NASCAR regulars compete in Grand Am

Usually when we talk about doing double duty at a track, we mean a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver is competing in the Cup race and either the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series or the NASCAR Nationwide Series. This weekend when NASCAR visits Watkins Glen International for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 at The Glen, and the NASCAR Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400, "double duty" has a new category added. Three NASCAR drivers will also compete in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Canadian Tire 200 at The Glen.

That Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Andy Lally is one of those drivers is no surprise. He'll be partnering with Duncan Ende in the No. 66 TRG Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 in Saturday evening's race. Lally has four prior GT victories at Watkins Glen and he won with TRG in the GT class in January's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Born in Northport, New York, he considers Watkins Glen his home track.

Two Roush-Fenway drivers will also compete in the Rolex Series production-based GT class. David Ragan, driver of the Sprint Cup No. 6 Roush-Fenway Racing UPS Ford, pairs up with his Nationwide counterpart, series points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr., to pilot the No. 11, TPN Racing/Blackforest Mustang. Ragan sits 19th in points, but his win at Daytona puts him in contention for a wild card spot in the Chase if he performs well, and Stenhouse Jr. looks to extend his points lead over Reed Sorenson with a solid finish at The Glen

In a NASCAR teleconference Wednesday, the three drivers answered questions about the upcoming weekend of road-racing at Watkins Glen.

Both Ragan and Stenhouse, Jr., admitted to being less-than-confident in their road-course skills so the pair seeks to increase their seat-time and learn more about navigating the course's twists and turns. Lally, a three-time Grand-Am Champion and winner of the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in the GT class, returns to his home track where he's won four times.

How did Ragan and Stenhouse, Jr., land in the TPN GRAND-AM ride? Ragan explains, "I was bugging Jack to try to get into a Nationwide car at Watkins Glen, but it worked out where Ricky needed some seat time, and where we could get into something else and make some laps besides the Nationwide car and be a teammate with two drivers...So Jack Roush and the guys at Ford Racing, had some connections with the car. The group that runs Jack Jr. and Billy Johnson's road racing team will be taking care of the car this weekend, and just a chance for Ricky and I to get some seat time.”

Stenhouse, Jr., added, "We were sitting in the drivers' meeting at Nashville and Jack was next to me and leaned over and said, 'hey, I'm going to get you some laps at Watkins Glen.’…Any time you can get seat time on any road course is good, but definitely the one that you're going to run on later in the day, it's going to be good for us. We're just going out there to try to learn as much as we can about the racetrack and about road racing to make our Nationwide program better."

Stenhouse, Jr., was also questioned about fallout from the NNS race at Iowa Speedway in which he and teammate Carl Edwards clashed and eventually crashed across the start-finish line, with Stenhouse Jr., winning. He explained that the subsequent team meeting was simply a debriefing session, going over what worked and what needed to be improved for the teams and as a company. "Driving-wise, Jack doesn't really try to get involved with that. He kind of lets the drivers handle that, so Carl and I handle that. We're all good.”

Ragan deferred to Roush-Fenway management when questioned about sponsorship possibilities for the No. 6 car, saying that "My job is to work with my crew chief, my team engineer, try to be the best driver I can, not make mistakes and the rest is something that's a little bit out of my control...I can't get sidetracked off driving the race car."

Andy Lally joined the call and was asked about the big weekend with both races and he said, “It is certainly a big weekend for myself and TRG Motorsports. We've got two races on the plate this weekend. I'll be back in a Rolex car for the first time since January when we won the 24 Hour. And I'll be back doing what is my favorite NASCAR race of the season, which is the Watkins Glen road course … looking forward to trying to defend our spot, the last spot in the top-35 here this weekend." Holding that spot in owner's points means a guaranteed start, rather than having to qualify for the race on time.

Skirts and Scuffs Lead Editor Rebecca Kivak asked both Ragan and Lally, "Which turns at Watkins Glen have you found to be the most difficult and that you're looking at improving on?"

Ragan said, “For me it's all about getting out of the bus stop, I believe through the right-hander, leading to the back straightaway. I think that's turn seven. Can't really remember, five or seven. But that's the most important part for me. I feel like that's where I've struggled at."

Lally said, "You've got to exit the top of the S's fast in a Cup car, and you've got to get out of the outer loop fast. But those two things are very key. But you have to be able to transition through the bus stop. That's super key for the Cup car."

"For the Rolex car it's actually going to be getting out of turn one because it's easy flat up through the S's. So you've got to be able to turn through the middle of turn one there. As you're coming down you're going to typically going to get a little understeer before you can press into the hill. But you've got to be able to get to the power as early as you can because that straightaway is one of the longest all season minus Daytona and Homestead and it's uphill. So you've got to run out of turn one, and that's going to be a pretty key factor especially on the short course."

Watkins Glen International and Canadian Tire, the largest automotive retailer in Canada, just announced on Wednesday, Aug. 10, a partnership that makes Canadian Tire the title sponsor GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race during the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen weekend.

The Canadian Tire 200 at The Glen will be broadcast Saturday at 6 p.m. ET live on SPEED. For more information on GRAND-AM Road Racing, visit

NASCAR regulars compete in Grand Am NASCAR regulars compete in Grand Am Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Friday, August 12, 2011 Rating: 5