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FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Top Drivers Talk the Course at Watkins Glen

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIAugust 5, 2010

The top five drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this week—Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Jeff Burton—take a road trip to Watkins Glen and talk about the twisting 2.45-mile track.

They get to turn right again, and they like to compare the road course tracks Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

The Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen commences this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on ESPN.

This fast series includes comments by three of NASCAR’s most popular drivers—Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, and Kasey Kahne.

FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics compiled, condensed, and often written by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com.

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet) (Points leader)

“The road courses have become more like short tracks, but I don’t think Watkins Glen will be like Sonoma in that regard,” Harvick said.

“There is more room to race at Watkins Glen, and it’s obviously a lot faster. But there will definitely be some bent doors and bumpers just because of the nature of how close the competition has become at the road courses. The bent sheet metal is also a product of the double-file restarts, because those usually cause most of the contact.”

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)

"I love Watkins Glen,” Gordon said. “Sonoma to me has a lot of corners that there's finesse you have to put into it, where Watkins Glen is the exact opposite. Really aggressive, fast, how deep you can get into the braking zones, being on the gas hard, carrying a lot of speed. I think it makes it a good course for our cars, a great course for our cars.”

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)

“We really don’t spend a whole lot of time working on our road course program, so we go there and just really hope to keep it on the racetrack,” Hamlin said. “We have a really good record at Watkins Glen, several top-10s and top-fives, but we have never had really a race winning driver or car there, so we hope to just go there and solidify a good finish and obviously keep the stable of cars as healthy as possible.”

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)

“The Glen is much more of a flowing track, a lot higher speeds,” Johnson said. “Where Sonoma's very technical. I hope that I learned enough, and I certainly have more confidence after winning the race and running so well all day long that mentally I know what sensations I need in the car. I know what I need to feel on the brake pedal, braking zones, on throttle. So I feel good about going back.”

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Chevrolet)

“The tracks at Watkins Glen and Sonoma are comparable in the same way as Pocono and Indy are comparable,” Burton said. “The tracks are different but the same.

“In some ways, technically, there is not a lot of information we use from one race to the other, but from a driving standpoint it’s the same. I think there are more passing zones at The Glen. You have the front straightaway, the back straightaway, and then you have the straightaway after the long chicane. So, I think there are three real passing zones and more opportunity for passing at the Glen than at Sonoma.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)

“I think there are some tracks that obviously that you could point out that we haven’t had good runs at. Watkins Glen, places like that,” Earnhardt said. “To be honest, it’s so competitive, I’m about as nervous about them all. Which is the way I feel like I need to approach it. I need to approach each one as if it is the most important race of the season.

“I’m nervous about losing points and not making the Chase. We need to be able to not take any track for granted for sure. We need to approach them all with the feeling that they are equally, all as dangerous...one is as dangerous as the other as far as how it could affect us in the Chase.”

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)

“It’s a race that we always look forward to,” Stewart said. “It’s just fun. It’s like taking Sonoma and just multiplying the speed times three. It’s just a lot faster track. It still has the same elevation changes, but you’re just running a lot quicker.

“It’s just a matter of going out and practicing and putting yourself in that position. We seem to have taken to the road racing side of it fairly well and we just have had good luck with it. I don’t know that there’s a secret to it, necessarily. I think a lot of it is when we get here we look forward to being here.”

Kasey Kahne (No.9 Ford)

“Winning Sonoma last year was a huge confidence booster for me,” Kahne said. “I think that the track time and experience has helped a bunch.

“I’m a really smooth driver with my feet, my hands, and in road racing you throw the car around so much more that it’s important to be smooth inside the car. You have to learn how to throw the car around without losing too much time. (Road course racing) goes against everything that I’ve ever done inside the car. It’s hard to get myself to go against the grain and drive the car like you have to.”

Photo credit: Jeff Burton by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com

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