Watkins Glen is ready if bad weather hits

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Watkins Glen International is ready for any kind of weather.

A week after 10 fans were injured by lightning strikes at Pocono Raceway, one of them fatally, WGI president Michael Printup said his staff has been drilled repeatedly on what to do in case of a storm.

“All of our emergency action plans we review with NASCAR prior (to a race),” Printup said Friday. “We’ve been doing it for years, and to be honest I’m really sensitive to it. I was in California (in 1999) when (IndyCar driver) Greg Moore died. You have to be on your toes. Unfortunately, there’s tragedies that do happen in this sport, so I’ve been hyper-sensitive to it.”

Printup said he walks his staff through dry runs of all kinds of scenarios. “We practice,” he said. “We know what to do.”

Printup said there are more than 30 police cruisers with loudspeakers and nine big-screen televisions to warn fans. His staff also has text message availabilities to warn fans of impending danger.

“All of this stuff helps to transmit signals because that’s what you have to do,” Printup said. “You have to communicate, and you have to communicate fast. You have to take personal ownership of your protection, and everybody has to understand that.”

Several violent thunderstorms moved through the Watkins Glen area Thursday night and rain forced NASCAR to curtail Sprint Cup practice on Friday.

The Cup cars finally made it onto the track just after 4:30 p.m., though the Nationwide Series practiced in the rain on rain tires.

ROUGH PRACTICE: Denny Hamlin has crashed in Sprint Cup practice at Watkins Glen.

Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota slammed into the guard rail that lines the 2.45-mile road course only seconds after Patrick Long’s Toyota blew an engine, his No. 30 spewing oil on the track and kicking up grass as it came to a stop.

Jeff Burton then hit the back of Hamlin. There was left front damage and more damage across the entire back of Hamlin’s car. That forced Hamlin to go to a backup car, but he had to go back to the garage when that car began leaking oil after practice resumed.

Burton also had to go to a backup car and was 29th fastest. Hamlin, eighth in the points standings, was 23rd.

Qualifying is this morning.


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