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Has Watkins Glen Been Ruined By Curbing Changes?

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What’s Happening?

Watkins Glen International is making some curbing changes in the bus stop chicane on the backstretch. Some drivers were very unhappy about the changes, but, will the changes actually affect Watkins Glen?

  • Watkins Glen International has made some changes this offseason. Most notably changes off of turn one to prevent drivers from racing in the run-off area, so, these inner loop changes are a surprise.
  • The new curbing includes smaller curbs towards the outside of the track shoulder and raised curbs on the inside. If a car gets onto the raised curbs, that likely means big damage or a car careening out of control.
  • Fans jumped on the bandwagon of some of the drivers who disliked the changes. However, one driver better explained why the changes were made.

What Drivers and Fans Had to Say

When news of this change came out, drivers and fans immediately began critiquing the work. It’s not a change that many drivers or fans for that matter wanted to see.

Anthony Alfredo was not happy. He was so angry, in fact, that he used all caps. However, he gave no real reason for why he hated the move so much.

Parker Kligerman had a similar sentiment. He lamented that Watkins Glen made such a big change, but, again, no real reason was given.

The obvious question raised here is, why is this move such a big deal? The raised curbs mean the risk is far greater for drivers who are forced off-road, which could cause accidents. Maybe that is the case, and one fan pointed that issue out as well.

DennyDeliversYT looked at the big wreck at the Indianapolis Road Course in 2021. This was caused by a raised curb coming up, which sent multiple cars around.

However, Kyle Larson gave some insight into why the change was made. He pointed out data from the Watkins Glen race one year ago, which highlights how rough the old curbs were. He claims that the old curbs were “Not safe for the brain”

The changes were made to keep drivers from shaking around in the car via rough curbs. It seems to be more of a safety enhancement than anything else, but, will it change or ruin the racing product?

Bob Pockrass added more context to the changes. He claimed that NASCAR will decide based on a tire test whether or not to keep the raised pyramid curbs, so, we do not know if they will be used.

Will it Ruin the Racing Product?

Should they be used, the raised, rough curbs on the inside of the race track mean drivers cannot dive into the corner and almost cut it like they once did. The curbs have essentially made the corner much sharper than it was one year ago. The old configuration is highlighted below.

The result should theoretically be drivers slowing down more for the entry, which means a slightly larger braking zone. This could mean drivers can more aggressively out-brake their competitors heading into the turn, setting up more passing opportunities.

Yes, the raised curbs on the inside present a hazard, which could cause problems with starts and restarts. If one car is launched out of control, a multi-car pileup could ensue, just like the Indianapolis curb failure of 2021.

Ultimately, however, it wouldn’t change the racing product that much if it is used. It’s still fundamentally the same corner and the same race track, but, it could be more treacherous.

It’s quite harsh to say these changes have already ruined Watkins Glen, especially considering the track may not even use the big raised curbs. Especially considering that they may not change the racing that much, but, there are some potential hazards.

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