WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 7, 2001) - The event has been circled on Busch North Series racers' and fans' calendars since last winter - Watkins Glen International, Saturday, August 11, for the Little Trees 150 presented by Pepsi.
The annual visit to the Finger Lakes region road course is always a highlight, since it brings the Busch North Series together with the NASCAR Winston Cup Series at a prestigious, historic, and challenging venue. This year, there are two more factors added to the equation - the series' debut on live, national broadcast television, courtesy of NBC, and posted awards nearing the quarter-million dollar mark.
Every time a NASCAR series visits a road course, stories are written and video is edited to demonstrate the changes a typical oval-track race car goes through to adapt to the vastly different conditions found on a course that turns both ways, with heavy demands for shifting and braking. The springs and shocks are changed, the fuel filler is moved to the right side, most teams use a special transmission, just to name a few. But what about the driver? Former Watkins Glen winner Bryan Wall, an acknowledged road racing expert, and three-time Busch North Series champion Jamie Aube, who has seen it all in his racing career, offered their thoughts on setting up the driver as well as the car for the rigors of Watkins Glen.
"You get ready to race against yourself," Bryan Wall advised. "You've got to be a lot smoother and more consistent than on an oval; those are what pays dividends on the road course," he added.
Since Geoff Bodine introduced the "timed stop" strategy in his Winston Cup win at the Glen in 1996, most teams have adopted the strategy of pitting as early as possible for fuel under the green flag. Bryan Wall says that will occupy his team's attention during Friday's practice sessions. "We haven't got a target lap," he said. "We work on that in practice to get accurate fuel mileage. We definitely plan on coming in as early as possible to have enough fuel to finish the race. Pitting under green seems to be the best way. Usually it's been in the late teens or early 20's," he added, referring to the theoretically ideal moment to pit in the 62-lap race.
Another strategic decision involves changing two tires during the fuel stop. "I've always taken tires, and it may have cost us a couple spots," Wall related, adding "I don't think you need to at Watkins Glen. A lot of guys don't; last year Andy (Santerre) didn't take them and he won."
Putting extra emphasis on pre-race planning is the fact that Bryan Wall will not have his car owner and team manager, his father John Wall Sr., in the pits during the Little Trees 150. The elder Wall, a vastly experienced road racer, will drive the team car usually piloted on short tracks by Roger Raymond.
Meanwhile, for Jamie Aube, every trip to Watkins Glen is a learning experience. "We used to think it's a road course and anything will work. Well, we found out you have to go with a good race car," he declared.
Aube's approach centers around one idea, which he tries to keep in the front of his mind from the drop of the green flag. "I always start that race trying to be careful," he said.
"Patience, patience, patience," he repeated for emphasis. "You've got to keep it on the pavement, something I've had my share of difficulty with in the past," he concluded.
The Little Trees 150 presented by Pepsi is the first of two road races for the Busch North Series in 2001, the other coming in the season finale at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., on October 13. It's also the second of four appearances at Winston Cup Series events. The other two come on back-to-back weekends in September at New Hampshire International Speedway and Dover Downs International Speedway.
The Busch North Series is one of nine NASCAR Touring series which blanket the USA, bringing major events to NASCAR Weekly Racing Series tracks as well as superspeedways and road courses like Watkins Glen. The NASCAR Touring program is recognized as the premier training ground for NASCAR's national series, the Winston Cup Series, Busch Series, Grand National Division, and Craftsman Truck Series, while also providing career opportunities for professional racers at the regional level. Corporations making major contributions to NASCAR Touring point funds include Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Fetherlite Trailers, Goody's Headache Powders, Gatorade, RE/MAX International, O'Reilly Auto Parts, Raybestos Brakes, and R.J. Reynolds' Winston brand.