Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Neff · Thursday August 6, 2009
From the roval to a real road course, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen, NY for another dose of turning left _and right. Though a completely different animal from the highly technical race track out in Infineon, the Glen is still a difficult road course, one that will show a high level of stratification between those who can and those who can’t handle one of stock car racing’s more under-appreciated disciplines. It’s also a difficult weekend for fantasy owners, faced with the choice of adding specialized experts or going with weekly contenders who haven’t exactly learned the best way of maneuvering around things like an “S” curve or an inner loop. But while their battle to make the Chase is heating up faster than the summer itself, feel free to be the one kicking back with chips and dip on Sunday, as the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider will have all your teams running cool._
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Watkins Glen (since 2005, active drivers)
Tony Stewart, 4 starts, 1.5
Marcos Ambrose, 1 start, 3.0
Denny Hamlin, 3 starts, 6.7
Jimmie Johnson, 4 starts, 8.0
Robby Gordon, 4 starts, 9.5
2008 Centurion Boats at the Glen Top 5 Finishers
Kyle Busch, 52 laps led
Tony Stewart, 1 lap led
Marcos Ambrose, 0 laps led
Juan Pablo Montoya, 2 laps led
Martin Truex, Jr., 0 laps led
Sour Cream and Chives
Carl Edwards may not be a name that leaps to mind when you think of road racing in the Cup series, but a look at the history books shows that the stats put him near the top of the list at the Glen. In four career races there, Edwards has an average finish of 10.3, with a top 5 and three top 10 finishes. Edwards has not finished outside of the top 20 since Darlington ten races ago, but he hasn’t finished in the top 10 in three races, causing him to slip back to a shaky sixth in points. But the Glen gives him a great opportunity to get back in the groove as the schedule winds down towards the Chase, one that Ford’s top driver can’t afford to let slip through his fingers. Look for Edwards to get the monkey off his back this weekend and come home with a strong run. Mike
Tony Stewart is still racking up the top 10 finishes, is still one of the best road racers the Sprint Cup Series has to offer, and will likely assume the pole at the Glen courtesy of Mother Nature (qualifying for this race has been rained out four out of the last five years). Plus, being a road course, it’s not like Stewart’s No. 14 team will be tempted to experiment in preparation for the Chase. This is a safe, safe bet. Bryan
Denny Hamlin finally shook off the bad karma that has seemed to plague him all year and came home first last weekend at Pocono. And as we have all seen plenty of times before, sometimes it can take just one good race to get a driver back on a roll. It helps that Hamlin is heading into a track where he’s performed well in the past. In three races at Watkins Glen, he has three top 10 finishes, scoring a second place just two years ago. Hamlin also led 33 laps at Infineon in the other road race on the schedule this year. This is a prime time for him to get on a run as he heads towards the Chase, so expect to see the No. 11 running at the front all weekend. Mike
Even though the Cup circuit has been hitting the ovals in recent weeks, Juan Pablo Montoya has still been knocking on Victory Lane’s door. And as we head into a road race weekend, that’s bad news for the rest of the competition. Montoya and the No. 42 squad have over the last two weeks gone from the Chase fringe to among the favorites to qualify for the 12-car field. Just one week after coming oh-so-close at Pocono to scoring the W that he let slip away at Indy, JPM will clearly be waging an all-out assault on the checkers this weekend. Don’t forget Montoya already knows this road course well; the EGR driver finished fourth at the Glen last year in just his second career Cup start at the track. Bryan
Marcos Ambrose started out his racing career on road courses. It’s remained his biggest strength during his limited stock car career, and he’s already run well at the Glen with a third place finish there last year. Ambrose was also running well last weekend before he was taken out by someone else’s mistake at Pocono, ending what amounted to a longshot bid to qualify for his first ever Chase. The team really seems to be finding their way as of late, and has been able to make the cars work for Ambrose by the end of most of the races this year. Add in a third-place by the Tasmanian at the series’ other major road course, Infineon, and you can expect another top 5 run by the JTG Daugherty wheelman this weekend. Mike
Robby Gordon is about as unpredictable a driver as they come when talking fantasy racing, but the Glen is one of the few tracks out there that he’s been somewhat consistent on. Though last season snapped a streak of three top 5 finishes in this race, Gordon and Co. have tested extensively for this event and will come into the weekend more prepared than they’ve been in years. Most importantly, judging from what Robby had to say to the media at Pocono last weekend, his No. 7 team has got this whole fuel mileage thing figured out. Robby won here in 2003, and if there is one driver in the field who won’t be points racing on Sunday, it’s this one. Bryan
The Last Word
Watkins Glen is a historic road course that has seen just about every form of motorsport compete around the 2.45 miles of track. Unlike Infineon, this track tends to be somewhat forgiving, giving drivers a little more leeway when it comes to making mistakes. But in the end, the race will still come down to the team who combines the right on-track setup with the savviest pit road strategy to ensure they wind up at the front of the pack after their final stop. With so many drivers listed as road course experts, fantasy owners also have an opportunity to pick up some one-off specialists who can end up giving them a strong run relatively cheaply. The bottom line is there will probably be two or three drivers in the top 10 who rarely end up there on oval tracks, so approach the weekend with an open mind and you just might be rewarded.
Results of our experts in the Frontstretch fantasy games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 5760
Mike – 5295
Bryan – 4265
Mike – 4196
Bryan – 10729
Mike – 9796
In order to help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers every week, as well as the total for the season.
Bryan – 384 – 7360
Mike – 329 – 7017
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