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Watkins track will make some changes

WATKINS GLEN—Major changes will soon occur at the Watkins Glen International (WGI) racetrack. This will be the largest renovation project at the track since catch fences were put in place before the first IndyCar Series race that took place in 2005. Changes were announced at the National Motosports Press Association convention in Concord N.C. Sunday, Jan. 17.
Turn Five, also known as Turn Nine by NASCAR, and where three crashes took place during last year’s NASCAR weekend will be altered, as well as removal of gravel traps and grass, modification of catch fences, installation of SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers, and relocation of guard rails will occur to the Inner Loop, Turn 10 and Turn 11.
“We make it a point to evaluate our entire facility every year and we identified these areas as needing improvement,” WGI President Michael Printup said.
Printup and Watkins Glen International are working toward making racing at the speedway better for the drivers and fans. He has addressed a lot of feedback from many different fans who played role in making these changes and future improvements to the track.
Changes were discussed at Michigan International Speedway. Printup also talked to officials from the Indy Racing League, Grand-Am and other series that compete at Watkins Glen, and car club drivers who use the track as well. “Ultimately, we had the same message: We shouldn’t forget what happened last year (the three crashes during the NASCAR race),” Printup said. “That wasn’t the target, but it ended up being part of what we were fixing.”
“The feedback we received from each of the sanctioning bodies was very positive and in agreement with our recommendations. We think the drivers will like what they see when they return here, and (the changes) should lead to even better on-track action for our fans.”
Planned changes include:
• Turn Five: Grass will be removed to create an area where a paved extended runoff system can be placed. Along the track edge of the pavement, a rumble strip, which is a road safety feature that alerts drivers of potential danger through vibration from the wheels, will be installed. The guard rail along this turn will also have to be modified in order to add a crash attenuator system, which will help absorb some of the impact when cars make contact with the wall.
• The Inner Loop: The gravel trap, which is the most commonly used run-off area surface used for safety, will be replaced with a paved runoff area, which will allow more side-by-side racing to occur as well. A SAFER barrier will also go in along the interior concrete. The catch fence, which is used to slow out of control drivers before they hit a barrier behind them, will be removed. A modified fence will be added, to do the same job as the old catch fence.
• At Turn 10, part of the gravel trap will be replaced with a paved runoff area, and the current rumble strip will be extended to fit along the track at the edge of the pavement.
• At Turn 11, a SAFER barrier will be added in front of the guard rail. Any grass areas that are located between the SAFER barrier and the track will now be paved, to help provide better traction for drivers who go off the track.
“This wasn't about a strategic plan. Every business has a strategic plan. We have a fan plan, and that's to make everything bigger and better for the fans, because they buy the tickets," Printup said.
Watkins Glen International will strive to have these changes completed in time for the IndyCar Series' Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen weekend that will take place from July 2-4.
Some of the improvements will be finished before the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen weekend which is the season opening at the track, from June 4-6.
Contractors are currently being hired, and then the renovation process will begin.

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