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Watkins Glen course is getting some safety improvements

   Gravel traps and grass will be changed to asphalt around Watkins Glen before this summer's NASCAR stop (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)   

    By Mike Mulhern

    Last summer's bad crash on the backside of Watkins Glen International has spawned some significant changes in that road course layout.
    Some gravel traps will be removed, catch-fencing will be modified, soft walls will be added, and some guard rails will be relocated.
   The particular area under change is in turn nine and 10 on the NASCAR part of the 3.4-mile course, and part of the backstretch chicane will also be modified.
   Michael Printup, the Glen president, says those areas needed "improvement," and he is expected to amplify on the changes during a press conference Monday, during the first day of Charlotte Motor Speedway's annual preseason media tour.
   The chicane area has had a gravel trap, to slow cars that get off the track; that will be replaced with pavement as a runoff. And a soft wall will be added there, along with changes to the catch-fencing. Some grassy areas will also be paved, to extend the runoff, and there will be a rumble strip added, to try to keep drivers from cheating through that corner.
   And in turn 11 there will be a soft wall barrier added, along with more asphalt replacing grass.
   The changes should be in place for NASCAR's Sprint Cup stop at the upstate New York track ( www.TheGlen.com ) August 8th.
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  A bad crash last summer involving Jeff Gordon led to a review of some key areas around the Watkins Glen course (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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