Watkins Glen International is a seven turn 2.45-mile road course with a variety of banking in the turns, ranging from 6 to 10 degrees. The length of the frontstretch is 2,150 feet, and the backstretch is 2,400 feet. The track width varies from 36′ to 48′ wide, and there is an elevation change of 115 feet. Watkins Glen will feature the 2019 rules package for road courses, and that means no aero ducts and a tapered-spacer engine expected to reach 750 horsepower.
There have been no repeat winners over the past seven races at Watkins Glen, so Sunday stands a chance of providing a new winner and having a direct impact on the playoffs.
Past winners entered this week are Kyle Busch (2), and Truex, Harvick, Hamlin, Logano, and Elliott all with one win apiece.
As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it.
(A quick note – there are only 90 laps in this week’s race. That translates to only 67.5 dominator points. It will be important to get the dominator right, but it’s even more notable that this gives positional points a little more emphasis this week. Also, this is an impound race, the starting lineup isn’t official until inspections are over tomorrow morning. Check back in chat for adjustments.)
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex is considered by most to be the top road course driver in Nascar. Truex has won three of the past five road course races in the Monster Energy Series. He raced his way to victory lane at Sonoma earlier this year, leading 59 laps along the way. Perhaps the best indication of his talent level on this track type are his 2018 results on the three Nascar road courses. He finished 1st, 2nd and was leading the third race on the final corner of the final lap before being wrecked. At Watkins Glen, Truex has been top 2 good over the last three races. Last year he finished 2nd, earned the 3rd best driver rating and had a 4th place average running position. In 2017, Truex raced his way to victory lane. In addition to winning he earned the best driver rating, had a 3rd place average running position, and led a race high 24 laps. In 2016, Truex Jr. had a great car but finished a misleading 7th. When the finish line was in sight on the final lap Keselowski spun him while he was running in 2nd. Truex was fast in every stage of practice Saturday, and it was reported that he and his team were very happy with his car’s handling. Truex is the first of a three-headed group of favorites this week. All three qualified up front, so getting your pick right is critical as you can’t afford to roster multiple drivers all starting up front. Truex starts 4th.
Busch is a two-time winner who’s finished in the top ten in 12 of the last 13 races here. Over the last four combined Watkins Glen races, Busch has the best driver rating, a 4.5 average finish and a 6.8 average running position. Last year, while he was the race leader he had to make a second pit stop because of a fueling issue which dropped him from 1st back to around 20th. After that, Busch showed what he is capable of, driving his way back up through the field to a 3rd place finish. Despite not winning the race, his dominance throughout the day is noted in his 31 laps led. In 2016 he finished 6th. In 2015 he finished 2nd. At Sonoma earlier this season, Busch finished 2nd. Kyle Busch and Truex are widely recognized as the best two road course drivers in the Nascar series. Rowdy was at the top of the speed charts all day in practice, including having the best 5 and 10 lap averages in happy hour. Another of the three-headed group of favorites, Busch rolls off 3rd.
Elliott is the defending champion at Watkins Glen. He’s among the better Nascar series drivers at road courses and last year on this track type he scored the most points, had the best average finish (3.7) and the best average running position (6.0). At Watkins Glen, Elliott has three races under his belt and his combined average finish (9.0) is far above the typical results most young drivers have here when adjusting to the big boy version of Nascar. Last year, Elliott raced his way to victory lane. In addition to winning, he earned the best driver rating, had a 3rd place average running position and led a race high 52 laps. In 2017, Elliott ran well but finished a slightly misleading 13th. A late race splash and go for fuel while under green was the culprit. In 2016 when he made his Watkins Glen debut he finished 13th. Elliott is in the middle of one of the worst slumps of any driver in the series. Over the last seven races his average finish is 26.4, so use with caution this week. Elliott is the third of the three-headed favorites this week. He’ll take the green flag from the pole position on race day.
Hamlin is a veteran road course racer, and always a threat to win any time the series visits Watkins Glen. He’s a recent winner and over the last three races, he’s been top five good in each. Last year, Hamlin finished a misleading 13th. During a caution around lap 55 while he was running in 3rd he was penalized when his team had an uncontrolled tire on pit road. In 2017, Hamlin finished 4th. In 2016, Hamlin found himself in victory lane. He took advantage of a late restart to race his way to victory. At Sonoma earlier this year, Hamlin finished 5th. Hamlin was surprisingly fast throughout practice, posting the 2nd best 10 lap average in happy hour.
Byron is someone we have to consider at Watkins Glen. He has very little history here in his short career, but he had a good debut at Watkins Glen last year, posting the 6th most points of any driver in that race, and you have to like how well he ran at Sonoma earlier this season. What makes Byron interesting is he uses a Nascar simulator on every track in the series, on a regular weekly basis, to help prepare for the layout of the track he’ll be racing on that week. It allows him to better prepare for tracks he may or may not be familiar with at this stage in his career, and that’s a big advantage that seems to be paying off given his improvement in finishes from last season thru the present. In his 2018 Watkins Glen debut, he finished 8th. At Sonoma earlier this year, a more technical road course than even Watkins Glen, he started 2nd, led 21 laps and looked top ten good before poor pit strategy doomed him to 19th. DK has him at just $7200 again, and in a week in which we need some lower priced guys to fit in the studs we want. Byron looked fast in practice Saturday, posting the 4th best 5 lap average in happy hour.
DiBenedetto doesn’t have the best road course results historically. That said, he finished 4th earlier this year at Sonoma. Matty D is driving for a team with JGR affiliation, and JGR drivers and teams have been dominant across the board at Watkins Glen. Last year, JGR cars finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th here. It will be interesting to see if he can carry his Sonoma success over to the Glen this week. He’s priced at a bargain basement salary of $6500, and that’s hard to pass up in a week where we need a few drivers in that range. It doesn’t hurt that he had the 13th best 5 lap average and 10th best 10 lap average in happy hour either.
Logano is a former Watkin’s Glen winner who’s run extremely well in incident free races. Mishaps have derailed his last two races here, but in 5 of the 6 races prior to those he finished in the top 7. Last year, Logano only completed 1 lap and his day was over with. He went off-roading on lap 1, broke his oil cooler and then took his car to the garage. In 2017, Logano had contact with another car which messed up his steering. In 2016 at Watkins Glen, Logano finished 2nd. In 2015, Logano raced into victory lane, leading only the most important lap. In the two Watkins Glen races prior to that he had results of 6th and 7th. Logano rolls off 21st and is expected to be the week’s biggest mover.
Blaney finished 3rd at Sonoma earlier this year, and over the last three races on this track type his average finish is 8th. Last year at Watkins Glen, he finished 12th. In 2017 when the checkered flag waved he finished 8th, and earned the 6th best driver rating. With three laps to go while he was leading, he ran out of fuel and had to make a splash and go. Blaney qualified 19th and is on this week’s mover list. I have Blaney as the best dollar for dollar value on the slate this week.
Other drivers I like are Larson, Keselowski, Jones, and Suarez.
Salary-savers (sub-7k) this week are McDowell, DiBenedetto, and Stenhouse.
Dominator potentials this week are Kyle Busch, Truex, and Elliott.
Movers this week are Logano, and Blaney.
Fades for me this week are Johnson (In 4 of the last 5 races here he’s finished 28th or worse.), and Austin Dillon (Average finish here is 27.2 and over the last four races he’s finished 26th or worse.)
My pick to win the race this week is Truex. He’s the premier road course specialist in all of Nascar, and while Rowdy might have something to say about it, I’ll take my chances with the consistency of Truex on road courses.