Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY — August 21, 2022
Back to road course racing. Watkins Glen International is the fifth of six road courses on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule; joining Circuit of The Americas (Winner: Ross Chastain), Sonoma Raceway (Daniel Suárez), Road America (Tyler Reddick), and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (Tyler Reddick). After this weekend, the only road course left on the 2022 schedule will be the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (Oct. 9)
Today’s Go Bowling at The Glen will mark the 39th running of a NASCAR Cup Series race on the historic 2.45-mile multi-elevational road course located near Watkins Glen, New York, known as Watkins Glen International.
Racing in the Watkins Glen area began on the streets of the city, but after several events were held, a permanent facility was opened in 1956. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International was on August 4, 1957, and was won by Buck Baker with an average speed of 83.064 mph, driving a ’57 Chevrolet.
Over the years, the Cup Series has changed the race length at Watkins Glen three times. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Watkins Glen was scheduled for 101.2 miles in 1957, the second race was 161.7 miles (1964), and the third race was 151.8 miles (1965). Every race since has been scheduled for 220.5-miles (90 laps).
The Race for the Playoffs
This week’s news that Kurt Busch will sit out the final two races of the regular season brought more clarity to the race for the playoffs. With just Watkins Glen and Daytona, the final two races in the regular season, yet to run, 14 drivers are locked in.
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Kurt Busch has won a race and will clinch if any of these 14 winning drivers repeat today. He will fall onto the bubble if any one of the following drivers makes it to victory lane at the Glen. Another new winner at Daytona could eliminate Busch if they are in the top 30 and have more points than the 23XI driver.
|16||Ryan Blaney* +26|
|17||Martin Truex Jr. -26|
|24||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
If any of the 14 winning drivers also win at Daytona, the final playoff spot will be determined on points between Ryan Blaney, currently on the bubble, and Martin Truex Jr., sitting 26 points back.
Chase Elliott won the pole for today’s race. His teammate, Kyle Larson, sits beside him in the front row. With his start today, Elliott clinched the regular season championship that will add 15 bonus points to his total playoff points entering the postseason.
Larson won the Xfinity race at the Glen on Saturday in an exciting finish, and he is the defending champion after taking last year’s Cup event at the track.
Stages for the Go Bowling at The Glen are set for 20/20/50 laps. The 90 circuits of the course account for the 220.5 miles the drivers will run today.
An interesting aside to today’s race, Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One World Champion, is driving for Trackhouse Racing.
Thunderstorms moved through the Finger Lakes region of New York just prior to the scheduled start of the race. Rain alone is not a problem as the Next-Gen car and Goodyear treaded tires make it possible to race on a wet surface. However, when lightning strikes within 10 miles of the racetrack, NASCAR safety rules require all race operations to be suspended until 30 minutes expire after the last ground strike.
The race started almost two hours late as rains drenched the track. The jet dryers were used to eliminate standing water on the race course. NASCAR lined the field up single-file instead of the normal side-by-side starting grid. Still, the front of the pack entered turn one three-wide.
On lap two, Austin Cindric(2) tapped the fender of AJ Allmendinger(16) as they entered the first turn. Allmendinger spun. Corey Lajoie(7) and Harrison Burton(21) also went around, unassisted, in the same corner as drivers tip-toed around the track trying to adjust to the grip available on rain tires.
Chase Elliott(9), the pole sitter, held the lead for the first four laps until Michael McDowell(34) took over the top spot. Tyler Reddick(8) also passed Elliott, and the duo quickly moved to a 10-second lead on Elliott in third. Daniel Suarez(99) and Todd Gilliland(38) completed the top five.
Drivers began pitting on lap 10 to change over from rain tires to slicks as the track was drying nicely under the heat of the 39 starters. McDowell pitted from the lead on lap 13 to change his tires. Reddick came to pit road a lap later.
After all the tire change stops cycled through, Chase Briscoe(14) took over the lead and held it to the green and white checkered flag ending Stage One. With a large portion of the field pitting before the end of the stage to get on a two-stop fuel schedule, the Stage ending finishing order changed dramatically.
Stage One Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Gilliland inherited the lead after drivers that had not stopped for fuel pitted at the end of the Stage. Joey Logano(22) restarted beside Gilliland as the normal double-wide lineup returned.
Logano moved to the top spot on lap 28 as Gilliland slowed on the track, having suffered a broken axle. On Lap 30, the top 5 were Logano, Kyle Busch(18), McDowell, Ty Dillon(42), and Joey Hand(15).
Kyle Busch started at the rear of the field after his crew changed the engine in his car after qualifying Saturday. He commented in the media center over the weekend that his status for 2023 is still up in the air. It looks more likely that he will exit the Joe Gibbs Racing team at the end of the year.
The top three held their positions to finish out Stage Two.
Stage Two Results
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
McDowell, Elliott, and Hand did not pit at the end of Stage Two, still relying on the two-stop fuel strategy. They went three-wide for the lead into turn one. However, the race went back under yellow before they could complete a lap when Ross Chastain(1) hit Austin Dillon(3) in the “bus stop” chicane, and Dillon spun. In the melee, Kimi Raikkonen(91) got forced to the outside and hit the wall putting his car out of the race.
On the restart, this time, Christopher Bell(20) and Kyle Larson(5) joined the battle for the lead. As the scramble for positions settled out, Elliott led, followed by McDowell, Larson, Bell, and Hand. Allmendinger, the part-time Cup Series competitor who excels at road courses, sat in 6th.
Elliott pitted with 32 laps to go and exited pit road ahead of his teammate Larson as the leaders of the cars on that were working the same fuel strategy.
With 19 laps to go, Elliott was back out front with Larson running in second. It appeared the two would decide the race between themselves. Until Hand spun and hit the wall hard, bringing out the caution with 12 laps to go.
With the field bunched up for the restart, the battle out front could easily determine the winner. The green flag waved with nine laps to go, and out of turn one, it was Elliott, Larson, and Allmendinger. Before a lap could be completed, Loris Hezemans(27) spun and slid off the track into the sand pit. The caution came out again as track crews had to pull his car out of the safety de-acceleration zone.
Restarting again with five laps to go, Larson forced Elliott high into turn one and took over the lead. Allmendinger also made the pass into second as Elliott dropped into the fifth position. With two to go, it was Larson, Allmendinger, Logano, Elliott, and Reddick as the top five.
The top four finished in order, with Daniel Suarez capturing the fifth position on the final lap. Kurt Busch locked himself into a playoff spot despite not being in the race; Busch is still suffering from concussion symptoms after his wreck at Pocono and is hoping to return for the start of the postseason.
Both Elliott and Larson were very courteous in their post-race interviews. But rest assured, once back at Hendrick Motorsports, there will be a discussion about how they raced each other in the final restart.
Martin Truex Jr. gained three points on Ryan Blaney. The pair finished 23rd and 24th respectively. It would take a major incident to befall Blaney for Truex to make up that much of a deficit in a single race. Then again, that happens regularly in a Superspeedway race.
Both drivers will miss the playoffs if a driver in the top 30 in points steals a win at “The World Center of Racing.”
|1||Chase Elliott||922||In Win(4)|
|2||Kyle Larson||788||In Win(2)|
|3||Joey Logano*||767||In Win(2)|
|4||Ross Chastain||760||In Win(2)|
|5||Kevin Harvick||690||In Win(2)|
|6||William Byron||663||In Win(2)|
|7||Tyler Reddick||602||In Win(2)|
|8||Denny Hamlin||592||In Win(2)|
|9||Christopher Bell||733||In Win|
|10||Kyle Busch||678||In Win|
|11||Alex Bowman||614||In Win|
|12||Daniel Suarez*||614||In Win|
|13||Austin Cindric*||580||In Win|
|14||Chase Briscoe*||571||In Win|
|15||Kurt Busch||485||In Win|
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Cut Line|
|17||Martin Truex Jr.||756||-23|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the Go Bowling at the Glen from Watkins Glen International
|15||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||11.682||90|
|23||19||Martin Truex Jr.||15.291||90|