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NASCAR Again on Monitor at Watkins Glen Sunday after Two Week Pause for Olympics

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NASCAR Cup Series racing at Watkins Glen International 8-4-19
NASCAR Cup Series racing at Watkins Glen International 8-4-19 (Photo credit: YouTube)

The NASCAR Cup Series will be back on the track after taking a two-week pause the Olympics. Sunday, August 8th will be the Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International road course.

Counting this weekend there are just four races remaining before the post-season begins in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. The past two weekends off have given the teams time to figure out exactly what they need to do to make it into the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

2021 Playoff Outlook heading to Watkins Glen International
2021 Playoff Outlook heading to Watkins Glen International (Photo credit: Buck Stevens)

There are three available spots in the Playoff field of 16 drivers not filled by a car with at least one win. That means it is still possible (although less likely) that all spots could be filled by drivers who have won a race for the first time since the advent of this format. There are a couple of things that have to happen for that to transpire.

First, Denny Hamlin has to be pushed out of the lead in the point standings. While he has not won a race, he has been the point leader most of the season. If he finishes the regular season as the point leader, he will win the Regular Season Championship title. That would give him a spot in the post-season even without a win. Kyle Larson is just 13 points behind Denny and could take over the point lead in the next four races. Denny could also win a race in the next four races to lock his position in the Playoffs that way.

The second thing that would have to happen is three of the next four races would have to have a first-time 2021 winner. This is quite possible when you consider both Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick typically have won a couple of races by this point in the season. They both are without a win so far this year. If they both can find a win before the post-season it would only take one more new winner to complete the scenario of all winning drivers in the Playoffs.

Road courses are a great place for drivers who are not typically in the conversation to score a surprise win. A decent handling car with the right race and pit strategy can put any driver in position to win the race. Here is the track and race data the drivers and teams will be dealing with this weekend.

Watkins Glen International Data
Track Size: 2.45-miles
Track Type: Multi-Elevational Road Course
Number of Turns: 7

Go Bowling at The Glen Data
Season Race #:
23 of 36 (08-08-21)
Race Length: 90 laps / 220.5 miles
Stage 1 & 2 Lengths: 20 laps (each)
Final Stage Length: 50 laps

Here are the active drivers who have performed well overall in their Cup Series careers at Watkins Glen.

Top 12 Driver Ratings at Watkins Glen
Chase Elliott……………………….. 120.4
Kyle Busch…………………………. 110.5
Erik Jones………………………….. 104.8
Martin Truex Jr……………………… 99.9
Brad Keselowski……………………. 99.4
AJ Allmendinger……………………. 94.9
Kurt Busch…………………………… 92.9
Daniel Suarez……………………….. 92.5
Kevin Harvick……………………….. 90.5
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 90.0
Kyle Larson………………………….. 88.2
Ryan Blaney…………………………. 85.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2019 races (15 total) among active drivers at Watkins Glen International. Series did not compete at WGI in 2020 due to the pandemic.

There are seven active drivers that have won a Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Chase Elliott – 2 Wins (2019, 2018)
Kyle Busch – 2 Wins (2013, 2008)
Martin Truex Jr. – 1 Win (2017)
Denny Hamlin – 1 Win (2016)
Joey Logano – 1 Win (2015)
AJ Allmendinger – 1 Win (2014)
Kevin Harvick – 1 Win (2006)

Three weekends ago Aric Almirola shook up the NASCAR Cup Series outlook. He jumped from 27th in the point standings to the Playoffs by winning the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Could another drive who will have to “win to get in” shake things up again this weekend?

Will Denny Hamlin or Kevin Harvick who are currently above the cut line based on points (and have won before at Watkins Glen) clinch their post-season spot by winning?

Will one of the drivers already in the Playoffs by winning improve their post-season start by scoring another win? Chase Elliott has a good chance. He has the highest driver rating among active drivers. He has also won the last two Cup Series races at Watkins Glen.

We will find out when the NASCAR Cup Series gets back on track Sunday, August 8th at 2 p.m. central time (3 p.m. eastern time) in the Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International.

By: Buck Stevens
Buck Stevens

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