Friday, August 11, 2006

Watkins Glen

Where are the ringers? The road course warriors? The highest ranked one-shot driver at the Glen this weekend will be rolling off an unimpressive 13th. While Pruett's attempt in the 40 car is a lot higher than it has been lately, that still leaves guys like Busch, Kahne, and Harvick up at the front like any week.

I'm not proclaiming the age of the road course ringer in NASCAR over just because none of them are starting in the top ten, but I think it does show that the NASCAR regulars have finally woken up to the important affects these two races can have on their seasons, and have stepped up their road racing programs. Drivers have been taking lessons from road warriors, teams have been getting setup information. As always, the best teams rise to the top. So while we now have the best cars with good setups and competant road course drivers, the ringers will forever be stuck as fill-ins for second tier teams willing to dump their driver for a couple weekends or one shot deals. While they may be the best guys out there, they are still limited by the disadvantage of not having or being able/willing to participate in a full time ride. NASCAR is so competetive, it's almost impossible to just throw a team together and contend for a win.

That's why Robby Gordon is starting sixth and Ron Fellows is 18th. The two teams are about on par, and the two drivers are about the same in road course skill as well, but Robby works with his team all year, while Fellows has to make a lot of quick adjustments to fit in. While qualifying position isn't the race, track position is damn important at tracks like these. I have no doubt that with the right car, Fellows could work his way to the front, but it's a crapshoot as to whether he can work with a bunch of relative strangers and get what he needs out of them. Meanwhile, I know that even if they send Robby to the back of the field and his car is a little off, he'll be able to steadily improve through the day because his team knows what he likes. Same with Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Mark Martin. (Martin rolls of 20th. But nobody would question his likelihood of being near the front at the end of the day.)

That is why Boris Said intrigues me. He seems genuinely interested in starting up a program that will be competetive on a weekly basis and let him go oval racing. If he does make a full time dive into NASCAR with a good sponsor and team, I say it will have a noticably positive effect on his road course endeavors as well.

PS - That clip from the last post was the 1989 Indy 500, just for anyone who was wondering.

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