The Frontstretch: Race Trax: AMD at the Glen by Amy Henderson -- Thursday August 10, 2006

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Race Trax: AMD at the Glen

Amy Henderson · Thursday August 10, 2006

 

On Track
The AMD at the Glen is the twenty-second race on the 36-race NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Schedule. This is the only time the Nextel Cup Series will visit 2.45-mile Watkins Glen International in 2006. Watkins Glen has hosted the Nextel Cup Series regularly since 1986, although three races were run there in the 1950's and 1960's, and consequently, Buck Baker was the first driver to win in Cup competition at the track. The track is an eleven-turn road course with several changes in elevation and a tight chicane interrupting its longest straightaway. Drivers will race 90 laps for the checkered flag. The entry list includes 2005 polesitter and race winner Tony Stewart (qualifying was rained out and Stewart sat on the pole when the field was set by owners' points).

50 teams will compete for 43 starting spots for Sunday, with the top 35 in car owner points guaranteed a starting position. 2006 owner's points will determine who is in this group for qualifying purposes. Qualifying runs at a road course consist of one lap. The Nextel Cup Series qualifying record at Watkins Glen is 124.580 mph, set by Jeff Gordon in 2004.

The Nextel Cup Series points race saw more changes at the bottom of the top ten after Indianapolis, while the gap at the top widens slightly. Jimmie Johnson extended his lead over Matt Kenseth to 107 points after his emotional win at the Brickyard. Johnson's seventeenth top-ten finish in twenty-one races is tops in the series. Jeff Burton holds the third spot, Kevin Harvick moved up to fourth, and Kyle Busch rounds out the top five this week. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. moved back into the top ten after a late race gamble at Indy, staying on track to gain track position while the leaders pitted. Kasey Kahne found himself outside the top ten for the first time this season, falling to eleventh after a last-lap spin relegated him to a backmarker at the Brickyard.

What To Expect
Watkins Glen is the second road course race on the Nextel Cup schedule, but don't expect it to race much like Infineon Raceway, the other right-turn track on the schedule. The Glen is longer and much faster than Infineon, with more areas where cars can pass each other, often making for some exciting racing as drivers try to out-brake each other going into turn one and the chicane and beat and bang through the esses of turns two-four.

Starting position is everything at the Glen as fifteen of twenty-three races have been won from a starting spot of fifth or better. If rain does not play a factor in qualifying, look for teams to put everything out there to grab those top spots.

Who to Watch
It's hard to choose between Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart as the favorite going in. Gordon leads all drivers with four wins at the Glen and has a road course win this year, while Stewart has won three of the last four. Meanwhile, Mr. Consistency at Watkins Glen is Mark Martin who holds the records for poles (three; tied with Dale Earnhardt), top five finishes (twelve), and top ten finishes (sixteen). Martin also has three wins on the track.

Don't bet against the "other" Gordon-Robby-either. In seven races at the Glen, he has five top-five finishes. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has three very quiet top tens in his last three races at the Glen, and needs a solid finish to bolster his Chase hopes.

Then there are the road course ringers-specialists brought in to strengthen teams' points positions or who enter only a handful of races. The best of these at the Glen is Ron Fellows. He has won here in the Busch Series and finished second in Cup. Boris Said also has a chance to score a top finish. Other road course specialists on the entry list include Scott Pruett and Max Papis, making his Nextel Cup debut.

Did You Know:
-No winner has started farther back than eighteenth? Steve Park won from that position in 2000.

-The start/finish line was moved 380 feet closer to turn one since the last race? The move accommodates new timing and scoring equipment.

-That qualifying has been rained out for three of the last six races at the Glen? That includes the last two in a row.

-That Jeff Gordon is the only repeat pole winner at the Glen since 1995? Those rained out sessions don't count.

You Don't Say…
"I don’t understand exactly all of it yet. I sat around at the track until probably around 9 or 10 o’clock drinking that wonderful tasting cheap champagne from victory lane with my wife and some high school friends—just sitting outside the bus still in my driving suit sitting on the asphalt leaning up against my bus just enjoying the moment. I came home and woke up and hit the road and ran four miles and then organized my garage. I just sat there with the biggest smile on my face—loving every minute of it—just proud and ready to go to the next one. So I’m ready to go. I want to get in this championship battle and start racing for this thing.” -driver Jimmie Johnson on letting his Brickyard win sink in and moving on toward the Chase

"We’re real confident about what we’ve found at Michigan and Fontana. Bristol’s a bullring, so anything can happen, and it’s kind of the same at Watkins Glen. With a road course, a lot of things can happen, like someone else taking you out which is what happened to us at Sonoma. We have been good (at Watkins Glen) for several years and if we can get our set-up as fast as we’ve had before, we’ll be alright. We've been in the top-10 there three years in a row, and had a shot to win a couple of them. That's what you hope for every week.” Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the next five races and Watkins Glen

"The two tracks, while both road courses, are still pretty different. At Watkins Glen you don’t have to finesse the throttle near as much as you do at Sonoma. When you get the car turned, you can get in the gas and then stay in the gas. Watkins Glen is much faster than Sonoma. I think there are the same amounts of passing opportunities, but because of the speeds that you’re able to run at The Glen, brakes become a much bigger factor than I think they are at Sonoma. It’s pretty much a horsepower track. It’s horsepower and aerodynamics just like it is anywhere else we go. It just happens to be in the form of a road course. Sonoma has a lot less grip in the race track. You have to really be careful with the throttle there, and that puts more of the race in the driver’s hands. If anything, Sonoma is probably more technical than Watkins Glen because there’s hardly any time where you get a chance to rest. You’re always either shifting or accelerating or braking or turning or doing something. At Watkins Glen, at least on the frontstretch and on the backstretch, there are three straightaways where you get a little bit of time to take a break. Watkins Glen seems to be more in the crew’s hands and the engine builder’s hands. Obviously, there’s still a job that I need to do in the race car, but I’m relying on the equipment and the crew a lot more at Watkins Glen.”- driver and three-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart on how the track differs from Infineon Raceway

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Contact Amy Henderson

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