Race: Cheez-It 355 At The Glen
Date: Sunday August 10, 2014
Track: Watkins Glen International
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Pocono turned out to be a pretty good race! For a weekend that started with rain, it ended with a full race being run. That was surprising. Then again, what race is bad when Dale Jr. wins? Jr. surprised everyone and took home the win last Sunday, completing the Pocono sweep for the year. He held off Kevin Harvick and won with some good pit strategy. As usual, we saw several different strategies throughout the day, and that was ultimately what won the race for Jr. Jeff Gordon dominated a good portion of Sunday, but he fell short on strategy. Jimmie Johnson unpredictably struggled throughout the race. Brad Keselowski also struggled quite a bit throughout the race. He actually had a hiccup on the first lap, but recovered relatively well.
This weekend, we are going to have another good battle. We are headed to another road course. Watkins Glen is a jewel for some and a challenge for most. Drivers like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and even Marcos Ambrose are going to excel. This is a track that rookies really do not do well at. No matter how you spin it, there’s not much to be said besides this being a definite learning experience for guys like Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson. Tony Stewart is coming into this race one year after his major sprint car race where he suffered a major blow with a badly broken leg. He’s now back, although struggling, but this is a track that can help him gain some momentum.
Watkins Glen has a history of being tough to tame for most. It is an 11 turn 2.45 mile track. The banking here ranges anywhere from 6 to 10 degrees depending where the driver is at on the 11 turns. One of the coolest things about Watkins Glen is the hairpin turn. This is one of the spots on the track that really gives drivers an opportunity to catch and pass each other. With the urgency to catch each other, drivers often bump and run into the corners. There are several straightaways where passing is possible as well, but it’s a little bit tougher because guys can become so spread out. As with Pocono, track position and tires are the most important factors here. Track position is going to be premium since passing is a tough thing to do. The issue with tires is the fact that cars are set up much differently because of the left and right turning. Although that sounds trivial, it’s a very different reality than these teams are used to.
With the difference in car setup and the difficulty that the track presents, it’s no wonder that we will see veterans accelerate on Sunday. This is a place where drivers either do really well or are just battling to stay on the lead lap until the end of the race. If we take a look at the best of the best, Jeff Gordon is a shoe-in. He’s a contender virtually every time we come here. As I mentioned before, Tony Stewart does a good job on the road courses, so this should be a place where he will probably have a better than average finish this season. Kyle Busch will be one to watch as well. With his attitude, he’s going to put on a show if nothing else. Finally, Jr. is going to be tough to beat. He’s coming off a win to a track where he’s actually gained a lot of experience and knowledge from Jeff Gordon. I’d expect to see him challenging for the lead throughout the race. Here’s a look at your potential winners heading into Watkins Glen this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Jeff Gordon
Middle of the Road Pick: Clint Bowyer
Dark Horse Prediction: Marcos Ambrose
Clint Bowyer, despite many challenges this year, has an excellent record at this track. He’s one to watch and will be at least a top 10 driver, although I expect him to be contending for the win. Marcos Ambrose is undoubtedly the best road course driver in the Sprint Cup series because of his background. He runs well at Sonoma, but he runs great at Watkins Glen. It’s fun to watch him race this track, as he tends to be much more aggressive than we are used to seeing him. There’s definitely a level of comfort that he has here versus other tracks. Look for him to throw a wrench into some plans this weekend.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Brad Keselowski
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Ryan Newman
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Joey Logano
8. Carl Edwards
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Kyle Busch
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Kyle Larson
13. Greg Biffle
14. Kasey Kahne
15. Austin Dillon
16. Paul Menard
We are getting to the point in the season where racing is pivotal. Guys need to win races. There are few spots left for guys to make the Chase, so their best bet is going to be getting those wins. This weekend may be a place where we see a new winner, but I would predict most likely a repeat winner since this is track favors veterans in a large way. Stay tuned this weekend as we do something a little different and head to Watkins Glen for exciting road course racing! Find the most driver vs. driver prop bets and more at the web’s BEST auto racing bookie: 5Dimes!