NASCAR race highlights track weekend
WATKINS GLEN (8/3/16)--As many race fans were making their way home after last years Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, race winner Joey Logano was beginning to rip up the asphalt at the track, preparing for the new surface that was on the way. The repave project was the first for the track since 1998 and after being unveiled earlier this spring, should provide faster speeds and a smoother ride as NASCAR returns this weekend.
The racing events at Watkins Glen International include three classes of cars, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, the XFINITY Series and the Sprint Cup Series from Thursday, Aug. 4 to Sunday, Aug. 7. Practice and qualifying sessions will take place throughout the weekend with final races occurring for each series. Friday, Aug. 5 will feature the Bully Hill Vineyards 100 for the K&N Pro Series at 6:15 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6 will have the XFINITY Series cars competing in the Zippo 200 at The Glen at 2 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7 features the Sprint Cup drivers in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen at 2:30 p.m. Sunday's race will be broadcast on the USA Network, as typical NASCAR carriers National Broadcasting Company (NBC) or NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will have Olympic Games programing.
The Sprint Cup race (90 laps, 220.5 miles) should be one of the fastest the track has ever seen. In practice sessions earlier this year, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne all commented on the speed of the track.
"The restarts here are crazy," said Carl Edwards in May. "You make it through turn one, and if you're four or five rows back, it is just total insanity going up the Esses. Now the speeds will just be higher, there will be more grip, there's no telling what's going to happen."
In July at the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen International Motor Sports Association sports car race, track records fell in every class. Race winner Joao Barbosa commented, "It was probably one of the fastest pace races that I've done in a while."
Additional testing was done at the track early last week with numerous teams running laps prior to their official visit to The Glen. AJ Allmendinger, 2014 winner at WGI, expressed his comments about using a harder compound tire which trades grip for durability.
"The exit of the corners to me have a lot of grip, but this tire combo, it's not really the racetrack ... you're really on edge getting into the corners, it feels really stiff and there is not a lot of grip," noted Allmendinger.
The other story from the test was a crash by Brad Keselowski Tuesday, July 26, due to a brake failure going into turn one. Turn one is a downhill right hand turn where drivers carry significant speed after completing the front straightaway. The run-off area just outside of the turn has hosted a number of crashes over the years. Revisions to the surface before the wall, the wall itself and the fencing behind the wall have all been made.
However, Keselowski talked about the unique wall angles that are present at road courses like Watkins Glen during an interview at Pocono Raceway.
"Road courses remain the most dangerous tracks in motorsports," Keselowski said. He continued, "from a tire barrier perspective, you know taking out the angles, tire barriers or SAFER [Steel and Foam Energy Reduction] barriers...it is kind of a wash to me on those types of tracks, preferably we would just have angles to where when you hit, you can hit it with a SAFER barrier and not have to worry about things."
Keselowski was not hurt in the hard crash.
Coming into Watkins Glen, both Keselowski and Kyle Busch have four wins this season. They are followed by Jimmie Johnson, Edwards and Matt Kenseth each with two wins apiece. Kevin Harvick is the overall points leader for the Sprint Cup Series.
Sunday will also be memorable as five-time WGI winner Tony Stewart will race during his final season in NASCAR. Jeff Gordon, who retired after last season, could also be making another appearance at The Glen as he has filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Indianapolis and Pocono. Earnhardt is recovering from concussion-like symptoms. He experienced crashes at Michigan and Daytona this year.