Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY — August 8, 2021
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action this week after taking a 2-week break for the Olympics. The Go Bowling at The Glen today, at Watkins Glen International, is one of four races left before the NASCAR Playoffs start September 5th at Darlington Raceway.
Today’s race is 90 laps, 220.5 miles around the twisting road course in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Stages are 20/20/50 laps, the series hasn’t been to Watkins Glen International since 2019 due to restrictions and schedule changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defending Champion to Start From the Rear of the Field
Chase Elliott(9), who is the two-time defending champion of the race, will have to start from the rear of the field after his car failed pre-race inspection twice. Elliott was set to start in 11th position. Christopher Bell(20) will join Elliott at the back of the pack as his car also failed inspection.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart leads the NASCAR Cup Series in victories at Watkins Glen International with five (2002, ’04, ’05, ’07 and ’09); one win shy of tying the series record for most road course wins at a single track at six held by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison at Riverside Raceway.
Team Penske holds the first three starting positions for The Go Bowling at The Glen as the Ford Mustangs of Brad Keselowski(2), Joey Logano(22), and Ryan Blaney(12) lead the field to the green flag.
Keselowski and Logano pulled away at the start, the real battle was for 3rd as Kyle Larson(5) worked his way around Blaney by the end of Lap 1. Larson quickly caught the duo out front and the Top 3 stretched the lead over Martin Truex Jr.(19) and Denny Hamlin(11).
With no practice or qualifying, NASCAR scheduled a competition caution at the completion of 10 laps. Keselowski spun just prior to the yellow being displayed. Fortunately, he was able to quickly right the car and resume racing in the 6th spot.
Keselowski was the only one of the leaders to pit, while the back half of the field came to pit road for fresh tires. Including Elliott, who had worked his way up to 22nd after the first 10 laps.
Logano and Larson led the field back to green with Joey grabbing the lead when Kyle got loose trying to find a way around the #22 car.
Several drivers opted to pit prior to the pit road being closed with 2 laps to go. Blaney, Kevin Harvick(4), Matt DiBenedetto(21), and Truex were the leaders opting to come for service early. Logano held onto the top spot to take his 4th Stage win of the year. Keselowski finished the Stage in 7th, Elliott in the 8th position.
Stage 1 Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Early pit stops paid off in track position as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47), Truex, Chase Briscoe(14) and Harvick led the pack back to the green flag. They went 3-wide into the first turn with Truex coming out on top and Briscoe taking the 2nd spot.
The caution waved again as James Davison(51) stalled on the track. No one took the chance to pit as it appears the field is going to try and race to the end with just one more stop for fuel and tires.
Briscoe got a poor restart and Harvick moved past into the 2nd position behind Truex. Christopher Bell, who also started in the back, moved into the 2nd spot as Truex was pulling out to a 2.5-second lead.
Truex easily held on for the Stage win.
Stage 2 Results
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr.||10|
|5||14||Chase Briscoe *||6|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Most of the leaders stayed on track during the Stage ending caution employing the 2-stop strategy. Look for those drivers to hit pit road around laps 55-60. Drivers who did pit, including Hamlin, will have to make another stop for fuel to finish all 90 laps.
Position swaps settled down after the restart with the running order showing Truex out front, followed by Bell, Larson, Ross Chastain(42), and Harvick.
The battle heated up on Lap 54 when Larson drove inside of Bell and the #20 car spun out. Bell, with flat-spotted tires, came to pit road and opened the final pit cycle. Keselowski spun heading into Turn 1 and took out his teammate Logano in the process. Both recovered quickly and continued racing.
Truex and Larson pitted on Lap 57 with the cars bumper-to-bumper entering pit road. Larson’s crew got him out 1st, giving him the advantage over Truex. After pit stops cycled through, Larson led followed by Truex, Kyle Busch(18), Elliott, and William Byron(24).
With 20 laps to go, Elliott passed Kyle Busch to take over the 3rd spot and moved to within 9.5-seconds of his teammate Larson. After the pit stops cost Truex the lead he was running 2.5-seconds behind Larson.
With 10 laps to go, Elliott had closed to the bumper of Truex’s car. A lap later Elliott took over the position, he trailed the Larson by 5.5-seconds. Would he have enough laps left to catch Larson? With 4 laps to go. Larson caught lapped traffic and Elliott closed to within 2 seconds of the lead.
Time ran out on Elliott as he had to negotiate the same lapped traffic that slowed Larson who drove a flawless final lap to take the win. It was Larson’s Cup Series leading 5th win of the year and he closed the gap on points leader Denny Hamlin who finished 5th.
Kyle Larson entered the race trailing regular-season points leader Denny Hamlin by 13 points. They exit Watkins Glen tied for the lead. The regular-season champion earns a 15-point bonus that carries through the postseason.
|1||Kyle Larson||917||In Win(5)|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||740||In Win(3)|
|3||Alex Bowman||633||In Win(3)|
|4||Kyle Busch||779||In Win(2)|
|5||Chase Elliott||749||In Win(2)|
|6||William Byron||786||In Win|
|7||Joey Logano*||760||In Win|
|8||Ryan Blaney*||712||In Win|
|9||Brad Keselowski*||678||In Win|
|10||Kurt Busch||576||In Win|
|11||Christopher Bell||571||In Win|
|12||Michael McDowell*||464||In Win|
|13||Aric Almirola*||398||In Win|
|NASCAR Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon continue to battle it out for the final playoff spot. Anyone outside of the Top 17 drivers will have to post a win to earn a spot in the postseason.
With 3 races left, here is how Larson and Hamlin compare on the tracks with races yet to contend.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course: Both Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson will be making their series track debuts next weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. It will be the first time the NASCAR Cup Series has competed on the 2.439-mile road course configuration at Indianapolis.
Michigan International Speedway: Denny Hamlin has made 30 starts at the 2-mile high-speed “D”- shaped oval posting two wins (2010, 2011), nine top fives, and 15 top 10s. His average finish at the track is 13.2. Kyle Larson has made 12 starts at Michigan accumulating three wins (2016, 2017 sweep), five top-fives, and six top 10s. His average finish at the track is 12.4.
Daytona International Speedway: Denny Hamlin has made 31 starts at the ‘World Center of Racing’ grabbing three wins (all Daytona 500s – 2016, 2019, 2020), 11 top fives, and 12 top 10s. His average finish at the track is 16.0. Kyle Larson has made 14 starts at Daytona posting five top 10s. His average finish at the track is 21.1.
Results of The Go Bowling at the Glen from Watkins Glen International
|3||19||Martin Truex Jr.||6.339||90|
|19||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||54.609||90|