Changes Mean More Racing at the Glen According to Gordon
Several changes - including the paving of run-off areas - have been made inside the barriers of Watkins Glen International in advance of Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. While drivers will now be able to 'drive through' mistakes that may have cost them dearly in the past, four-time track winner Jeff Gordon believes the real benefactors may be the fans.
"I love what they've done with the pavement (where the sand traps used to be)," said the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "I think you're going to see a race that is more entertaining because we don't have to sit there and pull cars out of the sand trap.
"There's always a penalty for going off the racing surface. The penalty in the past was more severe and I think it actually took away from the racing. For safety reasons, the options now are better because we can 'drive through' a mistake. If a driver made a mistake in the past and ended up in the sand, it would take six laps under caution to get the car out of there.
"Now, I think the fans will see a lot more green-flag racing."
Along with four wins in 17 starts at the New York track, Gordon has two poles, six top-fives and eight top-10's. But his last race here ended with a frightening accident and a trip to the infield care center.
"It was a big impact, but I was more upset with how we ran to put ourselves in that position," said Gordon. "Sam Hornish and I think Kasey Kahne were racing hard, and then Sam went off the track and then ricocheted back across the track in front of me. I had nowhere to go.
"I think that is a testament to the safety of these cars that none of us involved were injured."
The changes to the track not only affect the drivers, they also affect the crew chiefs.
"We always count backwards from the end of the race to determine our final pit stop based on fuel mileage," said crew chief Steve Letarte. "And even when I have a specific lap in mind, it's hard to stick to that plan when you see so many cars stopping before you.
"If a caution flag waves right after their pit stop, then they gain valuable track position when everybody else stops under the caution. But they're also banking on caution laps to make it to the end of the race. This year, I expect there to be less cautions because of the newly paved run-off areas.
"And I'm guessing I will be a little more conservative - and not quite as courageous - when deciding when to make our final stop."