the right instead of the left) along with a whole lot of braking and shifting.

You may not agree but I do think it will be the most challenging of the three weekends precisely because of the many turns along with the braking and shifting. I will say this though… Road Course racing and NASCAR Cup cars isn’t what it used to be. In fact, Road Course racing and Stock Cars in general isn’t what it used to be.

What do I mean by those statements? (Well, that’s a great question and I am glad you asked it but, honestly… I was going to explain myself anyway.)

In the not to distant past, Cup drivers didn’t like Road Courses all that much. In fact, many of them would just show up, get the best finish they could (which was usually pretty poor) and move on the next race which would usually be on an oval. Oval tracks were what they grew up on and, well… they just needed to get past the road courses without losing too many points. Some teams even hired what are still called “road course ringers” to take the place of their driver, hoping they would have a better finish. Many times the “ringers” ran good, but generally the Cup regulars would win one or both of the road course races they ran in a season.

Now it is quite a different story. It seems that most of today’s drivers, enjoy the challenge of the road courses and try to improve their road course abilities every chance they get. Sure, you still see a few regular road course drivers show up for the two NASCAR road courses but many of the Cup regulars are just as competitive and one of them generally walks away with the trophy.

To add to the drama and suspense of the race at Watkins Glen this weekend, there are just about as many that desperately need a win this weekend as did last weekend. Of them are names that have topped the list for the last several weeks and one of them would be Carl Edwards. He is only eight points ahead of last weeks winner Jeff Gordon but he still has no wins. Much like during the Chase last year, if he stays ahead or ties in points but has no wins, he won’t make the Chase this year.

Of course everyone knows Jeff Gordon won last week after an interesting set of circumstances. After all of the bad luck he has had this season, something finally went his way in the closing laps and he now has one of the Wildcard spots for the Chase, not through points but because he has more top five finishes than Ryan Newman. He is by no means resting on that one win and has almost admitted he is just as desperate to win another one as he was before Pocono.

A couple of more that desperately need a win would be Kyle Bush and Marcos Ambrose. Both of them look to figure into the mix at the end of the day since they are both great Road Racers. Of course, if Kyle’s luck continues on as it has recently, it is this fan’s opinion he is all but done for making the Chase. However, if he wins it just about puts us back where we were before the Pocono race and that makes the next few races even more interesting.

I’m of the opinion this could be one of the most interesting races at Watkins Glen in a while. There are so many that were running fast in the limited practice and qualifying sessions that it makes it hard to just pick out one that might take the checkers by the end of the day. Other that the ones already mentioned, there are still drivers like Clint Bowyer, Juan Montoya, Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne. I won’t even rule out Dale Jr, Kurt Bush or Jamie McMurray. Of course this could be the race that Jimmie Johnson breaks his winless streak at the Glen and takes home another victory to add more bonus points when the Chase actually begins.

Tony Stewart has to rate right at the top of the list for winning this weekend. If anyone is a strong possibility for this race at the Glen it would be him. I won’t go completely out on a limb and say he will definitely win but I will say this… When it comes down to the final laps I expect to see Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and possibly even Kurt Bush leading the pack around the track as they all press for the win and the trip to Victory Lane. Do I think any of them are a lock? No, not really but I do think any one of them has as good a chance as any of the others to take the win.

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© August 11, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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