By admin | August 8, 2009
By Richard Allen
The title of this column sounds a bit misleading. Cars do not need to be going around the road course at Watkins Glen backing up, although that could make for a very interesting race.
What the title really means is that one of the keys to winning this race is being able to make the last pit stop first. Passing is very difficult on the road course, so track position is everything. Being the first off of pit road for the last time can provide a significant advantage in gaining that crucial track position.
With that said, the job of each crew chief and team engineer is to figure out the fuel mileage as exactly as possible and decide when the window will open for that final stop.
Often, teams will make a very early pit stop in this race. They will count the laps of the race from the end to the beginning rather than the other way around. So, teams will often bring their cars onto pit road for the first stop of the day very early in the race , well before the fuel cell has emptied. They are doing this in order to set up that critical last pit stop and to get themselves off sequence with the other cars.
Since a car can make a stop under green without getting lapped, pit stops will often occur at unusual times. Whereas on an oval track cars will hit pit road virtually every time a caution comes out, that will not necessarily be the case at Watkins Glen. Getting to that last stop is the key.
There might even be an instance in which a team will not pit their car under caution then pit just a couple of laps after the green has come back out. This would never happen by design on an oval. However, since track position after the last stop is what may well determine who wins the event, this race has to run in reverse. That is, it has to be run in reverse mathematically.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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