By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Sunday at Watkins Glen International, we all were treated to one of the best races of the season. Along the way a new trend continued, where the racing action on the track resembled more that of a short track than a road course.
We saw a fabulous battle between two of the best drivers on road courses: Juan Montoya and Marcos Ambrose. The two drivers had fans on the edge of their seats, lap by lap, by lap.
The two raced as close as possible to the edge without crashing as it gets, and I’m not sure we have seen a better battle for the lead all season long. Both drivers wanted a victory more than any other in the field on this given day, and what we saw as a result was incredible.
Then there was also the Jimmie Johnson incident.
Johnson, along with Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch went three wide into turn seven at Watkins Glen, which simply just doesn’t work. As a result Burton made contact with Johnson, which sent the four-time champion spinning out of control. Denny Hamlin was swept up in the crash as well.
These are the things we have been seeing more and more of at road courses. Drivers have began to figure these tracks at more and more. Unlike the past when drivers just looked to ‘survive’ these events, they actually come to Infineon and the Glen looking for a victory.
What ensues is good ole’ fashioned short track racing, at a road course. Drivers will bump, nudge and rub through every corner in an effort to sneak a pass in.
Out braking, and flat-out missing turns trying to get everything out of the car is a common occurrence, and as a result the two road courses could be considered the most competitive races all year long.
Just to give an example of how competitive road races have become in recent years; Jeff Gordon has four career victories at Watkins Glen, but he hasn’t been able to finish better than tenth in the past three races at the course. To add to that staggering stat Gordon has nine career victories at road courses in his career, yet he hasn’t been able to capture a victory at one of these tracks in over four years.
Fans used to despise these events, but now all of a sudden they are beginning to warm up to them. When they watch road races on television they now look past the occasional right turn, and actually find themselves being reminded of why they fell in love with the sport to begin with, when the drivers trade donuts, and paint alike.
With that being said, is it now time to add more road courses to the schedule?