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Go Bowling at the Glen: NASCAR Preview

This weekend, NASCAR, featuring Kevin Harvick’s apparent renaissance, travels to Watkins Glen for the Go Bowling at the Glen road race.

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  • Watkins Glen International

Track Length

  • 2.45 miles

Track Type

  • Road course

Last 10 Track Winners

  • 2021: Kyle Larson
  • 2019: Chase Elliott
  • 2018: Chase Elliott
  • 2017: Martin Truex Jr
  • 2016: Denny Hamlin
  • 2015: Joey Logano
  • 2014: A.J. Allmendinger
  • 2013: Kyle Busch
  • 2012: Marcos Ambrose
  • 2011: Marcos Ambrose

Last 10 Track Winners by Model

  • Chevrolet: 4
  • Ford: 3
  • Toyota: 3

Go Bowling at the Glen Race Day Preview

Two races remain in the most chaotic NASCAR season in the playoff era. Some of the previous unknowns are settled because of mathematics.

(1) Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex are now the only two drivers who can make the playoffs by points only with no win. They are separated by 26 points heading to Watkins Glen.

(2) There will be no “winless Regular Season Champion” scenario as Blaney cannot top Chase Elliott by points in only two weeks without a win.

(3) If only one new driver wins, there will be exactly 16, which becomes the playoff field.

If you’re like me, though, you are hoping for the pandemonium that would accompany two new winners in the final two races to the playoff picture.

The drivers who are currently in no matter what include: Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, William Byron, Denny Hamlin, and Tyler Reddick. Elliott has four season wins, and everyone else on the list has two.

In addition, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, and Kyle Busch are mathematically in as no driver can overcome the one-winner-points deficit.

That leaves five one-race winners vulnerable to the chaos that two new winners would bring to the fold. Kurt Busch is at the bottom of that group of five, which isn’t overly surprising since he has missed four races due to his concussion injury and, therefore, hasn’t accumulated any points. Above him, in reverse order of total points, sit Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Daniel Suarez, and Alex Bowman.

Those five racers are up against one another as much as they are the rest of the field. They are also the first group of cheerleaders for any of the 15 drivers who have already won to carry the checkered flag at the Go Bowling at the Glen road race.

Which of the non-winners have the best chance this weekend? And who are we looking at for our lineups in both DFS and season-long fantasy formats? Let’s take a look.

The “Outsiders Looking In” Contenders

Martin Truex Jr. (#19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing)

While Mr. Road Course (Chase Elliott) dominates at Watkins Glen, Martin Truex actually has a higher driver rating here. He hasn’t won it since 2017, but his average finish in the last few years is 2.5. I maintain that the Motivation Quantification Tool finds Truex to be the highest on its measurements, too. He’s not just on the outside looking in – he’s the one with his nose pushed up against the glass. Expect big things from the veteran and roster him accordingly.

Ryan Blaney (#12 Ford, Team Penske)

I want to yell, “Ryan! Hey, Ryan! You’re going the wrong way!” He finished tenth last week and fifth at Michigan the week before. But his road-course finishes this year are sixth, 29th, 26th, sixth, and 11th. I mean – road courses are far and away my least favorite of the circuit, but I think Blaney might dislike them more. I don’t expect a great showing, but he has to feel increased motivation for the Go Bowling at the Glen road race. His qualifying position will determine his fantasy value on Sunday.

Chris Buescher (#17 Ford, RFK Racing)

While this isn’t the darkest horse I’m going to mention, he might be the one with the best opportunity to slide right on into the playoffs. He clocked one of the three fastest laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway three weeks ago, finished sixth at Road America, and second at Sonoma. If he can avoid a penalty that he and fellow RFK driver Brad Keselowski seem to incur regularly, I think he will be a great moderately-priced lineup builder on Sunday.

Michael McDowell (#34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports)

McDowell has three Top 10 finishes at road courses this season. He is the driver that is performing well when we’re watching, and we kick ourselves that we forgot he is really good on road courses. Let’s not forget him at Watkins Glen.

The “I’m the Cup Standings Leader” Contender

Chase Elliott (#9 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

If I just repeat something enough times, can I quickly make an “old adage” for everyone? Let’s try it.

As I always say, “Chase Elliott is Mr. Road Course. Never bet against him there.”

The “I’m That Guy’s Teammate” Contender

Kyle Larson (#5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports)

Larson finished fifth at Pocono and third at Road America. He will make a run at Watkins Glen and has an excellent chance of winning… if we ignore that old adage above. [Editor’s note: That’s not how that works. Knock it off.] Fine.

The Pandemonium-in-a-Car Outsider

Ricky Stenhouse (#47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing)

Sure, Ross Chastain is the one currently having his last name turned into a verb for “recklessness according to competitors.”

However, Chastain is just following Ricky Stenhouse’s lead on this role among the drivers. (This is the guy that the same Kyle Busch calls “Wrecky Spinhouse” in interviews.) In a season as crazy and unpredictable as this one has been, it seems perfectly conceivable to me that Stenhouse could lead us to one of two outcomes.

  1. A crash that takes out half the field which changes the landscape of the standings entirely.
  2. A win for the No. 47 car. (He had an impressive seventh-place finish in Charlotte earlier this season.)

I’m not suggesting you roster this Chaos Master. I just want it recorded somewhere that I believe he will be a factor at the Go Bowling at the Glen road course.

Have thoughts about NASCAR (or any other sport)? Hit me up on Twitter at @thewonkypenguin.

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