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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Doubters should give road course racing a chance

When the Cup series takes its annual treks to Sonoma and Watkins Glen, fans are usually divided into two distinct groups -- those who love to see the guys turning right, and those who absolutely hate it. The doubters find the racing at these tracks boring compared to the ovals, and hope for a day when their spots on the schedule will be replaced by oval tracks.

Count me in the other group. I look forward every year to these races, and hopefully I can convince some of the doubters to give it a chance.

-- Racing is about pure skill, and nothing shows off pure driving skill better than a road course. Anyone who’s ever watched a Formula 1 race has marveled at how those drivers can manage hairpin turns while still going more than 100 mph, yet not wreck. NASCAR’s road course speeds aren’t quite so fast, but much skill is needed to succeed at these tracks, and that’s what separates great drivers like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon from the rest of the field every time a road course race comes around. Watching ringers like Ron Fellows, Scott Pruett and Boris Said slice through the regular Cup competitors like they were standing still makes you appreciate just how difficult it is to be a strong road racer. And all of NASCAR’s greatest champions have shown at some point in their careers that they were strong on the road courses, otherwise they would never have been champions.

Anyone who’s a true fan of racing watches for more than just passing and five-wide action … they want to see truly skilled drivers showing off their abilities. The road course races are a great place to see those skills in action and marvel and what these guys can do.

-- There’s always lots of action at road course races -- whether it’s a Kevin Harvick vs. Juan Pablo Montoya confrontation like we got last year at Watkins Glen; or Jimmie Johnson’s scary-looking crash at the Glen in 2000 --- after which he thrilled fans by jumping out of his car and raised in arms in triumph; or the great battles waged between teammates Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon several years ago; or the Marcus Ambrose/Robby Gordon battle at Montreal last year.

It may not be 43 cars bunched up at Talladega or four-wide at Michigan, but there’s plenty of action to be found in these road course races.

-- Strategy is often an element of a great race, and the road course races offer plenty of it. Often, a race is won or lost depending on what lap the driver leading chooses to make his final pit stop. One wrong tactical move during the race, and the strongest car on the track can be dropped into the middle in the field. Then, viewers can marvel as they watch that driver try to pass his way back to the front.

Road racing is about more than just horsepower. It’s about driver skill and strategy, and I hope some of you who have traditionally not cared for these races give them a shot.

This week is very simple for fantasy owners. You have to use the drivers who are great on the road courses, and that list is small. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Robby Gordon, and any of the ringers like Pruett, Said and Fellows are almost guaranteed good finishes, barring mechanical problems or an on-track scuffle. Beyond that, the only people to consider would be A.J. Allmendinger, who had many road course wins in CART, and maybe Jamie McMurray, who has shown some ability at recent road course races.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great much I would like to add but didn't need to. Last year's Sonoma had a lot of drama to it because of JPM and the fuel situation and I felt the race at Watkins Glen last year was one of the best races ALL YEAR.
Keep up the good work.

June 20, 2008 at 12:24 PM 

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