Ken's NASCAR Notebook 97-08-11

Ken's NASCAR Notebook 96-08-11 Here is my "Seen It Live" Report from the 12th annual Bud at the Glen. My wife and I decided to make a four-day weekend at the Glen again this year, as we did two years ago. We left the Rochester area Thursday...

Ken's NASCAR Notebook 96-08-11

Here is my "Seen It Live" Report from the 12th annual Bud at the Glen.

My wife and I decided to make a four-day weekend at the Glen again this year, as we did two years ago. We left the Rochester area Thursday evening, and stopped in Geneva on the way down to our Bed & Breakfast. We stay at a small B&B on the east side of Seneca Lake - can't tell you the name of exact location or else I'd have to kill you! We like it because there is less traffic, it is much quieter, gas is a lot cheaper and there is an excellent view of the lake - not to mention some really great cooking for breakfast!

Although we did not make it this year, Thursday night before the race in Corning are a special treat for NASCAR fans. The town puts on one of the best racing events around, with cars, drivers signing autographs, usually a band or two and much more.

Friday was pretty much a lazy day.....getting up late, and taking our time getting to the track. Once at the track ,we walked around the infield and checked out the vendor areas. Once again, Winston had a huge area setup for racefans, and Budweiser has a great big building set up to give classes on beer. The only thing we really wanted to see was the Winston Cup qualifying at 2:00 pm. We found our seats in the yellow grandstands and were seated a few minutes early. Immediately we noticed that the brand new pit grandstands obstructed our view of turn 2 and the esses. That portion of the track used to be visible over the top of the old pit roof seats, because they were lower than the present stands. I guess the track figured that higher stands meant more seats which yielded more money for them, and to heck with the view for the people in the main straight grandstands.

Qualifying is always exciting as you keep track of the lap times and who is on the bubble. Based on practice times, we felt Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott and Mark Martin would be three of the top contenders. I don't think anybody - including Team 34 - felt that Todd Bodine would clinch the pole, but clinch it he did. Ricky Rudd was the last one out, after having to switch to a back up car at the last minute. He crashed his #10 Tide Ford during practice hard into the Turn 10 wall, destroying the car.

NOTE: The styrofoam blocks used around the track at Watkins Glen were pioneered in Western New York at the Lancaster Speedway. A local businessman who was using the large styrofoam blocks in his walk-in coolers noticed the violent crashes into the concrete walls at the speedway. He approached the track officials and offered the styrofoam blocks as a way to minimize the crash impact. The track owner decided it was worth the investment of $50 each, and the styrofoam blocks became a fixture at the track. Clean up is a fun chore - but consider that the explosion you see of styrofoam blocks

The village of Watkins Glen hosted a special night on Friday, with race cars, autograph sessions, vendors and entertainment up and down the main street. Kenny Schrader was there signing autographs at one end and Jimmy Spencer at the other end of town. In addition, the US Bob Sled team was present, and hosted a special tryout session. For $3.00, you got a chance to push the 350-lb sled down a 20-meter course. If you were able to break the 3.65 second mark, you were eligible to go with the team to Lake Placid for more trials. Ted Musgrave's team was there and they all gave it a shot. Most of them, including Ted, were in the 4.20 range. Geoff Bodine was there with his new girlfriend Angela - who had long blonde hair and an attitude. At the end of the evening, I decided to give it shot, and managed a best time of 4.40.

Saturday my wife stayed at the B&B to relax, and I went to the track to watch second round qualifying. It was less exciting than the first round, but proved to be quite interesting. There were three teams that would not make the field, and it was hard to figure out who was eligible for provisionals. After qualifying, the track was quiet until the BGN North Series race. That race was plagued with cautions, which pushed it beyond the start time for Happy Hour for the Winston Cup cars. That pushed the Trans Am race to a 4:30 start time. The Trans Am race was also plagued with cautions, which dragged it well past 5:15 p.m. when I left. Tommy Kendall held off the entire field for the whole race and led from flag to flag, winning his 9th consecutive race and breaking Mark Donahue's record of nearly three decades.

Sunday is an early rise and shine day. Up at 5:30 A.M. to get ready for the day. The B&B served breakfast promptly at 7:00 A.M. and then we were on the road to the track by 7:30 A.M. Taking the back roads and avoiding most of the traffic, we made our way up to the track in under 30 minutes. Not bad, considering it only takes 20 minutes with no traffic. We did not run into any traffic until the last mile of the trip where we are forced onto the main road into the track. From here, it is bumper to bumper cars all the way into the parking lot. We pulled out right behind a Buick carrying none other than Joe Gibbs, owner of the #18 Interstate Batteries driven by Bobby Labonte.

Race day is certainly a hurry up and wait scenario. That is hurry up and get to the track, then once you are at the track you basically have about four hours to kill before the race activities begin. With tailgate parties galour around us in the parking lot, there is never any shortage of entertainment. We spent much of the time gabbing with the other couple who stayed at the B&B with us.

At noon, we make our way to the grandstands, so that we are seated for the 12:20 driver introductions. All of the drivers are standing in the beds of brand new Ford F-150 pickup trucks, and pass by the grandstand in reverse qualifying order. The two drivers who received the most jeers and cheers were Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt. Then came the prayer by Darrell Waltrip and then the Canadian and American national anthems. Once that was over with, a B-17 did a fly over above the front straight - directly overhead of us. Quite a large aircraft to be flying that low!

If you saw the race on television, you probably saw more than I did! The view from the grandstands is limited to the front straight from the outside of turn #11 to just past the outside of turn #1 - thanks in part to the new pit roof terrace! Earnhardt received many cheers of happiness from the crowd when he was issued a stop and go penalty which took him out of contention. Geoff Bodine did receive many cheers when it appeared he was going to catch up to the late race leader Jeff Gordon.

Overall, a nice enjoyable weekend of racing - but its getting very expensive and the lines are getting longer and longer. Things have changed over the last 12 years since I've been going - some for the better, some for the worse.

PS: According to the driver of the show car for Robby Gordon's #40 Coors Light car, expect to see Sterling Marlin in the driver's seat next year. Felix is working on a plan to reunite Sterling with Tony Glover, which will allow Glover to become a Sabco team manager overseeing all three teams, while focusing his crew chief talents on the #40 team. Robby Gordon will return to the IRL, having been disappointed with his achievements thus far. Also, it looks as though Coors Light may not stay on as primary sponsor. The driver of the #33 Skoal Bandit was much less talkative, and said "They don't tell us anything" when I asked him if the rumor about Ernie Irvan coming over to a 2nd Petree team was true.

------------------------------------------- Happy Motoring :-) =Ken=

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Bobby Labonte , Todd Bodine , Jimmy Spencer , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Mark Martin , Tommy Kendall