Watkins Glen, The Long And Short Of It For NASCAR

AJ Allmendinger won last years Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen to capture a spot in the Chase. [Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images]

[Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images]


By Joe Jennings

Fans Will Help Decide Whether Watkins Glen Should Run Its NASCAR Events On The Long Course

INDIANAPOLIS – Traditionally for major events at Watkins Glen International, Formula 1, the Verizon IndyCar Series, IMSA and others have staged its races on the legendary track’s 3.4-mile long course while NASCAR uses the shorter 2.4-mile course. The extra mile encompasses the famed “boot,” which gained notoriety during the F1 days.

According to legend, NASCAR executive Bill France Jr. thought fans desired to see cars go by once a minute, so not to lose interest in the racing. Also, there was concern about the wear and tear on cars experienced with the extended distance. Today, NASCAR’s finest lap the short course in some 70 seconds or less, which feeds the France theory.

But the murmurs continued over the years and were further fueled when The Glen racing surfaces were totally repaved at the conclusion of the 2015 season. Some even thought that use of the long course should be tried this year, but this did not come to pass.

“Let the fans decide (about the NASCAR races),” WGI president Michael Printup said while in Indianapolis for the announcement of the return of the Verizon IndyCar Series in September, 2016. “We are going to do a survey in August to see whether the fans really want to see (racing) on the long course. You have to remember if we go from 90 to 60 laps, you are going to take 30 per cent of the race away and if you are sitting in the main grandstands, you only see the cars 60 times.

“I do know that Bill France Jr. thought fans should see the cars as often as they could, and he did think the long course would add too much.”

Time will tell what happens and if nothing else, it is good to hear that the doors are open to listen to the desires of the fans. And it will be interesting to learn the results of the survey and see how the data is used. Should fuel the winter rumor mill, too.

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