How many more epic events at Watkins Glen with packed grand stands do we need to convince the powers that be that they need more road courses?
When it's time for NASCAR racing at the Glen, it makes for the perfect time to break out the defibrillator, throw the switch and resurrect that age old argument about whether NASCAR should run more road courses or not.
In the blue corner we have the defending champion, the NASCAR followers who like their cars fast and their racing close. They like the fender rubbing fight of the stock cars but can still tip their hat when those IndyCar boys put on a show that is won by inches rather than yards.
In the red corner are the challengers, ranging from the casual F1/ GT racing fan to the hardcore formula fanatic who’s rage makes his face turn as red as his beloved Ferrari when you even mention the merest possibility of a race in which every turn is a left turn.
Left vs. Right
“Drive straight, turn left, drive straight, turn left, that’s not a challenge. Where’s the skill in that?” He booms to anyone that will listen. This is because he knows the dark secret of the mystical right turn. The turn which somehow requires so much skill, he thinks the NASCAR driving elite simply won’t be able to understand it. He knows that, throughout history, the gutters on the road to Formula One success have been littered with those that couldn’t tame the tricky right turn.
There was Igotta Chestykov, the Russian man who moved to France to become a Formula One driver. His first race was at Paul Ricard so he bought a house just to the left of the race track. Sadly, when he went to drive to the circuit, he found he had the inability to turn the car right so he had to drive all the way around the block to get to the circuit gate. By the time he got there, the race had started. Now Chestykov works as a potato peeler for the Prince of St Pierre and lives in a wooden hut on the banks of the Rhine.
And who can forget Dutch driver Hertz Van Rental? On his way to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix he started going anti-clockwise on a roundabout just outside the Port of Rotterdam. That was 20 years ago and it is rumored that he is still there, completely unable to turn right and make the exit. The inability to turn right is a terrible affliction and certainly not one we should make light of.
On a side note, my mother turned right on the way to the shops yesterday, despite me warning her of the dangers. You will be pleased to know that it all turned out fine and nothing untoward happened. I suspect that this “skillful turning to the right” business is a load of old horseradish. When the NASCAR Sprint Cup series raced at the Glen this weekend, we saw some of the best drivers in the world turning left and right and making it look easy. That is, after all, what professional racing drivers do.
The NASCAR argument
At the end of the day, the hardcore F1 fan will probably never like NASCAR. They wouldn’t like it even if all the tracks become road courses. They wouldn’t like it even if NASCAR adopted whiny V6 engines and the CEO got himself arrested for bribing German banks.
Meanwhile, back in the blue corner, things are not so cut and dry. Many NASCAR fans have expressed a liking for the road courses. Before NASCAR stopped handing out attendance figures, they estimated that Sonoma always had over 90,000 people storming through its gates on Sprint Cup race day. Watkins Glen has never been far behind its Californian brother on crowd numbers so the road courses certainly hit the mark for some fans.
Other people feel that more road courses on the schedule would break up the many 1.5 mile “cookie cutter” tracks. A large amount of the main schedule and half of the Chase is made up of these Intermediate ovals. Several voices from both the bleachers and the press accuse these venues of hosting boring race were cars run spread out for long periods of time before the winner is decided by who has been the most economical with their Sunoco race fuel.
A final argument for at least one more road course is for inclusion in the Chase. This one is not just from the NASCAR road racing fans, but from the head honcho at the Glen itself. But then, Watkins Glen and Sonoma would want to be in the Chase. Being on the Chase schedule is a profitable place for a racing venue to sit. Whilst I am not the world’s biggest fan of NASCAR racing on road courses, the idea of one in the Chase does interest me. But why should it go to the Glen just because they mentioned it first.
Road America anyone?