This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.
This weekend the NASCAR Cup Series visits Watkins Glen International for the next-to-last road-course race in this heavy season of road racing with its annual running of the Go Bowling at the Glen. The Watkins Glen circuit is an 11-turn, winding road course with many long straights terminated by hairpin turns. The event is 90 laps on the almost 2.5-mile course, divided into stages of 20, 20 and 50 laps. Top speeds are close to 160 mph, which is very unusual for a typical road circuit, and this is due mainly to the long straights which occur at three places on the track. Horsepower and aero-handling are key factors for this race, so it's a bit different than the other road courses in NASCAR. As the drivers barrel down the straights and into sharp corners, we see more than a few go off course as they attempt aggressive braking and accelerating maneuvers to make the pass. The teams that can stay on the course and out of the gravel traps or grass will collect a good finish this Sunday at the Glen. Over the last few seasons we've seen NASCAR racing on the road circuits turn from more of a finesse game into a fender-beating battle similar to what you would see on the series' short tracks. Aggressive driving is essential to victory, but starting up front on the starting grid is even more important. The drivers who get good starting spots are often the ones seen hoisting the trophy
This weekend the NASCAR Cup Series visits Watkins Glen International for the next-to-last road-course race in this heavy season of road racing with its annual running of the Go Bowling at the Glen. The Watkins Glen circuit is an 11-turn, winding road course with many long straights terminated by hairpin turns. The event is 90 laps on the almost 2.5-mile course, divided into stages of 20, 20 and 50 laps. Top speeds are close to 160 mph, which is very unusual for a typical road circuit, and this is due mainly to the long straights which occur at three places on the track. Horsepower and aero-handling are key factors for this race, so it's a bit different than the other road courses in NASCAR. As the drivers barrel down the straights and into sharp corners, we see more than a few go off course as they attempt aggressive braking and accelerating maneuvers to make the pass. The teams that can stay on the course and out of the gravel traps or grass will collect a good finish this Sunday at the Glen. Over the last few seasons we've seen NASCAR racing on the road circuits turn from more of a finesse game into a fender-beating battle similar to what you would see on the series' short tracks. Aggressive driving is essential to victory, but starting up front on the starting grid is even more important. The drivers who get good starting spots are often the ones seen hoisting the trophy at the end of the day at Watkins Glen International. Making green-flag passes here is difficult, so starting up front is the key to finishing up front at the Glen.
Since the NASCAR Cup Series races at Watkins Glen only once a season, we don't have a lot of statistics to go on this weekend. Fortunately, NASCAR keeps good loop data on the various tracks and these numbers will come in handy for this event. As the loop data will show, the drivers who typically do well at Watkins Glen have a history of racing well at this fast, rolling facility. We'll take a look at the last 16 races at Watkins Glen in the following table and examine these numbers closely when forming our prognostications for the Go Bowling at the Glen.
|# of Fastest Laps
|Laps in Top 15
|Martin Truex Jr.
The Glen has been won from the front three rows 28 times in its 38 total NASCAR cup races run to date. That factors out to a whopping 74-percent of the winners coming from the first three starting rows. The pole winner has collected 10 of those 38 wins. In fact, no winner of this race has started worse than 18th on the grid, so starting near the front is extremely important at this winding road course. The winner of this race in 2019, Chase Elliott, started on the pole, in yet another example of this Watkins Glen phenomena. Last season's winner, Kyle Larson, started on the second row (fourth), becoming the 10th in the last 11 Watkins Glen victors to start in the first three rows.
Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott are the current, active wins leaders at Watkins Glen with two victories each. Busch's glory at the New York road course is a story of dominance over roughly the last decade. He won the 2008 and 2013 installments of this event, and he cracks the Top 10 at this circuit at an eye-popping 81-percent rate. Elliott's tenure has been much shorter, but he's been the most dominant force at this oval the last few seasons. The Hendrick Motorsports star has won or finished runner-up in the last three Watkins Glen events in jaw-dropping fashion. Elliott should be the man to beat this weekend. Other drivers who'll get a fantasy racing upgrade this Sunday are Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain. All three have been great on road courses this season in the new Next-Gen car and we expect them to bring that success to New York this week. We'll take a look at loop stats, recent history at the Glen and even this season's road course results to help give you the drivers you need to conquer your fantasy racing leagues this weekend.
The Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win
Chase Elliott – The Hendrick Motorsports star has been held winless in 2022 on the Cup Series' road circuits. However, Elliott has led 62 combined laps in the four events and has nabbed two Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes. He's yet to hit the bullseye and visit victory lane, but that could change as we visit one of Elliott's favorite tracks. The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet is a two-time Watkins Glen victor and finished runner-up in this event one year ago. With 141 combined laps led at the Glen as well as two wins and three Top 5s since 2016, Elliott has been a dominant force at this facility. He's been the driver to beat in the last several Watkins Glen races and that won't change in Sunday's Go Bowling at the Glen.
Tyler Reddick – The most successful road course driver of the season in the new Next-Gen car has easily been Reddick. The young Richard Childress Racing driver has two victories (Road America and Indy GP circuit) along with three Top-5 finishes on the road courses in 2022. It really has been surprising how dominant the No. 8 Chevrolet team has been in this style of racing. Reddick will be making just his second-career Cup start at Watkins Glen International this Sunday, but that's of little concern. Reddick earned an impressive Top-10 finish at the Glen in his Cup Series debut at the track last season. This time around, we'll get to see what the young driver learned from that outing and from the road racing events of this season. The results shouldn't disappoint.
Kyle Larson – Larson has made some pretty good strides at the New York road circuit in recent years. He rides a three-race Watkins Glen Top-10 streak into Sunday's action and won this event one year ago to dethrone Chase Elliott at one of his favorite tracks. Road racing hasn't exactly been this driver and team's expertise this season, but Larson did earn a pole position and led 26 laps at Sonoma earlier this season before grabbing an impressive third-place finish at Road America a few weeks ago. Larson and the No. 5 team are sharpening their performance in this style of racing and he should be a factor in the outcome Sunday at Watkins Glen.
Kyle Busch – The Joe Gibbs Racing star has struggled this season on road circuits, but Watkins Glen is really unlike any other road course in the schedule. Busch has had a ton of success here over the years and simply can't be ignored this weekend. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota is a two-time Watkins Glen winner (2008 and 2013), and he's grabbed five Top 10s in his last six Watkins Glen starts. With close to 250 career laps led at the New York circuit and a miniscule 9.1 career average finish, the Glen is one of Busch's most successful road course tracks. If Elliott or Reddick stumble this weekend, it could be Busch who sweeps into victory lane.
Solid Plays – Near locks for a Top 10 with an outside shot to win
Kevin Harvick – One of the hottest drivers in the Cup Series comes to New York riding a two-race winning streak. Harvick is on fire, but his hot streak will get a real test this Sunday at Watkins Glen International. He's a past Watkins Glen winner (2006) but that was well over a decade ago. Still, Harvick's 55-percent Top-10 rate at the New York road course isn't bad at all. In fact, the Stewart Haas Racing veteran rides a solid three-race Top-10 streak at the Glen into Sunday's action. Harvick hasn't been a top road course performer this season but he does have two Top 10s in four starts on these style tracks. More importantly, he and crew chief Rodney Childers are finally figuring out this new Next-Gen car, and it's paying off big.
Denny Hamlin – For a long time, Hamlin's efforts at the Glen amounted to little more than frustration. He scored Top-10 finishes in his first four starts at the challenging road circuit, but he then experienced a power outage of titanic proportions. Hamlin only cracked the Top 20 once at the Glen from 2010 to 2015. However, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota has turned struggles into the spectacular at the Glen the last six years. Hamlin won at this facility in 2016 and he's nabbed four Top-5 finishes in his last five starts at Watkins Glen. The Joe Gibbs Racing star has been climbing back into relevancy of late, with Top-5 finishes in each of the last two events at Michigan and Richmond. This should be an important and timely start at Watkins Glen.
Ross Chastain – If you're looking for top road course performers in 2022, look no further than Chastain and his Trackhouse Racing squad. They've had some tough luck of late but bring the same killer speed to the track each weekend. Chastain won earlier this season at COTA and has posted Top-10 finishes at Sonoma and Road America. The veteran driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet has just three Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen on his racing resume, but last season's effort was his best to date with a solid 12th-place finish. Chastain is racing for a much better-equipped and more successful team in 2022 and the results should show on the track this Sunday. He should be a Top-10 finisher and challenger to the Top 5 in the Go Bowling at the Glen.
Austin Cindric – Cindric will be making his Cup Series Watkins Glen debut this weekend at the famous New York Road course, but that should be of little concern. The Penske Racing youngster has been one of the most consistent performers this season in the new generation stock car on road-course tracks. Cindric is the only driver to score Top 10s in all four road-course events to this point. His 5.5 average finish across that span speaks volumes to his driving skill and his expertise in this style of racing. Cindric's last effort on a road course netted a brilliant runner-up finish at Indianapolis a few weeks ago. He also netted a win and a third-place finish in his last two Xfinity Series starts at the Glen, so he's very well accustomed to racing and succeeding here.
Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Watkins Glen & solid upside
Christopher Bell – Bell enters this weekend on quite the roll. The Joe Gibbs Racing youngster won at New Hampshire a few weeks ago and finished runner-up this past weekend at Richmond. He has three Top-5 finishes in his last five starts and is looking to stay on a roll at the New York road course this Sunday. Bell made his Cup Series Watkins Glen debut last season and did not disappoint. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota showed he loved racing at the rolling circuit by starting seventh on the grid and finishing the same spot after 90 challenging laps. If we look back at Bell's Xfinity Series career, we see that he earned ninth- and second-place finishes at the Glen between 2018-19. He should be a steady fantasy start this Sunday with a lot of potential upside.
Joey Logano – Logano is starting to heat up as we make the run up to the Chase playoffs. The Penske Racing star rides a three-race Top-10 streak into Sunday's action at the Glen, and this is an excellent track to keep him streaking into the playoffs. Logano has been a tough-luck performer on road circuits this season, but he seemingly turned that around last time out at Indianapolis a few weeks ago. The driver of the No. 22 Ford earned a strong sixth-place finish on the Indy GP circuit. As for Watkins Glen, Logano is a one-time winner here and has one runner-up finish as well in 12-career starts. His 17.3 average finish is pedestrian at best, but his 42-percent Top-10 rate at the Glen is acceptable.
Martin Truex Jr. – It's been an uneven season for Truex on the road courses, but Watkins Glen is a different animal. The Watkins Glen road course has yielded some great finishes over his NASCAR Cup Series career. 10 of his 15 career starts at this facility have netted Top-10 finishes (67 percent), and he rides a five-race Watkins Glen Top-10 streak into Sunday's Go Bowling at the Glen. Truex grabbed his first career Watkins Glen victory in 2017, and he's nabbed a pair of runner-up finishes in two of his three starts since that win. We don't expect him to be in race-winning form this Sunday, so we've slid him into the sleepers list this weekend, but Truex should step up his game in the Go Bowling at the Glen Sunday afternoon.
Ryan Blaney – Blaney has experienced his share of time at the front in these races, leading 22 laps in four road-course events so far this year. In addition, the Penske Racing star has grabbed two Top-10 and three Top-15 finishes for a healthy 12.3 average finish on the winding tracks this season. Then factor in that Blaney has two Top 10s in his last four Watkins Glen starts and a razor-sharp 11.3 average finish at the track in five career starts, and the picture becomes very clear. Blaney is a very talented road-course performer, and he's riding a two-race Top-10 streak into this weekend's Go Bowling at the Glen. In the case of the No. 12 Ford team, we have a driver heating up and one capable of fetching a Top 10 in New York.
Michael McDowell – The veteran Front Row Motorsports driver has been a proven performer in recent seasons on the road circuits, and he's carried that success into 2022 with the new generation stock car. McDowell has nabbed one Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes on the four road courses this season. His 8.0 average finish across that span is very strong indeed. McDowell hasn't enjoyed as much success at Watkins Glen as he has at some other tracks in the series, but that should not be a deterrent to fantasy racing deployment this Sunday. McDowell is coming off a couple bad starts at Michigan and Richmond but will really be looking forward to getting back on a road course this weekend.
Chris Buescher – The road circuits have provided a lot of success for Buescher and his No. 6 Ford team this season. Buescher led 4 laps and grabbed and impressive runner-up finish at Sonoma earlier this summer and has grabbed three total Top 10s on the winding circuits this season. Buescher's six career Watkins Glen starts have amounted to little more than two Top-15 and three Top-20 finishes (good for an average finish of 21.3), but don't let those historical numbers fool you. He's a reshaped driver this season and experiencing one of his better campaigns in some time. Buescher is coming off a dynamite third-place finish at Richmond this past Sunday and will ride that momentum into this Sunday's Go Bowling at the Glen.
Slow Down – Drivers to avoid this week
Kurt Busch – Busch missed his fourth consecutive race this past weekend at Richmond as he's still experiencing effects from his Pocono concussion. At the time of writing, it's not clear if he'll be able to suit up and compete at Watkins Glen. It's a tough, rolling, grinding road circuit and probably not the track you want to make your return at after a concussion. Assuming Busch does suit up, his chances for success would seem slim. Road circuits have been tough on the driver of the No. 45 Toyota this season. Finishes of 32nd-, 18th- and 23rd-place have been his body of work so far. Despite sporting a 50-percent career Watkins Glen Top-10 rate, we can't recommend starting Busch this Sunday afternoon.
Aric Almirola – When it comes to stone-cold drivers right now, they don't get much colder than Almirola. The veteran Stewart Haas Racing driver just grabbed a Top 10 at Richmond to halt a four-race Top-10 slump, but the series heads back to the winding circuits this weekend and leaves the much friendlier short tracks behind. Almirola has been an absolute mess on the road courses this season, with just one Top-15 finish vs. two finishes outside the Top 25, good for a bloated 24.8 average finish across the four events. Last time out at Indianapolis he was rolled up in an early-race crash, and that's hard to get past. 10 career starts at Watkins Glen have never netted a Top 10 for Almirola, and we don't expect that statistic to change this weekend.
William Byron – Despite two victories this season, the 2022 campaign has been sort of a letdown for Byron and the No. 24 Chevrolet team. With just five Top-10 finishes to this point, he's lacked the consistency to become a serious championship contender. Road courses have taken their toll on the young driver, as Byron has struggled to just one Top 10 on those tracks and a subpar 17.0 average finish in the four events. He's enjoyed some success in his young career at Watkins Glen International, record two Top 10s in three starts, but this season it's likely a different story for Byron. We expect him to struggle to a mid-pack finish in the Go Bowling at the Glen.
Bubba Wallace – Wallace has been one of the hottest drivers in the Cup Series the last five weeks, posting three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes since his big third-place effort at New Hampshire. We're calling for the Wallace fade this Sunday in New York. Outside of his recent Top 5 at Indianapolis, the road circuits haven't been too kind to the No. 23 Toyota team. Wallace had three DNFs prior to that surprise Top 5 at Indy. That sort of meshes with his career experience on road circuits. Watkins Glen alone has seen Wallace three times since 2018, and he's yet to post a Top-20 finish here. We believe he's a high-risk fantasy driver at the Glen.