OPINION: Watkins Glen was short and sweet

John Harrelson/Motorsport Images

OPINION: Watkins Glen was short and sweet

Insights & Analysis

OPINION: Watkins Glen was short and sweet


The NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen was 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 57 seconds. It was shorter than the Xfinity Series race from the day before, which clocked in at 2 hours, 23 minutes. Of the four cautions that flew in the Go Bowling at The Glen, only one was natural caution for a stalled car.

It was the perfect Sunday afternoon.

The race length, 90 laps, was no different than what it’s been for years at Watkins Glen, but there were a few factors that helped make the day fly by. For starters, there were no significant incidents or pile-ups like those repeatedly shown in the highlight reel leading into the race.

NASCAR officials threw a competition caution on lap 10, plus two stage breaks on laps 20 and 40. James Davison caused the only other caution when his Rick Ware Racing machine came to a stop on track.

Think of it as quality over quantity. The racing was decent – perhaps not the most entertaining road course event – but there was different pit strategy and good battles for positions, such as when Martin Truex Jr. led and had to fend off Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson.

In the end, it came down to the storyline of the most popular driver and king of the road, Chase Elliott, trying to chase down his teammate, Larson, for the win. Long green flag runs dominated the day, leaving drivers like Kyle Busch sore afterward because it hardly left time for anyone to breathe or relax.

Aside from the terrible, no good, very bad day that Brad Keselowski had with not one, not two, but three different spins, including one that took out Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, it was a relatively smooth and clean race. The race wasn’t dragged out or marred by questionable officiating. It took less time than expected or normal for a Cup Series race, and that was OK.

Speaking of officiating, credit is due here, as it was the other reason the race moved along quickly. NASCAR officials have taken their lumps for having quick trigger fingers when it comes to throwing cautions, and have been accused of wanting to bunch the field up for chaotic restarts.

The Cup drivers got to enjoy long spells under greens. Rusty Jarrett/Motorsport Images

There have been questionable cautions for drivers almost spinning, brushing the wall, or for a cloud of smoke. But officials kept away from the button at Watkins Glen, letting the race play out and giving drivers a chance to get going again after getting off course.

The four cautions that did occur were not exceedingly long. Think back to the inaugural event at Road America last month and the complaints about how the long cautions took around the already lengthy 4-mile course. Watkins Glen had four cautions for six laps.

NASCAR didn’t waste time having the field following the pace car lap after lap when the course didn’t need extensive cleaning. The caution flew, the pits opened, the field reset. It seemingly took no time to make all of that happen and get back to green flag action.

Of course, all of this was aided by the TV window. The Cup Series race went green at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and the NTT IndyCar Series race from Nashville was scheduled to be on air at 5:30 p.m. ET. Basically, NASCAR was in hurry-up mode to get its event in and not waste time.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR’s vice president of officiating and technical inspection, admitted as much Monday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. But he also agreed that lessons were learned from cautions at other road course races. There is nothing wrong with either of those things, and there will be no complaints about not wasting time on caution laps.

There shouldn’t be any complaints about the race moving right along either.

There are times a movie needs an hour and a half to tell the story, while others might need two and a half hours or longer. If it’s a good movie, the length doesn’t matter. Sometimes you go to a NASCAR race, and it takes 2 hours and 10 minutes, and sometimes it takes three or four. Again, quality over quantity, and Watkins Glen was a good race with good timing.