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NASCAR race preview: Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Sunday, August 5th, 2018

News, notes and photos courtesy of NASCAR

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: GoBowling at The Glen

The Place: Watkins Glen International

The Date: Sunday, August 5

The Time: 2 p.m. ET

TV: NBC, 3 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 220.5 miles (90 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 90)

 

“Big 3” Unstoppable

If anyone thought NASCAR’s “Big 3” may slow in the summer heat or suffer from any Victory Lane doldrums, these three drivers proved again over the weekend they are on top of their game.

Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. NASCAR photos

Kyle Busch won his sixth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday with fellow championship contender, six-time winner Kevin Harvick managing a top five after an inspired final laps run up through the field. And the third member of the Big 3 trio, Martin Truex Jr., shows up at Watkins Glen International as the defending winner of this weekend’s road course race, the Go Bowling at the Glen (Sunday, August 5 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Busch has four road course wins – two at Sonoma and two at Watkins Glen – and won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at The Glen last summer. Two more times he has led the most laps in the Monster Energy Series race (in 2011 and 2012) on the 2.45-mile circuit and finished third and seventh, respectively. He has 11 top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen in 13 races making him the highest-rated driver there with more than one start.

His victory Sunday gives Busch eight top-five finishes in the last nine races in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, including three wins (Charlotte, Chicago and Pocono). During that time he’s led 538 laps and at least led one lap in eight of the last 10 races.

Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota, celebrates winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 29, 2018 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Next Up: Watkins Glen

With Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch taking trophies in the last two Monster Energy Series races, the third member of the “Big 3,” Martin Truex Jr. may legitimately feel his time in Victory Lane is next. The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota is the defending winner at Watkins Glen after all, and has top-10 finishes in his last two races there – seven top 10s in 12 starts total.

History shows that any repeat win at The Glen is quite difficult however. No current driver has ever accomplished the feat. Cup favorite Marcos Ambrose, who returned to race in his native Australia, is the last to win back-to-back races in 2011-12.

Although Truex finished a subpar-for-him 15th at Pocono on Sunday, he has nine top-five finishes in the last 11 races including three wins. Since his Pocono win earlier this summer (eight races ago) he has led 370 laps or 57 percent of the laps he’s led on the year. 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Busch Beer Ford, poses for a photo with Loudon the Lobster in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 22, 2018 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Back in Sync

Of the primary championship challengers this season, Kevin Harvick is still looking for his Watkins Glen groove. He won the Monster Energy Series race back in 2006 and the Xfinity Series race here in 2007, but the 2014 Cup champ has only two top-10 finishes in the last six Watkins Glen Cup races. In total, he has eight top-10 finishes in 17 starts at The Glen.

Harvick, however, is clearly putting up career numbers in 2018. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford has seven top-five finishes in the last eight races, including a win at New Hampshire two weeks ago and a pair of runner-up finishes at Michigan and the series’ first road course in Sonoma.  

Youth Movement Rising To Top

NASCAR’s “Youth Movement” was loud and proud at Pocono last weekend with five drivers aged 26 or younger finishing among the top-seven – three of them (runner-up Daniel Suarez, third-place Alex Bowman and sixth-place William Byron) scoring career-best finishes.

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, poses with the Busch Pole Award after posting the fastest lap during qualifying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 28, 2018 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Andrew Hampton/Pocono Raceway)

Suarez, 26, in particular must be excited to head to upstate New York this weekend as Watkins Glen is where he scored his first ever top five and previous career-best of third-place in the Monster Energy Series season last year. Because of that, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is technically the top-ranked driver in Sunday’s field.

This will be Bowman’s first start at The Glen since 2015. He has finishes of 36th and 29th in two previous non-Hendrick Motorsports team entries. The 25-year-old was ninth at Sonoma in the No. 88 Hendrick Chevrolet earlier this year.

The Glen will be a relatively blank slate for Byron, 20, who is making his Cup track debut. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was 10th in the Xfinity Series race here last year.

Erik Jones, 22, who secured his 2018 Playoff position with a win at Daytona in July, finished fifth at Pocono last week. He was 10th at Watkins Glen in his Cup debut last year but was seventh at Sonoma earlier this season in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He even did a road course driving school early in the summer to better prepare for the two venues.

Chase Elliott, 22, who finished seventh at Pocono, has two finishes of 13th at The Glen but the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports driver was fourth at Sonoma earlier this season.

AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #23 ISM Connect/AfterShokz Chevrolet, leads Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Snap On Ford, and Ryan Truex, driver of the #11 Leaf Filter Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 4, 2018 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Return To Glory Desired

Perhaps no one gets as excited about the season implications and possibilities that exist on the scenic Watkins Glen road course as veteran A.J. Allmendinger, who had his Playoff ticket punched at the track back in 2014 and is considered a favorite here.

The driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet has six top-10 finishes in his last seven races at The Glen and has accomplished in impressive task; finishing every single lap (812) of every race he’s competed in there.

Allmendinger scored a season-best finish of third-place at Daytona in July and was 14th at Pocono last weekend. He’s eager to improve on a disappointing 38th-place finish at Sonoma earlier this year – having to retire after only 33 laps because of engine woes.

Hamlin Looking To Clinch With Win

Veteran driver Denny Hamlin shows up at The Glen feeling optimistic about his chances there, having shown himself a true road course favorite in recent years. He won there in 2016 and was fourth last year, snapping a streak of six straight finishes of 19th or worse.

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GoBowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 4, 2018 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Hamlin comes to New York after a 10th-place finish at Pocono, where he led five laps. It was his first top 10 in the last four races, but the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota remains solidly in the Playoff top 16 – but a win would definitely assure him of his postseason slot. He’s 11th in the championship standings, six points ahead of Ryan Blaney and 31 ahead of Aric Almirola.

Time To Shine

Brad Keselowski is looking for his first win at the historic Watkins Glen course, but the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford has shown great promise. He’s led 75 laps and scored a pair of top-10 finishes in the last three races there. He had a string of three consecutive runner-up showings between 2011-13 and won the 2013 Xfinity Series race at the Glen.

The 2012 Monster Energy Series champion seems due for a good run after three finishes of 32nd or worse in the last four races, including a 38th-place finish at Pocono last week. His best results are a runner-up at Atlanta the second race of the season and a third-place at Kentucky three weeks ago.

His Team Penske teammate Joey Logano won at Watkins Glen in 2015 and was runner-up in 2016.

All three Penske drivers are securely ranked among the Playoff eligible – Logano is fifth in the championship standings and has a win at Talladega, Keselowski is ninth in the standings with an 18-point edge over Kyle Larson and Blaney is 12th, 25 points ahead of Almirola.

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