Race: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen
Date: Sunday August 14, 2011
Track: Watkins Glen International
Time: 1 pm ET
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This weekend, we are headed back to the road courses. This is the second road course this season, the first being at Sonoma out in California. Over the last weekend, Pocono turned into a surprisingly good race as Brad Keselowski took the checkers days after crushing his ankle in another racing accident. Kyle Busch tried hard to catch him, but he just couldn’t quite get there. There was the typical red flag for rain, but even after the midway point of the race, NASCAR managed to get all the laps in. Joey Logano was hoping it would end during the rain, but unfortunately for him, the skies parted long enough to let Brad use some pit strategy and good driving to get up to the front of the pack.
Moving on to the road course is a whole different game. These courses are tough on regular Cup drivers because the focus is usually on ovals and left turns. Throwing in the occasional road courses, drivers must utilize skills to get through 11 turns here at Watkins Glen, that tricky right turning, and also extreme brake and throttle control as drivers come downhill off a long straightaway into a sharp hairpin turn. Watkins Glen is a 2.5 mile course consisting of 11 turns.
The name of the game with road courses is track position. Although tires are important, it is so hard to get back positions once a driver gets too far behind. The idea is to start up front and stay up front. In a long green flag run, tires can become very useful in working through traffic, but more often than not, you will spend much more time trying to pass here than you would at the oval tracks. Another big issue at these tracks is fuel mileage. Generally, these races go one of two ways. There will either be incessant caution laps or very long green runs. That being said, there is always pit strategy and fuel mileage that can win this race.
When it comes to who does well here, there are always the typical road course masters, including Juan Montoya, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon. Additionally, there are usually a few non-Cup regulars that come into the field just for this race, most notably Boris Said. In terms of winning this weekend, I really think that defending winner Montoya has a great shot as does Tony Stewart. Although we haven’t heard much about him, Stewart has had a great few weeks over the last month or so. He’s been consistently in the top 10, and if there’s any track he can actually win, this is the one. I am going with Stewart this weekend. Jeff Gordon will undoubtedly come on strong, but I think that Stewart will overtake him.
Here are your current top 10 in the points after Pocono:
1. Carl Edawrds
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kurt Busch
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Jeff Gordon
8. Ryan Newman
9. Tony Stewart
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Look for Edwards to fall to Johnson this weekend. There are 9 points separating them, and I think that Johnson will have a more solid run. I also believe that this is an opportunity for Stewart to move up as well as Gordon in the points. Other than those guys, I don’t think that there will be any big shakeups.
We have Denny Hamlin in 11th place, 23 points behind 10th place Jr. Clint Bowyer is holding down the 12th position, 41 points behind that 10th spot. At this point, those wild card spots are going to be given to those drivers highest in the points with the wins from this season. Although Bowyer is up there in 12th, he needs to watch out for Paul Menard and Brad Keselowski who both have wins this season and could potentially take those spots away.
Virginia’s Prediction to Win: Tony Stewart. Take him in all head to head match-ups as well.