Race Weekend Central

Pace Laps: Settling Safety, Farewells At Watkins Glen

Sprint Cup: Watkins Glen Odds & Ends – One of the things that makes Formula One racing successful is the commitment the series expects from its viewing constituency.  Races typically conclude in a two-hour window, and when it seems that might not be the case, due to weather, an accident, or some other issue, F1 switches to a timed format.  Might this kind of practice be suitable for NASCAR?

2014 Watkins Glen CUP Michael McDowell car CIA
Michael McDowell’s car didn’t end this way after a vicious accident called into question safety at Watkins Glen. Credit: CIA Editorial Photography

The airing of the Cup race at Watkins Glen seemed to last more than four hours.  The two red flags, the first lasting nearly and hour-and-a-half, and the second lasting over twenty minutes, means that there was nearly two hours of non-racing.  What makes this aspect interesting is that on NASCAR’s race report it makes no mention of the red flags and instead lists the race as lasting two hours and twenty six minutes.

It’s convenient that the governing body didn’t want to remind its fans or the media of how much time was wasted watching interviews and filler.

A second concern that arose, yet again, was how Watkins Glen needs to address how safe its track is.  Ryan Newman, involved in the first red-flag wreck, called the place “antiquated.”  This issue is not one that is solely tied to the Glen, as a number of tracks could stand to install safer barriers in more places (looking at you Las Vegas and Talladega), and bring a better focus towards driver safety.  Watkins Glen had at least tried to improve safety in some parts, but it seems that it’s not enough.

Maybe that rich new TV contract will help out the “poor” tracks and their parenting companies take care of business.  Huston Ladner

Nationwide: Marcos Ambrose Going Away Party? – Saturday afternoon was his first and only Nationwide Series race of the season, and he made it count by leading the most laps and grabbing his fifth career road course win. Ambrose is rumored to be leaving NASCAR after the season, and if he does, Saturday he provided one last impression of what he should be remembered for.

His duel with Kyle Busch, which also included them spinning earlier and nearly ending their day, was the highlight of the Zippo 200. But Ambrose was not about to let the winningest driver in the series get one from him, as he looked for some practice and motivation ahead of Sunday’s big Cup event and a spot in the Chase.

And speaking of Cup, Ambrose led the way for Cup drivers as the top 5 consisted of drivers who earn their paychecks on Sunday. Then came point leader and super rookie Chase Elliott in sixth, a finish that extended his lead on teammate Regan Smith. The No. 9 team is leaving one road course and heading to another with just as much to celebrate as Ambrose.

But it was the Tasmanian who took home the trophy, one last celebration and the honor of helping produce great road course racing. Kelly Crandall

Sports Cars: 2015 Scheduled – This past weekend at Road America, IMSA announced the 2015 schedules for both the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSC), much earlier than last season.  Compared to 2014, the schedule is slightly condensed.

TUSC is down from 13 weekends to 12 in 2015.  Each class will contest ten races.  Like this season, they will be a combination of split races, split weekends, and weekends with all four classes racing at the same time.  The Tequila Patron North American Endurance, the four-race championship-within-a-championship returns in the same form as this season.
Lime Rock Park, which hosted rounds for both the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series in 2013 before being left off the schedule in 2014, will be on the schedule as a Prototype Challenge/Grand Touring Daytona-only weekend on July 24-25.  Another change has the PC-class contesting the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park round in July, replacing GT-Daytona.  The other split events remain the same (P/GT-Le Mans only at Long Beach, split P/GT-Le Mans and PC/GT-Daytona races at Laguna Seca, P/GT-Daytona at Belle Isle, and a GT-Le Mans/GT-Daytona race along with a standalone PC race at VIR).
The races that have been dropped are the Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the PC-only event at Kansas Speedway.  Neither of those races worked all that well logistically for the series.  According to the Indianapolis Star, the Friday race at IMS did not work well for IMSA, and having the race as part of the Brickyard Super Weekend created logistical issues for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series in getting the track converted to and from the oval configuration.  As for Kansas, almost no one was happy that Kansas was a last-minute addition to the schedule.  The PC teams were angry, denouncing the combination event with IMSA Prototype Lites as a “club event.”  The CTSC teams were also upset about the lack of television coverage at the Lime Rock and Kansas rounds, something that completely backfired on IMSA back in May at Lime Rock when Ssgt. Liam Dwyer (along with Tom Long) won the Street Tuner race.  As you might remember, that became national news at the time.
For the CTSC, they will have ten races in 2015, down from 12 this season.  All ten of the rounds will be held as support to TUSC races.  As a result, they will all be televised.  Like TUSC, Indianapolis and Kansas will be dropped from the schedule.  The only difference is that no races will be added.  Phil Allaway

About the author

Ava Lader headshot photo

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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