The question the tall foreheads at NASCAR’s front office have to be asking themselves this morning: How do they top the action that was the Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen International on Sunday?
In clearly what was the most entertaining stock car race in a season that has produced more duds than any other previous season, NASCAR has to find a way to capture what happened at the Glen and bottle it for use down the road.
How many Monday mornings this season have we heard fans lament about “boring” races?
Certainly, this is partially the result of a better calibre of driver than at any other time in the history of NASCAR and the new cars that are safer and easier to handle.
But still, this season’s events are often more of a parade than a race and it has showed in a drop in live attendance and some sagging in the television ratings.
More than anything it has dramatically lessened the water-cooler factor — people talking about racing.
That wasn’t the case on Monday where sports radio in the U.S., at least, was talking about the excitement that came out of Sunday afternoon’s race at the Glen.
In the race’s aftermath, Brad Keselowski — who was in the middle of the action on that final lap with Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Busch — could hardly contain himself he was so excited. And this from a guy who finished second.
“The last lap, I guess you have to back up to turn one where I got in front of Marcos,” he said. “Kyle had whatever issue he had, whether it was his own oil or the 47’s (Bobby Labonte). He slipped up big in Turn 1. There was just nothing he could do, nothing I could do.
“When I got to Turn 2 side-by-side (with Busch), there was nothing but oil. I felt lucky not to wreck myself. He spun out.”
From there the action got even more hectic.
“Marcos was right on my bumper,” Keselowski said. “We got going through turns three and four, it was nothing but oil. We all about spun out.
“I could see (Ambrose) in my mirror. We got to inner loop, nothing but oil. We both slid off the racetrack. I knew I had to drive in there hard. If not, he was going to hit me.
“When I got out in the grass, I just thought, ‘Oh, no, I’ve thrown this race away.’ I looked in my mirror and he was in the grass, too. That shows you how bad the track was.
“We got to the carrousel, drove in there, slipped up again. I looked at him. He was slipping up. I turned back down to the bottom to get going. I must have hit the oil spot one more time. I slipped up, he didn’t. He got a run down there to the chute to Turn 10. Certainly had position, cleared me. Got to Turn 10, he slipped again. I was lucky enough to have him as a brake pedal.
“Got to 11, I thought I had him being on the outside, but apparently wherever the oil was, it was in the high lane in Turn 11. I just hit more oil than Marcos did, just barely kept from spinning out.”
After all that Keselowski had a smile on his face that just wasn’t going away.
“It was just fun,” he said. “We leaned on each other, we bumped each other. We were both cool about it and didn’t dump each other.
“This is what I think racing in NASCAR is supposed to be, hard-nosed, going for the win, bumping and rubbing without any of that intentional wrecking nonsense. Marcos gets that.”
And so apparently, did sports media giant ESPN radio, where morning topics rarely include NASCAR, or for that matter the NHL.
But on Monday the race at the Glen was leading off Sportcenter.
Of course a lot of the spectacular racing at the New York track was the result of it being a road course.
In fact, a look back at the three most exciting NASCAR races of the past two seasons — this year’s race at Road America, Watkins Glen on Sunday and last season’s NAPA 200 at Montreal — have all involved turning left and right.
The obvious thing would be to add more road courses, but that too presents a problem in that most of the road and street courses in North America simply are not suited to stock car racing.
Keselowski is a fan of the Glen, Road America and Montreal, but not of most other road and street courses.
“This is a real road course,” he said of the Glen. “Seems like all the other places are parking lots with corners (hello, Exhibition Place and Edmonton City Airport).
“You see real racing here. I think that’s what today was.”
Park race bid gets big boost
The Canadian Tire Motorsports Park — formerly Mosport — just got a huge endorsement in its bid to hold a top NASCAR touring series race next season.
Jack Roush — owner of Roush Fenway Racing — and one of NASCAR’s most powerful figures said that he backs the efforts of track co-owners Carlos Fidani and Ron Fellows to lure a Camping World Truck Series or a Nationwide Series race to the GTA facility.
“I think it is great what Ron and his partners are doing,” Roush said at Watkins Glen International. “And I think Toronto is a great market.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Roush has backed Fellows.
Roush hired Fellows early in his racing career to drive his Trans Am SCCA Mustang at CTMP back in 1989, a race he won.
“I am a big Ron Fellows fans,” Roush said. “I remember seeing Ron when he was just starting out. I identified him as somebody who had talent and ability.
“We welcomed him to our team and he did a very nice job.”
Roush said that Fellows is well respected in the racing world and that should help him get major event to the track.