Right turns will accompany left turns this week for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Sprint Cup event—the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen—at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, NY ESPN will televise the twisting action at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The 2.45-mile road course will be welcome by some NASCAR drivers but loathed by others accustomed to ovals.
Others seem to adapt well to one of only two road courses on the NASCAR circuit while some struggle which opens a spot for an expert like Boris Said. Scott Speed, who has F1 experience, will also race.
During practice many drivers will be trying to follow Ambrose whose open-wheel European history always seems to favor him. Ambrose is cagey about displaying his moves until race day.
Johnson runs the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the Grand-Am Series and also brings his off-road experience as a teenager to the turn-filled track.
The top five NSCS point leaders Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick shared their thoughts about the challenging upstate New York track. Comparing their words can sometimes help fans have a better understanding going into this change-of-pace event.
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
“Watkins Glen is tough,” Edwards said. “It’s really fun, though. It’s become one of my favorite race tracks. We were fortunate enough to get the pole there last year.
That’s the biggest success I’ve had in the Cup Series at a road course and hopefully we can take what I’ve learned there in years past and apply it and win the race.”
“I’ve been so close to having that breakthrough Cup win on a road course that I’d really love to get it this weekend.”
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
“We were just at Road Atlanta testing for two days,” Johnson said. “So, we're making that effort to try to be on top. I personally love road course racing and want to be very successful at it. It is just something that is very important to me.
The Glen, for me, it is the carousel, the long right-hander after the back straightaway.
“Depending up what driver you speak to, there are a couple of different numbers that they put to it, but, that corner there seems to be the area where I have given up the most speed over the years.
I've got to get that corner right because it leads on to a pretty important straightaway and sets you up for a passing opportunity once you work your way around to turn one. If you can gain on that big right-hander, the carousel and then get through (turns) 10 and 11, you are on someone's bumper for turn one."
Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)
“Sonoma is kind of like Martinsville and Watkins Glen is kind of like Talladega,” Busch said. “That’s how different they are. Watkins Glen seems like it’s an easier road course for these cars and for us to be on.
They’re not as agile as other sports cars are. We’re 3,400-pound racecars where other sports cars are maybe 2,500 or 2,800 pounds. You can throw them around a lot easier. Their brakes are a lot better and they stop a lot better.
With as big and heavy of tanks as these (Sprint Cup cars have), we seem to have a problem, already, not running into each other, let alone being on a tight road course like Sonoma certainly adds a challenge.”
Kurt Busch (No. 22 Dodge)
“Like I’ve been telling people since last year, this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen has been locked in on our radar screen,” Busch said. “To race with (Juan Pablo) Montoya and (Marcos) Ambrose like we did there last year was definitely a confidence-builder.
It was great to race with those world-class guys. A guy from Colombia and Australia, it's neat to see the different world's come together on a road course and see who can come out on top.”
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet)
“It's just a higher-speed course,” Harvick said. “Sonoma is a lot more technical with a lot slower speed. Watkins Glen is high speed and you can run over all the curbs.
I enjoy them both. I enjoy all the road races that we have. I think we need more of them. It's one of those things that I enjoy getting to do a couple times a year.
"Restarts are usually the ugly part at that particular track. The road courses have become really rough. They've probably become the most exciting races we go to on the circuit. The good thing is it's usually a whole lot cooler up in that part of the country this time of year."
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com.
Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from official release materials provided by NASCAR and team representatives.