Up and down the paddock the welcome was warm but incredulous. "Why have you come to Pocono? If you wanted to see a NASCAR race you should have gone to Bristol or Charlotte or Martinsville."
They were probably right, but none of those fine venues is a car ride away from Watkins Glen, where two days after the Pocono event Lewis Hamilton and Tony Stewart were swapping machines for a drive around the classic former home of the United States Grand Prix (East).
It had all the ingredients of being a classic trip. Interviews were arranged at the track with Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Richard Petty and veteran commentator Larry McReynolds.
The race wasn't a classic - they seldom are at Pocono - but Jeff Gordon won and then spent 45 minutes answering questions from the assembled media. I say questions, but all could have been lumped in the 'are you too old to win another title?' category. The way he found different ways of giving the same answer was very impressive.
With F1 Racing's James Roberts in convoy, we hit the highway the next morning for a drive through the verdant, beautiful upstate New York countryside. With the Jeep on cruise control and the radio set for classic rock, it was like a Top Gear set-piece (minus the scripted antics).
Hamilton gets ready for his laps in Stewart's Chevrolet © sutton-images.com
Upon arrival in Watkins Glen we stopped for lunch at a disused gas station overlooking the Finger Lakes. The lobby was covered in pictures of racing legends. The Glen is a town that wears its racing heritage with a deep-rooted pride.
Next up was a recce of the track. With officials conspicuous by their absence, this was a great chance to explore, and we set off driving across the infield, picking out the (in)famous spots.
As we drove down to The Boot, one of the members of the BMW car club who'd hired the circuit was looking sheepish after binning his 3-series and damaging those baby blue barriers.
Back in the media centre we met up with former AUTOSPORT hack turned McLaren press officer Steve Cooper, who suggested making a trip to the Seneca Lodge. What a call!
As we walked through the door we were greeted by the owner, unbelievably wearing a '70s Marlboro McLaren T-shirt, while the cine film recordings he and his brother had made at the grands prix played on the TV.
All the greats were there, and he recalled the era James Hunt and co turned his bar into the unofficial post-race party location for the eleventyith-hundred time. He even helped point out where the old road-racing track ran, which obviously we followed for a few laps (within the speed limit, honestly).
Waking to rain the next morning was a depressing start. But they bolted some wet tyres and a makeshift wiper on the NASCAR, and Tony and Lewis gave the thousands of fans who waited in the rain a brilliant show.
Never mind Austin, the beating heart of the US GP is still pounding at the Glen.
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