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Green Means Danger At The Glen

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 8 2009
The first turn could be the final turn for overly aggressive drivers at Wakins Glen International.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The first turn could be the final turn for overly aggressive drivers at Wakins Glen International. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Watkins Glen, N.Y. – There’s more than meets the eye for a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver barreling into Turn 1 at Watkins Glen International.

Pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson has the option of gridding from either the inside or outside at the start of Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen. Johnson can make his call as late as the pace lap of an event scheduled for 90 laps around the 11-turn, 2.45-mile layout.

A sweeping right-hander, Turn 1 is the first of 990 right-and-left-hand turns the winner will negotiate under green. And Cup superstar Jeff Gordon, a two-time pole-sitter and four-time race winner at WGI, said Turn 1 is a handful.

“They should start giving van rides to all the media and the fans, for that matter, around the track so you guys can understand what we’re talking about,” Gordon said during a news conference prior to qualifying. “Going into (Turn) 1 – just through all the years of all the cars and the pressure from the downforce and the force of the brakes and the tires of trying to stop the cars – it’s rolled up the pavement down there and it’s just basically made these waves, which at speed, feel like bumps.”

Data supplied by brake manufacturer Brembo has put full-song Turn 1 entry speed at 159 mph, and speed off the corner at a relatively sedate 68 mph. Time spent on the brakes at The Glen represents over 24 percent of the lap, according to Brembo engineers, the equivalent to almost a full lap around the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway.

“When you first drive in there and get on the brakes, the car bounces in the rear and so you have to be real careful on the brakes,” said Gordon, who will start 31st after a lap at 121.046 mph in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. “But then it smoothes out and has a nice transition down to the apex. So you’ve got that challenge as well as say, restarts. It looks like there’s tons of room, plus you’ve got the runoff on the exit and so it gets guys to get pretty aggressive down in there. Some guys will misjudge the braking and overshoot it, and other guys will be more aggressive and take it three-wide and four-wide. There’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens down in Turn 1 and I guarantee that if you’re leading the race this weekend, the last thing you’re going to want to see is a caution.”

Last year’s race, won by Kyle Busch, produced four cautions and nine laps run under yellow. The Cup record for cautions is 10 in 2006. NASCAR’s revised double-file restart format will be in effect here for the first time Sunday, bunching the lead-lap cars ahead of all lappers…and potentially more Turn 1 fun.

“I don’t know which lane is going to be the preferred lane either _ inside or out,” Gordon said. “Because even though it’s a right-hand turn and you would think you would want the inside, if a guy can hold on your outside then he can carry that momentum off the corner. There are a lot of factors that Turn 1 is going to play at this race.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 8 2009
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