Watkins Glen: Road course racing preview

* Road-course race a crucial juncture in championship DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 6, 2003) -- Much is made each year about road-course specialists showing up for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' two road-course events. Perhaps too ...

* Road-course race a crucial juncture in championship

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 6, 2003) -- Much is made each year about road-course specialists showing up for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' two road-course events.

Perhaps too much.

Bottom line: specialists aside, series regulars rule the road courses.

* At Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, site of Sunday's Sirius At The Glen event, series regulars have won all 20 NASCAR Winston Cup races, starting with Buck Baker's 1957 victory.

* At Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., road-course warriors are 0-for-15, the series regulars' dominance starting with Ricky Rudd's 1989 win.

* The last time a non-regular won a NASCAR Winston Cup road course race was 1973, when Mark Donohue won at Riverside (California) International Raceway.

* For emphasis, consider this footnote: in those 35 events combined at Watkins Glen and Infineon, only one pole position has been claimed by a road-course "hired gun." That happened -- finally -- this past June, when Boris Said won the Bud Pole at Infineon.

A handful of NASCAR Winston Cup drivers routinely excel on road courses. One of those is four-time champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), the series' all-time leader in road-course victories with seven. Gordon, like the rest of his peers giving pursuit to series points leader Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), knows Watkins Glen represents a crucial juncture in the championship chase -- because it apparently offers a prime opportunity to gain ground on Kenseth, who leads second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) by 286 points and third-place Gordon by 318.

During Kenseth's relatively brief (four years) time in NASCAR Winston Cup, he has struggled in road races with only one top-10 finish. In three Watkins Glen starts he has finished 10th (2000), 23rd ('01) and 33rd ('02). In four Infineon starts his best finish is 14th, that coming this past June. His other Infineon efforts: 32nd in 2000, 21st in '01 and 39th in '02.

If Gordon -- or anyone -- is going to reel in Kenseth, this weekend might be a good time to start. Recognizing that, Gordon's team tested recently at Watkins Glen.

"A lot of teams have stepped up their road-course programs," Gordon said. "Last year we didn't run as well as we wanted to [finishing 22nd]. That's why we decided to use one of our tests at The Glen.

"We learned a lot and hopefully that will show in our results this Sunday."

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Boris Said , Mark Donohue