NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Sunday’s Go Bowling at the Glen favorites/preview (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN)

TRACK: Watkins Glen International (2.454-mile road course). DISTANCE: 90 Laps — STAGE 1: 20 Laps, STAGE 2: 20 Laps, FINAL STAGE: 50 Laps, MILES (220.86 Miles)

STARTING LINEUP


Favorites – Can Elliott Three-Peat?

Chase Elliott

He’s won each of the last two years in Watkins Glen and has won five of the last nine overall.

Martin Truex Jr. 

He’s finished runner-up to Elliott in each of the last two years but won the year prior in 2017.

Denny Hamlin

He’s had three top four finishes in his last four Watkins Glen starts.

Kyle Larson

Hard to bet against the guy that was runner-up in COTA and won in Sonoma. He’s also had a pair of top 10’s in each of his last two Watkins Glen starts too.

Kyle Busch

He’s had four top seven results in his last five Watkins Glen tries.


Race Preview

Following a two week break, NASCAR is back this weekend in upstate New York. They’ll now race for the next 14 straight weeks until crowning a champion in early November at the Phoenix Raceway in Avondale. Right now, the attention goes directly to the playoffs with four races remaining in the regular season. Aric Almirola’s surprise win in the last race in Loudon tuned the playoff standings around with Austin Dillon getting knocked out as his Richard Childress Racing teammate of Tyler Reddick now leads him by just five points for that final spot. That’s so long as anyone behind them doesn’t win over the next four weeks too.

On the flip side, Denny Hamlin leads Kyle Larson by 13 points for the overall points lead and where this is noteworthy is, Hamlin has yet to win a race this year and by holding onto this spot, he has a guaranteed playoff berth too. That’s 14 drivers in with two spots available for wildcard drivers.

Right now, those two spots go to Kevin Harvick and Reddick. The final two playoff spots on points are going to come down to these two and Dillon. Everyone else is just playing for wins with three of the final four regular season tracks being on road courses (Watkins Glen, Indianapolis) or superspeedway’s (Daytona).

It all starts on Sunday in Watkins Glen. Do we see another shock winner? Odds say, no.

Hendrick Motorsports has won 7 of the last 8 overall road course races in general. Counting Joe Gibbs Racing, them and HMS have combined to win each of the last 9 road course races. Throw in Furniture Row Racing (Martin Truex Jr.) who was aligned with JGR, these three teams have won 12 of the last 13 road course races. The only one they didn’t win was when Ryan Blaney (Team Penske) was victorious in 2018 on the Charlotte ROVAL when Truex was crashed in the final turn on the final lap or else it would be 13 straight.

Stewart-Haas Racing is the only other team to have won since 2015 on road courses. Hendrick has won 8 times, JGR has won 4 times, Furniture Row, SHR and Penske each twice themselves. That’s 18 races.

Of the winners in this span, only Elliott (7 wins), Truex Jr. (3 wins) have won multiple times. Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Tony Stewart are the only other winners. Among them, Stewart has since retired and the others are currently inside of the playoff grid.

I think it’s down to Elliott or the field though so, who do you got? It’s intriguing in the sense that Elliott has won six of the last eight road course races in NASCAR. Among those six, two of which are in Watkins Glen. Can he three-peat the race on Sunday?

He’s the best road course racer in the game right now including what should have been a win in the Daytona road course back in February, a win in COTA as well as Sonoma to go along with a runner-up in Sonoma. That comes after winning on the Daytona road course and the ROVAL last year. He won Watkins Glen and the ROVAL in Charlotte as the final two road course races in 2019 too.

But, if you don’t take Elliott, you get Martin Truex Jr. who’s finished runner-up in each of the last two years at Watkins Glen to Elliott, in fact. Also, Truex won in 2017 too.

Combined, they’ve combined to win 10 of the last 13 road course races between them. The only ones that they didn’t win are the ROVAL in Charlotte in 2018 in which Truex was leading on the final lap heading into the final turn but was crashed by Jimmie Johnson, the Daytona road course back in February in which Elliott dominated and was leading before a fluke rain caution and Sonoma to where Larson was just dominant. That’s it.

So, in terms of favorites, you have to look at these two.

Then it comes down to that battle between Larson and Hamlin as not only for the points lead but for the win if either Elliott or Truex aren’t victorious on Sunday.

Larson, dominated Sonoma and was runner-up at COTA. He has two straight top 10 finishes at Watkins Glen. Hamlin, has three top four results in his last four Watkins Glen tries.

Don’t also count out Kyle Busch either, who’s a past multi time Watkins Glen winner to go along with four top seven results in his last five Watkins Glen tries.

That’s why the Elliott vs. the field question isn’t necessarily too far out of left field.

The other thing to watch is points. How do the guys on the playoff bubble handle this? They could use a win, but can they afford to give up stage points too?

Strategy is going to be key.


Top Stat

Chase Elliott is looking to three-peat on Sunday. The last driver to win three straight was Jeff Gordon (1997-1999). Mark Martin is the only other driver to accomplish that feat as he did so in 1993, 1994 and 1995.

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