*Credit photo to Newscom.
This week NASCAR heads to Waktins Glen International for one of their two road course races of the season on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. The race comes just one week after NASCAR made history for itself when they raced in the rain last Saturday in the Nationwide Series in Montreal, which most critics feel came off as a huge success. As of right now there are no plans to break out the rain tires on Sunday, but there’s still plenty to look forward to with just five races remaining until the cutoff for the Chase.
2007 – Tony Stewart
2006 – Kevin Harvick
2005 – Tony Stewart
2007 – Jeff Gordon
2006 – Kurt Busch
2005 – “Rained Out”
the Usual Suspects:
Tony Stewart is in the midst of the longest winless streak in his Sprint Cup career, but that should be of little concern to the no. 20 team this weekend. ‘Smoke’ built up a bit of momentum for himself after a 2nd place finish last week at Pocono, and now he heads to Watkins Glen where he holds the best driver rating over the past 3 years and has the second best average finish amongst active drivers. He’s one three of the last four races at the Glen, along with a 2nd place finish in 2006.
The only driver to breakup Stewart’s winning streak at the Glen in the past four years was Kevin Harvick, the winner of this event in ’06. In his seven career races at Watkins Glen, last year’s 36th place finish is his only run outside of the top-15. He also has four top-10′s in that span ….. Jeff Gordon is considered a threat to win at most tracks, but perhaps even moreso at road courses. Once dubbed “King of the Road”, Jeff has had a rough go of it with only one top-10 finish here since 2002, but he did win 3 of the 4 events prior to that stretch ….. The series points leader, Kyle Busch, was never thought of much as a road course racer heading into this season, but already in 2008 he’s managed to win the Nationwide Series race in Mexcio and then went onto win the Toyota Save/Mart 350 at Infineon. After a 33rd place run at Watkins Glen in his rookie season, Kyle has since rebounded with back-to-back top-10′s ….. Denny Hamlin has run here only twice, finishing 10th and 2nd in those races.
the Unusual Suspects:
Robby Gordon has been in dire need of some good runs for the sake of his own race team, Robby Gordon Motorsports, and many fans have long expected that success to come at one of NASCAR’s two road course events. Robby has six top-5 finishes in eight races run here, and even won the event while racing for RCR back in 2003. He currently has a string of three consecutive top-5 finishes at Watkins Glen.
Marcos Ambrose competed in his first Sprint Cup event earlier in the season at Infineon. Known for his road course specialties, Marcos didn’t disappoint, as he had a great top-five effort going until issues late in the race put an end to his day. This will be his first visit to Watkins Glen with the Cup Series as he once again fields the no. 21 Wood Bros. Racing entry, but there’s no reason to think he won’t rise to the occasion once again ….. Juan Pablo Montoya is always a favorite to keep an eye on at road course races as well. An incident with Kevin Harvick here last year put an early end to his day and he finished 39th, but that should be considered a one-off deal. He does have an Infineon win to his credit at the Cup level.
Road Course Ringers are sure to be a factor in any NASCAR road course race, regardless of the series. Though they don’t typically win these things at the Cup level, many of the drivers leave their mark with exceptional runs. Amongst the ringers included in this weekend’s entry list are: Ron Fellows (DEI) – two top-5′s in the last 4 years; Boris Said- finished 3rd in 2005; PJ Jones – finished 4th in 2002; and Brian Simo and Max Papis are on the list as well.
the Unusual Slackers:
Greg Biffle picked up his first ever top-10 Watkins Glen finish last year when he crossed the line in 10th, but each of his four starts previous to that were 30th or worse. His overall average here is 30.2 ….. When you think of road course racing, Kurt Busch isn’t a name that immediately jumps out at you as someone you need to avoid carrying on your fantasy roster, but like Biffle, he also has only one career top-10 at Watkins Glen. Four of his seven races here he has finished outside of the top-15 ….. Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed to put together a string of solid runs here at one point, finishing 3rd, 5th, and 10th from 2003 to 2005, but in 8 years of racing here, he’s finished 35th or worse three times, holding an average finish of just 20.6.
Best Driver Ratings:
1. Tony Stewart – 137.9
2. Denny Hamlin – 112.1
3. Jeff Gordon – 108.2
4. Robby Gordon – 106.3
5. Jimmie Johnson – 104.5
Best Driver Averages:
1. Scott Pruett – 5.8
2. Denny Hamlin – 6.0
3. Tony Stewart – 6.1
4. Mark Martin – 8.8
5. Robby Gordon – 9.4
Watkins Glen Facts:
- 8 of the 25 races at Watkins Glen have been won from the pole position. The last driver to do so was Tony Stewart in 2005, but before that it hadn’t happened since Jeff Gordon did it in 1998.
- 16 of the 25 races have been won from a top-five starting position.
- The deepest starting position a driver has ever come from to win at Watkins Glen is 18th. Steve Park did it in 2000.
- Jeff Gordon holds the track record for most wins with 4.
- Mark Martin holds the track record for most poles (3), top-five’s (12), and top-ten’s (16).
- The most different leaders ever during a race at the Glen was 12 – back in 1995.
- Chevrolet leads the manufacturer race at Watkins Glen with 14 wins.
- 5 drivers currently in the top-12 in points have never led a lap at Watkins Glen: Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, and Clint Bowyer.
- In the midst of a 35 race winless streak, Tony Stewart’s last victory came here at Watkins Glen in 2007.
Video of the last 7 laps of the 2007 Centurion Boats at the Glen race:
Winner – Tony Stewart
2nd Place – Robby Gordon
3rd Place – Marcos Ambrose
4th Place – Kyle Busch
5th Place – Carl Edwards
6th Place – Kevin Harvick
Lock of the Week – Tony Stewart
Sleeper Pick – Marcos Ambrose
Steer Clear of – Greg Biffle