William Byron wins Watkins Glen, Keselowski and Harvick Locked Into Playoffs

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Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY — August 20, 2023

The NASCAR Cup series competes on a road course for the second week in a row. After Michael McDowell won at Indy last week, there are three playoff spots left that could be filled based on points. Today at Watkins Glen or next week at Daytona could easily produce two new winners in 2023. If so, the playoff bubble will burst for the drivers holding those spots now.

Here is how the non-winners line up for the next two races.

14 Kevin Harvick* 677 +145
15 Brad Keselowski* 675 +143
16 Bubba Wallace 560 +28
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Daniel Suarez 532 -28
18 Ty Gibbs 511 -49

Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott sit 80 points out, and both will need a win if they expect to advance to the postseason.

Today’s Race

Denny Hamlin sits on the pole for today’s race. William Byron starts beside Hamlin. Michael McDowell and Ty Gibbs start in row two. Just under 2.5 miles, 90 laps make up the 220.86-mile distance of the Go Bowling at the Glen. Stages are 20/20/50 laps. Kyle Larson is the defending champion, he starts fifth today.

Stage One

Denny Hamlin(11) drove off into the lead, with Michael McDowell(34) slipping under William Byron(24) to take the second position. McDowell hounded the rear bumper of Hamlin, waiting for the opportunity to make a pass.

The Start of the Go Bowling at the Glen / NASCAR Photo

At the end of lap three, McDowell ducked under Hamlin and drove to the lead. Byron followed as the duo was clearly faster than the #11 car.

Ty Gibbs(54) and AJ Allmendinger(16) rounded out the top five.

Green flag pit stops began on lap 17 for cars outside of the top 10. The leaders will stay out to cash in on the Stage points. Most teams will look to make it a two-stop race to complete the 90 laps.

Michael McDowell wins Stage One at the Glen / NASCAR Photo

Stage One Results

POS Car DRIVER POINTS
1 34 Michael McDowell* 10
2 24 William Byron 9
3 11 Denny Hamlin 8
4 54 Ty Gibbs 7
5 16 AJ Allmendinger 6
6 5 Kyle Larson 5
7 20 Christopher Bell 4
8 23 Bubba Wallace 3
9 8 Kyle Bush 2
10 45 Tyler Reddick 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

The leaders waited until the end of the Stage to make their stops, and Michael McDowell made a huge mistake. He drove through too many pit stalls while entering his pit space. McDowell had to return to pit road for a drive-thru penalty at pit road speed. After he returned to the track, McDowell was scored in the 17th position.

Chase Elliott(9) was the big gainer in Stage One. He moved to the seventh position when service stops cycled through. Byron, Hamlin, Gibbs, Allmendinger, and Kyle Larson remained out front.

Stage Two Results

POS Car DRIVER POINTS
1 24 William Byron 10
2 11 Denny Hamlin 9
3 54 Ty Gibbs 8
4 5 Kyle Larson 7
5 16 AJ Allmendinger 6
6 20 Christopher Bell 5
7 9 Chase Elliott 4
8 8 Kyle Busch 3
9 23 Bubba Wallace 2
10 3 Austin Dillon 1

For only the second time this season, there were no Ford Mustangs in the top ten at the end of a Stage.

The Final Stage

To make the total 90 laps, drivers will have to make it to approximately 35 laps to go before pitting for fuel.

As the leaders began moving through lapped traffic, Byron opened some space at the front of the field. Hamlin, Gibbs, and Larson were caught behind a lapped car, and the battle for the second spot was nose to tail.

With 40 laps to go, McDowell had returned to the top ten. Pit stops may well determine who has the advantage in the closing laps of the race. Mistakes on pit road at this point would certainly take a driver out of contention for the win.

Gibbs was the first of the leaders to pit with 37 laps to go. McDowell followed him. Chase Elliott ran out of fuel and rolled to a stop on the track, bringing out the first caution of the day. Bringing all the leaders to the pit road.

Trouble on pit road. McDowell’s crew was over the wall too soon and incurred another drive-thru penalty. Kyle Larson was too fast exiting pit road and will restart at the end of the field.

Alex Bowman(48) had to come in for fuel before the pit road opened, and he will also have to restart at the rear of the pack. Chase Elliott lost a lap while being pushed to the pit road.

After all the chaos, Byron led, Hamlin ran second, followed by Bell, Allmendinger, and Gibbs when the race restarted with 30 laps to go. By pitting before most of the leaders and serving his penalty before the caution, McDowell restarted in the top ten.

With 20 laps to go, the top five remained the same. Byron had opened a second-and-a-half lead over Hamlin, who was holding up the three drivers behind him.

With 15 laps to go, Michael McDowell lost power and coasted to pit road. His crew was forced to push the race car to the garage as the failure appeared terminal.

As the laps wound down, it appeared that no one in the top five had the ability to improve their position. A Byron win would lock Brad Keselowski(6) and Kevin Harvick(4) into the playoffs on points. Bubba Wallace would be the lone driver on the bubble.

The race ended without drama. Byron led 66 of the 90 laps in the race. Keselowski and Harvick take a big sigh of relief. Bubba Wallace will go to Daytona having to hold his breath for 160 laps, hoping a driver with a win under their belt already this season is able to take the checkered flag.

Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS WINS STATUS
1 William Byron 785 In Win(5) 3
2 Martin Truex Jr. 861 In Win(3) 1
3 Kyle Busch 688 In Win(3) 1
4 Denny Hamlin 822 In Win(2) 4
5 Kyle Larson 721 In Win(2) 2
6 Chris Buescher 695* In Win(2) 0
7 Christopher Bell 752 In Win 2
8 Ross Chastain 695 In Win 1
9 Ryan Blaney 694* In Win 0
10 Tyler Reddick 683 In Win 1
11 Joey Logano 666* In Win 2
12 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 566 In Win 0
13 Michael McDowell 553* In Win 0
14 Brad Keselowski 697* In Points 0
15 Kevin Harvick 693* In Points 0
16 Bubba Wallace 590 +32 0
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Ty Gibbs 558 -32 0
18 Daniel Suarez 547 -43 1
19 AJ Allmendinger 518 -72 0
20 Alex Bowman 494 -96 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Go Bowling at the Glen

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 24 William Byron 90
2 11 Denny Hamlin 2.632 90
3 20 Christopher Bell 3.118 90
4 16 AJ Allmendinger 4.066 90
5 54 Ty Gibbs 4.482 90
6 19 Martin Truex Jr. 5.047 90
7 17 Chris Buescher 9.212 90
8 45 Tyler Reddick 13.773 90
9 12 Ryan Blaney 17.320 90
10 22 Joey Logano 21.626 90
11 38 Todd Gilliland 22.738 90
12 23 Bubba Wallace 23.231 90
13 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 23.650 90
14 8 Kyle Busch 23.985 90
15 6 Brad Keselowski 24.226 90
16 2 Austin Cindric 27.402 90
17 41 Ryan Preece 28.827 90
18 1 Ross Chastain 30.082 90
19 42 Mike Rockenfeller 31.075 90
20 7 Corey LaJoie 31.097 90
21 4 Kevin Harvick 31.340 90
22 99 Daniel Suarez 32.080 90
23 48 Alex Bowman 38.476 90
24 31 Justin Haley 39.639 90
25 15 Andy Lally 40.700 90
26 5 Kyle Larson 42.767 90
27 78 Josh Bilicki 45.021 90
28 51 Cole Custer 45.196 90
29 43 Erik Jones 45.758 90
30 10 Aric Almirola 54.425 90
31 3 Austin Dillon 61.118 90
32 9 Chase Elliott -1 89
33 21 Harrison Burton -1 89
34 77 Ty Dillon -1 89
35 14 Chase Briscoe -7 83
36 34 Michael McDowell -16 74