The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its way to the Watkins Glen for the 27th annual running of the Finger Lakes 355 At The Glen. Start ‘N’ Park Blog is here to provide you with the inside track for the race by taking a look at historical statistics, driver’s past performance, breaking down the points, and providing random thoughts on the event and venue.
Watkins Glen Stat Line:
29 races have been run
9 (31%) have been won from the pole
19 (65%) have been won from a top five starting spot
21 (72%) have been won from a top ten starting spot
0 (0%) have been won from a starting spot of 21st or worse
08/04/1957 was the first race
Buck Baker won the first race
Marcos Ambrose won last time out at the track
Watkins Glen Driver Ratings:
Tony Stewart: 124.8 rating, 13 starts, 5 wins, 7 top fives, 10 top tens
Marcos Ambrose: 118.0 rating, 4 starts, 1 win, 4 top fives, 4 top tens
Juan Pablo Montoya: 112.6 rating, 5 starts, 1 win, 2 top fives, 4 top tens
Kyle Busch: 106.8 rating, 7 starts, 1 pole, 1 win, 3 top fives, 6 top tens
Jimmie Johnson: 100.7 rating, 10 starts, 1 poles, 3 top fives, 5 top tens
Kurt Busch: 94.7 rating, 11 starts, 1 pole, 1 top five, 4 top tens
Denny Hamlin: 93.5 rating, 6 starts, 1 top five, 4 top tens
Carl Edwards: 93.5 rating, 7 starts, 1 pole, 3 top fives, 5 top tens
Jeff Gordon: 90.1 rating, 19 starts, 2 poles, 4 wins, 6 top fives, 9 top tens
Kevin Harvick: 89.2 rating, 11 starts, 1 win, 2 top fives, 6 top tens
Note: AJ Allmendinger had the 9th best rating (92.4) at WGI but is suspended, thus skipped over
Top ten in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings are 1 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr., 2 – Matt Kenseth (-5), 3 – Greg Biffle (-6), 4 – Jimmie Johnson (-8), 5 – Martin Truex, Jr. (-50), 6 – Tony Stewart (-53), 7 – Brad Keselowski (-54), 8 – Denny Hamlin (-61), 9 – Kevin Harvick (-63), 10 – Clint Bowyer (-65). Kasey Kahne (2 wins) and Jeff Gordon (1 wins) lead the wild card to get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Watkins Glen Firsts (Active Drivers):
First career starts:
Tony Ave – 08/15/2004
Todd Bodine – 08/09/1992
Patrick Carpentier – 08/12/2007
Ron Fellows – 08/13/1995
Andy Lally – 08/10/2009
Paul Menard – 08/10/2003
Steve Park – 08/10/1997
Andrew Ranger – 08/15/2011
Boris Said – 08/15/1999
First career poles:
Todd Bodine – 08/10/1997
First career wins:
Marcos Ambrose – 08/15/2011
Steve Park – 08/13/2000
Recapping Last Week:
Jeff Gordon winning last weekend’s Pennsylvania 400 was:
- His 86th career win in 674 starts
- First win since Atlanta, 9/6/11
- First victory of 2012
- His 9th top ten finish in 2012
- Sixth career victory at Pocono (moving to 1st all-time)
- His 28th top ten finish in 40 starts at Pocono
- Moved him up two spots in points to 13th place
- The win allowed him to take over 2nd place in the wild card standings
Kasey Kahne finishing 2nd was:
- His 6th top ten finish in 18 starts at Pocono
- His 11th top ten finish in 2012
- Moved him up two spots in points to 11th place
- Leads the wild card with 2 wins on the year
Martin Truex, Jr. finishing 3rd was:
- His 5th top ten finish in 14 starts at Pocono
- Moved him up two spots in points to 5th place
Juan Pablo Montoya winning the pole was:
- His first pole in 2012
- The 8th career pole in 202 starts
- First pole since Richmond, 4/30/11
Jimmie Johnson led a race high 44 laps and finished 14th.
Estimated attendance was at 85,000
Time of race was 1 hour, 45 minutes, 34 seconds
Caution flags flew 3 times for 14 laps, each for accidents
Random Thoughts for the Finger Lakes 355 At The Glen:
Start ‘N’ Park Blog will be at Watkins Glen International LIVE all weekend long to get you the inside scoop on what is going on this weekend. Stay tuned to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and of course, the website itself for an insider’s look.
Shameless plugs aside, what jumped out at me first looking over the statistics for this race is the worst a winner has qualified at Watkins Glen is 18th place. Steve Park started there and worked his way to his first victory in 2000. The East Northport, NY native got his first win in front of the home crowd, and him standing on the car on the front stretch, that is an image I’ll never forget.
Ricky Rudd led a race low 4 laps when he took the checkered flag in 1988. That is remembered for quite the last lap duel between him and the other resident road course ace at the time, Rusty Wallace. Never forget, again, those cars battling side by side coming down to the checkered flag. If nothing else it’s cool to watch that clip to hear Bob Jenkins and Ned Jarrett doing it right!
Enough stats, I will say I am extremely bias when it comes to the racing at Watkins Glen. Growing up in Rochester, NY it is just a 2 hour drive south to the racetrack. My family and I have been going there every year since 1992 (well, missed 1994, so almost every year) and I call the old Red/White/Blue stands my home away from home. That’s what made it so special going down for a tour of the facilities a couple months back. I consider this home and I hope they never get their date taken away from them. I find the racing is a combination of short track racing and road course racing. There’s enough passing zones to make it interesting and each lap moves with great pace that you don’t get bored <cough, Pocono, cough>.
Qualifying will not be as crazy as it has been in the past, there are only 43 entries for 43 positions. No one will go home, so a lot of teams will breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Before I get into who’s here for the race, I’m going to briefly talk about who’s not. I mentioned this earlier in the week, but Robby Gordon is not on the entry list this weekend for either series. Selfishly I was looking forward to possibly meeting Robby and talking to him (and getting some SPEED Energy) but sadly he will not be there. His brash racing style has made many fans and foes over the years, but he was always an interesting wild card when it came to Watkins Glen. I confirmed he did not have the proper funding to bring his car here, which is a shame, but not surprising considering Matt Kenseth, second in points, can barely bring in sponsorship. Hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Robby in the Sprint Cup Series.
Let’s take a look at some of the changes happening this weekend:
- J.J. Yeley is listed in the #10 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet, replacing David Reutimann
- Matt Kenseth has Ford EcoBoost on his #17 Ford
- Sam Hornish, Jr. will continue in the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing
- Paul Menard has Rheem sharing the hood of his #27 Menards Chevrolet
- Patrick Long is listed in the #30 Inception Motorsports Toyota, in for David Stremme
- Boris Said is in the #32 HendrickCars.com Ford, they’ve had multiple drivers this season
- Bobby Labonte has Miller Wedler/Freightliner as the sponsor of his #47 Toyota
- Jason Leffler takes over for J.J. Yeley in the #49 America Israel Racing Toyota
- Brian Vickers is in the #55 MyClassicGarage.com Toyota, scheduled run for MWR
- Joe Nemechek has Genny Light on his #87 Toyota
Drivers to Watch at Watkins Glen
Tony Stewart: Going off the numbers, he’s no slouch when it comes to Watkins Glen. He’s the all time leader in wins at 5, he’s finished in the top five 7 times, and in the top ten 10 times in only 13 starts. He has led 225 laps at the track and will be looking to add to that total. His driver rating is tops at 124.8. He boasts an average start of 6.2 and average finish of 7.1 that is bested by only one man.
Marcos Ambrose: The only driver to beat Tony Stewart’s average finish mark at an astonishing 2.3. That’s right, that’s not a typo, I had to look that one up. Talking just Sprint Cup Series Ambrose has finished (starting in 2008) 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, and 1st. Move to Nationwide and he’s finished (starting in 2007 and going until 2010) 13th, 1st, 1st, and 1st (led 60 laps that year). His driver rating is second behind Stewart, at 118.0. You get Marcos in good equipment and he will not disappoint you. He also picked up his first career win here last year when the race was run on Monday. Look for him to challenge early, late, and often during the 90 laps.
Kyle Busch: Baring an act of God, Kyle Busch should be in contention this weekend. He has a good record, driver rating of 106.8 (4th overall), one pole, one win, three top fives, and six top tens in 7 starts. Add to that average start of 8.1 and finish of 9.3. Nationwide side he has finished (since 2008) 2nd, 2nd, 5th, and 4th. I said act of God, because obviously someone does not like him right now. He’s been struggling as of late this year and Pocono was another example with a cut tire that took him out of contention early. If it’s not that sort of thing on track, it’s engines running into durability issues. This team will get squared away, they just need another win to get themselves into the Chase, and Watkins Glen presents thing with a golden opportunity.
- Juan Pablo Montoya needs a good run and has a good record at WGI, won in 2010, has been run top ten the last 4 years straight
- Carl Edwards has been under the radar here, he has a 8.7 average finish, and has run top ten 5 out of the last 6 years
- Clint Bowyer has not necessarily lit the world on fire at WGI, but we said the same thing earlier this year before he won at Sonoma. MWR is giving good cars and Bowyer could be a threat before it’s over with
- Jeff Gordon is hard to imagine as an afterthought pick, he once won 4 of 5 races between 1997 and 2001, but has been quiet the last 4 times at WGI. He won last weekend, so he has momentum on his side looking to back that win up with a return to glory at WGI