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Two former champions, F1’s Lewis Hamilton and NASCAR’s Tony Stewart swap rides for a run at Watkins Glen.
Bob Varsha, longtime voice of F1 on SPEED, hosts Seat Swap: Hamilton vs. Stewart with analysis from Larry McReynolds and Steve Matchett and Ralph Sheheen reporting from the pits at the road course.
“I think a big challenge for both will be the track itself,” Varsha said. “Tony has raced the short loop used by NASCAR, but he’s not as familiar with the full circuit we’ll be using from the classic era of F1 and Can Am at The Glen. Lewis will be seeing the place for the first time. Once they learn the track, Tony will be driving a car with about the same power as his Cup machine but only half the weight, so it will react to his input much more quickly. I’ll never forget the amazement on Jeff Gordon’s face after his first taste of an F1 car on our Tradin’ Paint show at Indianapolis back in 2003. Hamilton will have the opposite challenge in the heavier stock car: it’s fast, and having been chauffeured at speed by Kyle Petty around road courses during the SPEED Dream Ride, I’ve learned that the Cup car handles better than some think. But it won’t accelerate, turn or stop as quickly as the F1 machine, and Lewis will have to anticipate that.”
The drivers each will make four laps in the other’s machine, a limit with which Stewart jokes he is not disappointed.
“Well, after listening to Juan (Pablo Montoya), who said my neck is going to be falling out of the thing after three laps anyway … so it is probably in my best interest that they are limiting the number of laps we can run .”
But Stewart is no slouch in an open-wheel car.
“People tend to forget that Tony Stewart’s resume includes an IndyCar championship, so he has that open-wheel experience to draw on,” Varsha explained. “Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, has spent his entire career in high-downforce cars with lots of grip, so I think he has the greater challenge to get the most out of a heavy car that needs to slide around a bit to be quick. And having covered Hamilton for years, I’m sure he wants to experience everything the Cup car will give.”