Go Bowling at The Glen Preview

At only 33 years old, Kyle Busch has now tied Tony Stewart with 49 career cup series wins, which ranks 9th on the all-time list. The tie may not last longer than the requisite week either, as the series now moves to Watkins Glen – a place where Kyle’s two wins in 2008 and 2013 are most among currently active drivers. As for the non-winning drivers, the regular season is winding down quickly, and the points race for the 10 remaining playoff spots is becoming ever so critical. Watkins Glen, Bristol, and Darlington are great places to crush dreams in the final 5 races. First up, The Glen.

WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL

For the second time this season, the Monster Energy Series will visit a road course, this time where we see right-hand turns coupled with a wrong-side pit road. However, the similarities between Watkins Glen and Sonoma pretty much end at “road course.” The Glen is a much faster and less technical track than Sonoma, so it’s no surprise when successes at one do not necessarily equate to successes at the other. While Sonoma is more about finesse and longevity, The Glen is more about overpowering the track with horsepower, speed and brakes. In my opinion, Watkins Glen translates better to the inherent nature of stock car racing for this reason, but both styles of racing can be entertaining in their own right. Restarts heading into Turn 1 are always something to watch at WG, especially as the race progresses and opportunities to gain critical track position quickly fade.

PIT STALL PICKS: THE DOWNFORCE, THE DRAFT, & THE DRAG

This section is less about prognostication, and more about highlighting drivers catching my eye at a given moment. We all play in different formats and have different strategies, but hopefully this adds some value to your results. Harvick, Truex, and Kyle Busch have been purposely omitted because they are obvious options each week. Good luck!

THE DOWNFORCE (start ’em)

Kurt Busch – In the most recent five races at WG, Kurt’s worst finish is 11th, improving an average of 6.6 spots from his qualifying position each race. At a place where it’s difficult to pass, this implies an impressive ability to extract the best from whatever the car is offering, and patiently progress through the field one by one. Momentum wise at Kentucky, NH, and Pocono, Kurt has 3 consecutive starts in the top-ten, and 3 consecutive finishes in the top-ten. Kurt is the current points leader for those on the outside looking inward for the playoffs.

Clint Bowyer – On the inside looking, um, upward, Clint won at Sonoma and is one of the best road racers out there, in my humble opinion. This another one of those situations with Clint where, despite a misleading history of work, his numbers are still strong regardless of equipment. While Clint has always been exceptional at Sonoma, I don’t think he started to figure out The Glen until 2012. Since then, he has finished 4 of 6 starts in the top-6. If this team unloads a good car, we’ll see them running in the top-10 all day long.

A.J. Allmendinger – Let’s face it, the #47’s only practical shot at a playoff appearance hinges on a win this weekend, and that has been true since the green flag waved at the Daytona 500. For fantasy competition, this presents some positive and negative variables. On one hand, this team has had this race circled on their proverbial calendar since the start of the season, and for sure since their hopes took a ‘dinger (pun intended) at Sonoma back in late June with a missed shift. Suffice it to say, they will be as prepared as any team. On the other hand, strategy may force them into a situation where they have to prioritize the race-win over earning stage points. Typically this doesn’t benefit most fantasy owners, so it’s a risk depending on where they qualify and how the race plays itself out. All of those hypotheticals aside, this is undoubtedly A.J.’s best track, and it’s not even close.

Brad Keselowski – While Brad has yet to win at Watkins Glen, he’s finished 50% of his starts in the top-five, including a stretch of three consecutive runner-ups from 2011-2013. They don’t necessarily need a win, but the sense of urgency emanating from this #2 team is probably a result of failing to live up to their own expectations. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some aggressive strategy/driving from the #2 this weekend, which may cost you some points at the end of the day.

Chase Elliott – I think this team is finally starting to click, and Chase’s performance at Sonoma earlier in the season inspires a great deal of confidence in his skills. On its face, Chase’s short resume contains two 13th place finishes at WG with an average loop rating of 91.5. However, at Sonoma, Chase has steadily improved from 21st to 8th to 4th (49 points), and I have a feeling we’ll see a similar step in the right direction this weekend. That said, road courses aren’t places I typically think of to spend a valuable Elliott start, but weigh your options accordingly.

THE DRAFT (dark horse)

Erik Jones – Apart from a pedestrian 16h place finish at New Hampshire, this team has quietly amassed 5 top-seven finishes since June, including the more famous win at Daytona. Jones started 20th and finished 7th at Sonoma, which coincidentally kicked off this aforementioned run of success. Going back a little further to last season, Jones started 6th and finished 10th in his debut appearance at Watkins Glen. I think Erik is a solid start this weekend, and this team is well positioned to make some noise in the upcoming playoffs.

THE DRAG (use caution)

Kyle Larson – There’s a major issue with road course races; mainly that they include 39 other cars. It sounds stupid, and I mean it to, but that has honestly been Kyle Larson’s most serious hurdle. He qualifies great by himself, but consistently struggles in traffic. At Sonoma, Kyle has never qualified worse than 5th, but never finished better than 12th. At Watkins Glen, Kyle started 2nd last year and finished 23rd. In 2016, he started 2nd and finished 29th. In 2015, he started 6th and finished 12th. Not the trends we’re looking for. 2014 is the only top-10 Kyle Larson has ever earned on a road course, and it’s been all downhill from there. I’m not smart enough to know why or how it can change, and it probably will someday, but start at your own risk.

AVERAGE FINISH POSITION @ WATKINS GLEN (last 5 track events)

3.0, #19 Daniel Suarez (1 race)
6.8, #41 Kurt Busch
8.0, #22 Joey Logano
9.6, #47 A.J. Allmendinger
9.6, #6 Matt Kenseth

AVERAGE LOOP RATING @ WATKINS GLEN (last 5 track events)

113.1, #19 Daniel Suarez (1 race)
111.6 #18 Kyle Busch
105.0, #78 Martin Truex Jr.
103.5, #2 Brad Keselowski
100.8, #47 A.J. Allmendinger

2018 PTS MOMENTUM (last 5 overall races this season)

43.8, #4 Kevin Harvick
43.2, #78 Martin Truex Jr.
39.0, #18 Kyle Busch
31.6, #9 Chase Elliott
31.4, #20 Erik Jones

Dan Roman Contributor|User role
Dan Roman is an opinion writer, content contributor, and league manager from Charlotte, North Carolina – the proud home of NASCAR! Dan is passionate about furthering the reach of NASCAR, and expanding its base of fans and fantasy players everywhere. In his spare time, Dan enjoys simulator racing on iRacing.com, and learning the nuances of motorsports; including racing physics, setup configurations, strategy, and history. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NASCAR Pools Online.

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