Posted: 14 Jun 2011 05:48 PM PDT
By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.—Before Tuesday’s ride swap with Lewis Hamilton, there was a section of the Watkins Glen International road course Stewart had never seen, the .95-mile boot-shaped section called—you guessed it—the “boot.”
After racing on it in both a Sprint Cup and a Formula One car, Stewart would like to see NASCAR incorporate the boot into its August Cup race here.
“I enjoyed the long course,” Stewart said. “I’d never been around it till today. I told (NASCAR executive and pace car driver) Brett Bodine when we got out of the car after our setup runs that I would like the opportunity to see us having a shot at running the long course.
“I think it would create more passing opportunities, for sure, and it’s just such a historic racetrack, and there are some really cool corners down there that we don’t get a shot to run on a Cup weekend.”
Five-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said much the same thing after running a Grand-Am race at the Glen last year. Armed with the endorsements of Stewart and Johnson, WGI president Michael Printup plans to lobby NASCAR president Mike Helton, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton and senior vice president of racing operations Steve O’Donnell about running the full course.
“By tomorrow morning, I’ll have a message in to Mr. Helton and Mr. Pemberton and Mr. O’Donnell,” Printup said. “I’ve asked them over and over again, and I think this was just the real live testimonial that it can happen.
“Our races are becoming shorter now (in duration), because we’ve paved all the gravel traps, and we’ve taken out a lot of the mishaps and (loss) of track time. Now we just have to pave (Turn) 8, which is down in the heel of the boot, and I think we could have some great racing.”
The tradeoff would be a reduction in the number of laps on a longer course.
“Like Tony and I were talking after the event (Tuesday), it’s just going to give us a lot more opportunity to pass,” Printup said. “I think that would make it more exciting for the fans, and it opens up another major section where fans love to view racing.
“I’m going to cross my fingers and work on NASCAR next.”