WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) - NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series has been racing at Watkins Glen International since 1986, and it’s never run the entire 3.4-mile layout.
The famed mile-long Boot section has regularly been used by the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, but that extra mile is what troubles the powers that be in NASCAR. Not to mention four more turns that could wreak an awful lot of havoc in the race, which is 90 laps and 220.5 miles in its current format.
“We take a look at it. I’m not against it,” said WGI President Michael Printup, who has discussed the matter with NASCAR president Mike Helton in the past and probably will again after Sunday’s Cheez-It 355. “There’s no bleachers. We’d have to look at the logistics. We’re just going to let it play out. I’d be a little worried about adding a mile. I wouldn’t want to give the feel of short-changing the people.”
Drivers who relish the challenges that the road races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen bring to the sport say they would relish the chance to go that extra mile.
Tony Stewart, who’s out of Cup action with a broken leg, drove the Boot in a swap of rides with Formula One star Lewis Hamilton two years ago and marveled at the challenge. And five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has driven it, too, and become enamored with the prospect.
“I would love them to run us down through there,” Johnson said. “The first corner (a sweeping left-hander following a similar right-handed turn) would be exciting in one of our race cars. You can crest the hill and have a blind entry into that left-hander. I could see us having some big problems there. It would be my only concern. But we’re professionals. We understand the risks and I think it would be worth the risk to run us through there. It is a very, very fun experience down through the Boot.”
Four-time champion Jeff Gordon has never driven the Boot, but he’s up for the challenge, too.
Absolutely,” Gordon said. “For years I always said put more turns in and I think we’ll have a better chance at better results, I think for our fans watching at home as well as watching here. I think that the course we run is probably a little bit better and more suited to our cars. I don’t know what would creep up if we went that direction. Would we have brake issues? I don’t know all the ins and outs because I’ve never driven it.
“I like challenges, so I at least would like to give it a shot one time.”