COMMENTARY | Next up, Watkins Glen.
Those words are enough to spark quite a debate among my racing friends and through the NASCAR community.
For some, the thought of the Cup boys turning left AND right is enough to make their stomachs turn, while others love the site of these 3,400-pound monsters sliding and banging around America's road courses.
Myself, I fall into the "love it" category.
It is a completely different type of racing. It is short-track racing mixed with hills, valleys and right-hand turns. Some of the best racing, some of the nastiest wrecks, and some of the angriest drivers you will see all year all take place at NASCAR's two Sprint Cup road courses.
It is the one time of the year you get to see drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose shine, and it is the one time of the year you see some of the best drivers in the world accidentally lock up the brakes and go screaming into a corner, tires smoking, right into the rear of someone they really didn't mean to take out.
Road racing has it all.
Look, the current cars aren't really built for road racing. They are big, they are bulky, and they certainly don't stick well in low-speed corners, but that is what makes it so much fun. The fact that these cars take so much finesse and skill to get it done at a road race makes me appreciate those that can do it all that much more.
We aren't that far removed from the days where Sprint Cup regulars either stepped aside for the road ringers or simply tried to "get through" the race without incident while Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart or one of the other road pros took the checkered flag.
But, lately, that hasn't been the case.
More and more Cup drivers are the learning the nuances of Sprint Cup road racing and as a result we are seeing more and more new faces in the winner's circle. Martin Truex's win at Sonoma was surprising, but then again Sonoma is a track that has produced a lot of surprising winners over the years. Watkins Glen, on the other hand, is typically a track won by only the best in road racing.
Over the past 20 years, we have seen Tony Stewart win five times, Jeff Gordon four times, Mark Martin three times, and other road pros like Kevin Harvick, Robby Gordon and Montoya take home the top prize. Australian V8 Supercar star Marcos Ambrose has won the last two events at Watkins Glen, his only wins in the series.
Road racing has been around in the Sprint Cup series since the very beginning. Even back in the early 50s, drivers were wheeling cars left and right at tracks like Willow Springs and Riverside and today we are left with only two, the prestigious Watkins Glen and California's Sonoma Raceway.
I personally would love to see more road racing. This season, the Nationwide Series will travel to three road courses with Road America and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course joining Watkins Glen on the schedule. And, without a doubt, I think a road course needs to be part of the Chase. I say make the Chase a true test of a driver's skill with every type of track in the series.
But that is another debate for another time.
What do you think of road racing in NASCAR? Do you love it, or do you turn it off and wait for the next race? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
L.A. Crum is a professional writer and journalist from Ohio. He is an avid fan of motorsports and college athletics and has worked with many of the top teams and drivers in the racing industry during his decade long career. He is a proud graduate of Marshall University.
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