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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Watkins Glen

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: GoBowling at The Glen
The Place: Watkins Glen International
The Date: Sunday, August 5
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 220.5 miles (90 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 90)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Zippo 200
The Place: Watkins Glen International
The Date: Saturday, August 4
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200.9 miles (82 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 82)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 
Next Race: Corrigan Oil 200
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, August 11
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (100 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 100)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

“Big 3” Unstoppable
If anyone thought NASCAR’s “Big 3” may slow in the summer heat or suffer from any Victory Lane doldrums, these three drivers proved again over the weekend they are on top of their game.

Kyle Busch won his sixth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday with fellow championship contender, six-time winner Kevin Harvick managing a top five after an inspired final laps run up through the field. And the third member of the Big 3 trio, Martin Truex Jr., shows up at Watkins Glen International as the defending winner of this weekend’s road course race, the Go Bowling at the Glen (Sunday, August 5 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Busch has four road course wins – two at Sonoma and two at Watkins Glen – and won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at The Glen last summer. Two more times he has led the most laps in the Monster Energy Series race (in 2011 and 2012) on the 2.45-mile circuit and finished third and seventh, respectively. He has 11 top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen in 13 races making him the highest-rated driver there with more than one start.

His victory Sunday gives Busch eight top-five finishes in the last nine races in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, including three wins (Charlotte, Chicago and Pocono). During that time he’s led 538 laps and at least led one lap in eight of the last 10 races.

Next Up: Watkins Glen
With Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch taking trophies in the last two Monster Energy Series races, the third member of the “Big 3,” Martin Truex Jr. may legitimately feel his time in Victory Lane is next. The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota is the defending winner at Watkins Glen after all, and has top-10 finishes in his last two races there – seven top 10s in 12 starts total.

History shows that any repeat win at The Glen is quite difficult however. No current driver has ever accomplished the feat. Cup favorite Marcos Ambrose, who returned to race in his native Australia, is the last to win back-to-back races in 2011-12.

Although Truex finished a subpar-for-him 15th at Pocono on Sunday, he has nine top-five finishes in the last 11 races including three wins. Since his Pocono win earlier this summer (eight races ago) he has led 370 laps or 57 percent of the laps he’s led on the year.

Back in Sync
Of the primary championship challengers this season, Kevin Harvick is still looking for his Watkins Glen groove. He won the Monster Energy Series race back in 2006 and the Xfinity Series race here in 2007, but the 2014 Cup champ has only two top-10 finishes in the last six Watkins Glen Cup races. In total, he has eight top-10 finishes in 17 starts at The Glen.

Harvick, however, is clearly putting up career numbers in 2018. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford has seven top-five finishes in the last eight races, including a win at New Hampshire two weeks ago and a pair of runner-up finishes at Michigan and the series’ first road course in Sonoma.

Youth Movement Rising To Top
NASCAR’s “Youth Movement” was loud and proud at Pocono last weekend with five drivers aged 26 or younger finishing among the top-seven – three of them (runner-up Daniel Suarez, third-place Alex Bowman and sixth-place William Byron) scoring career-best finishes.

Suarez, 26, in particular must be excited to head to upstate New York this weekend as Watkins Glen is where he scored his first ever top five and previous career-best of third-place in the Monster Energy Series season last year. Because of that, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is technically the top-ranked driver in Sunday’s field.

This will be Bowman’s first start at The Glen since 2015. He has finishes of 36th and 29th in two previous non-Hendrick Motorsports team entries. The 25-year-old was ninth at Sonoma in the No. 88 Hendrick Chevrolet earlier this year.

The Glen will be a relatively blank slate for Byron, 20, who is making his Cup track debut. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was 10th in the Xfinity Series race here last year.

Erik Jones, 22, who secured his 2018 Playoff position with a win at Daytona in July, finished fifth at Pocono last week. He was 10th at Watkins Glen in his Cup debut last year but was seventh at Sonoma earlier this season in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He even did a road course driving school early in the summer to better prepare for the two venues.

Chase Elliott, 22, who finished seventh at Pocono, has two finishes of 13th at The Glen but the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports driver was fourth at Sonoma earlier this season.

Return To Glory Desired
Perhaps no one gets as excited about the season implications and possibilities that exist on the scenic Watkins Glen road course as veteran A.J. Allmendinger, who had his Playoff ticket punched at the track back in 2014 and is considered a favorite here.

The driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet has six top-10 finishes in his last seven races at The Glen and has accomplished in impressive task; finishing every single lap (812) of every race he’s competed in there.

Allmendinger scored a season-best finish of third-place at Daytona in July and was 14th at Pocono last weekend. He’s eager to improve on a disappointing 38th-place finish at Sonoma earlier this year – having to retire after only 33 laps because of engine woes.

Hamlin Looking To Clinch With Win
Veteran driver Denny Hamlin shows up at The Glen feeling optimistic about his chances there, having shown himself a true road course favorite in recent years. He won there in 2016 and was fourth last year, snapping a streak of six straight finishes of 19th or worse.

Hamlin comes to New York after a 10th-place finish at Pocono, where he led five laps. It was his first top 10 in the last four races, but the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota remains solidly in the Playoff top 16 – but a win would definitely assure him of his postseason slot. He’s 11th in the championship standings, six points ahead of Ryan Blaney and 31 ahead of Aric Almirola.

Time To Shine
Brad Keselowski is looking for his first win at the historic Watkins Glen course, but the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford has shown great promise. He’s led 75 laps and scored a pair of top-10 finishes in the last three races there. He had a string of three consecutive runner-up showings between 2011-13 and won the 2013 Xfinity Series race at the Glen.

The 2012 Monster Energy Series champion seems due for a good run after three finishes of 32nd or worse in the last four races, including a 38th-place finish at Pocono last week. His best results are a runner-up at Atlanta the second race of the season and a third-place at Kentucky three weeks ago.

His Team Penske teammate Joey Logano won at Watkins Glen in 2015 and was runner-up in 2016.

All three Penske drivers are securely ranked among the Playoff eligible – Logano is fifth in the championship standings and has a win at Talladega, Keselowski is ninth in the standings with an 18-point edge over Kyle Larson and Blaney is 12th, 25 points ahead of Almirola.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Sound As A Bell
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell has quickly elevated himself to be one of the favorites to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series title this season as the 23-year-old from Norman, Oklahoma, rattled off his third consecutive win last weekend at Iowa Speedway. With four total wins on the year (Richmond, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Iowa-2), the Sunoco Rookie standout now has the opportunity to etch his name in the record books twice with a win this weekend in the Zippo 200 at the Glen. Catch Bell in action at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, August 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).

If Bell takes home the checkered flag at Watkins Glen, it will be his fourth consecutive win this season. The feat would tie him with Sam Ard for the series-most consecutive wins. Ard set the record 35 years ago, back in 1983, when he won four straight at South Boston, Martinsville, Rougemont and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A win this weekend at Watkins Glen would also be Bell’s fifth on the year; which would tie him with Greg Biffle (2001), Kyle Busch (2004) and Carl Edwards (2005) for the series-most wins by a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender with five victories each.

Bell currently holds the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings lead by 16 points over JR Motorsport’s driver Elliott Sadler in second, and 18 points ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer in third. Through 19 starts, the rising star has posted four wins (series-most), 12 top fives (series-most) and four stage wins (tied with Sadler and Justin Allgaier for series-most). On top of all that, he has accumulated 24 Playoff points thus far this season; which is 16 more than his nearest competitor – Justin Allgaier with eight Playoff points.

Bell will have his work cut out for him this weekend, as it will be his series track debut at Watkins Glen International. A dirt racer at heart, Bell has limited experience on road courses in NASCAR’s national series. His lone Xfinity Series career road course start came at Road America last season, where he started fourth but finished 19th.

Monster Energy Drivers Join In At The Glen
With the regular season coming to a close soon, the stakes are high to perform in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, so several drivers thought it might be wise to get some extra track time by pulling double-duty this weekend and competing in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, the Zippo 200 at the Glen on Saturday, August 4 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, the Go Blowing at The Glen on Sunday, August 5 (at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

In total six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship contenders are entered in Saturday’s Xfinity race.

Keselowski & Logano: Team Penske will have Brad Keselowski in the No. 12 Ford Mustang with crew chief Matt Swiderski and Joey Logano in the No. 22 Ford Mustang with crew chief Brian Wilson. Wilson is tied with crew chief Jason Ratcliff (Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 team) for the series-most wins this season with four each. Keselowski and Logano are the only former Watkins Glen winners in the field this weekend. Keselowski has made nine series starts at Watkins Glen posting one win (2013), six top fives and eight top 10s. His average finish over the nine starts is an impressive 6.1. But Keselowski’s biggest competition for the win this weekend just might be his teammate Joey Logano, who has made 10 series starts at The Glen posting two wins (2015, 2016), three poles (2015-2017), six top fives and seven top 10s.

Dillon: Richard Childress Racing will have Austin Dillon behind the wheel of the No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Nick Harrison this weekend. Dillon has made five starts this season, posting one win (Michigan), two top fives, three top -10s and an average finish of 11.8. But Dillon has struggled at The Glen in his Xfinity career, making just two starts with an average finish of 17.5.

Larson: Chip Ganassi Racing will have Kyle Larson back in the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Mike Shiplett this weekend at Watkins Glen. Larson has made four series starts this season and has won three of them (Las Vegas, Chicago and Daytona). Despite the recent success, Watkins Glen has been a challenge for Larson in the Xfinity Series; in five starts he has posted just one top five (third in 2016) and two DNFs for engine failure.

Almirola: Biagi-DenBeste Racing has elicited the help of Aric Almirola this weekend in the Zippo 200 at The Glen. Almirola will pilot the No. 98 Ford Mustang with crew chief Richard Boswell II calling the shots. Almirola has made just one other start in the Xfinity Series this season – Daytona-1 – and finished 35th due to an accident. Almirola has made just one series start at Watkins Glen back in 2011, he started 17th and finished eighth.

Allmendinger: GMS Racing has called on road racing ace AJ Allmendinger to navigate the No. 23 Chevrolet Camaro to Victory Lane this weekend in the Zippo 200 at The Glen. Allmendinger last competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2013 when he made two starts on road courses and won both of them (Road America and Mid-Ohio). This weekend will be his series track debut at Watkins Glen, but Allmendinger should be fine. He has made nine Monster Energy Series starts at the historic road course posting one win (2014) and six top 10s.

Back-To-Back Road Courses Up Next For Xfinity
The NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contenders really have some challenging tracks up next with the series scheduled to go to back-to-back road courses at Watkins Glen International and then Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Just seven races remain in the regular season, and the series has seen 12 different winners in the first 19 races. Will we see a 13th or 14th over these next two weeks? Quite possibly. Consider this…over the last eight seasons, road courses have been the tracks that brought seven drivers their first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win.

2017 – Jeremy Clements (Road America)
2016 – Michael McDowell (Road America) and Justin Marks (Mid-Ohio)
2014 – Chris Buescher (Mid-Ohio) and Brendan Gaughan (Road America)
2013 – AJ Allmendinger (Road America)
2012 – Nelson Piquet Jr. (Road America).

Watkins Glen International has also been the home to first-time winners in the Xfinity Series – Bill Elliott (1993) and Ron Fellows (1998) both got their first Xfinity wins at The Glen.

Watkins Glen is a multi-elevation road course that has seven turns and measures 2.45-miles in length located in the state of New York. A total of 14 different drivers have won at Watkins Glen in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, led by Terry Labonte and Marcos Ambrose with four wins each.

Next week’s track, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is quite different from Watkins Glen. Nestled in the rolling hills of Ohio, Mid-Ohio is a multi-elevation road course that has 13 turns and measures 2.258 miles. What’s even more interesting about Mid-Ohio is that in the five previous Xfinity races at the track there, there hasn’t been a repeat winner.

Following Iowa, three drivers are now locked into NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs on wins (Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick), leaving nine spots still up for grabs with seven races remaining in the regular season.

The majority of the drivers inside the top 12 in points have built sizable point leads above the Playoff cutoff, but Ryan Reed in 11th (+90 points ahead of 13th) and Ross Chastain in 12th (+40 points ahead of 13th) are still catchable by Michael Annett in 13th, the first spot outside the Playoffs.

This weekend at Watkins Glen International, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are the only former series Watkins Glen winners in the field.

Among the championship contenders in the top 10 in average finishing position at Watkins Glen are Daniel Hemric (11.0), Elliott Sadler (11.4), Cole Custer (12.0), Justin Allgaier (12.9), Matt Tifft (13.0), Brandon Jones (13.5), Ryan Truex (15.0), Ryan Reed (16.5), Ross Chastain (16.7) and Michael Annett (17.8). The top three – Hemric, Sadler and Custer – are all looking for their first win of the season this weekend.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Justin Haley In For GMS Racing –
 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship contender Justin Haley returns to the NASCAR Xfinity Series this weekend to drive the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet Camaro at Watkins Glen. Haley will have crew chief Kevin Bellicourt on top of the pit box. Haley has made two previous starts this season with GMS posting an average finish of 15.0.

Gallagher To Make Monster Energy Debut – NASCAR Xfinity Series points contender and GMS Racing’s Spencer Gallagher will make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut with BK Racing this weekend at Watkins Glen International. Gallagher will be piloting the No. 23 for BK Racing with crew chief Tony Furr. Gallagher won earlier this season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Talladega Superspeedway for GMS Racing.

Xfinity Owner Points Are Tight – Just four points separate NASCAR Xfinity Series owner standings leader Roger Penske and his No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang team and second place Joe Gibbs and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry team. Penske leads the series in wins at Watkins Glen with five, and though Gibbs only has one win at The Glen it came last year when Kyle Busch took the checkered flag.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Busch Wins 51st Race at Pocono in No. 51 Truck
Until last weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway, there has never been a multi-race winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at the 2.5-mile track.

That changed on Saturday when Kyle Busch won the Gander Outdoors 150 and became the first driver to win two races at the Tricky Triangle.

He also collected the 51st NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of his career, tying him for the all-time series lead with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr.

Hornaday Jr.’s first win was at Tucson in April 1995 and his 51st win was in October 2011 at Las Vegas, where he started from the pole and led 107 laps. Out of his 51 wins, he started from the pole position in 11 of them.

Busch’s first start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 2003 and his first win was in May 2005 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He started in third and led 77 laps before claiming the victory.

Busch has been competing in the Truck Series for 16 years and got his first win in his fifth season. Hornaday Jr. competed for 17 years and got his first win in his first season, the second start of his career in 1995.

Hornaday Jr.’s winningest season was 1997, when he finished with seven wins and so far in Busch’s career, his winningest season was 2010 with eight.

Speaking of records, Johnny Sauter is sixth on the all-time list of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins. He is only one win away from tying two-time series champion Todd Bodine for fifth with 22 wins.

Top Five All-Time In NCWTS Wins
Rank Drivers Wins
1 Kyle Busch 51
2 Ron Hornaday Jr. 51
3 Jack Sprague 28
4 Mike Skinner 28
5 Todd Bodine 22
6 Johnny Sauter 21

Grabbing one more win would also mark Sauter’s winningest season. He set his high mark in 2017, when he won four races.

Playoffs In Sight, Who Will Secure Their Spot?
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is entering a one-week break before they head to Michigan International Speedway for the Corrigan Oil 200 on Saturday, August 11 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the second-to-last regular season race before the Playoffs begin.

If the season were end right now, there wouldn’t be a Sunoco Rookie in the Playoffs for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Unfortunately, Myatt Snider is right under the cut line in ninth and Dalton Sargeant is in 11th.

Right now, the Playoffs would include: Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Noah Gragson, Ben Rhodes, Justin Haley, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen and Matt Crafton.

Sauter, Moffitt, Gragson, Rhodes and Haley are all in the Playoffs because they secured their position with a win this season. Enfinger, Friesen and Crafton have put themselves in Playoff-contending position because of their top fives, top 10s, etc.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers only have two races left to clinch their Playoff spot, so the pressure is on.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Dalton Sargeant finished with a career-best third place at Pocono Raceway, Stewart Friesen finished in fourth and Justin Haley finished in fifth. This was Sargeant’s first time at Pocono Raceway.

New Truck Series Logo Revealed
Executives from NASCAR and Camping World announced earlier this year that they expanded their agreement to provide Gander Outdoors naming rights to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series beginning in 2019. The new identity mark was revealed at Pocono Raceway over the weekend.

The new logo aligns the Truck Series visuals with the style of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Marcus Lemonis, Chairman of Gander Outdoors, Camping World and Overton’s was at Pocono for the unveil alongside NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve Phelps. Lemonis shared his excitement with the media.

“Nearly a decade ago we felt strongly our entitlement sponsorship would dramatically increase Camping World’s customer base and it’s delivered,” Lemonis said. “We expect the passionate fans of NASCAR will embrace Gander Outdoors the same way they supported Camping World and we couldn’t be more excited about the future of the series.”

Mid-Summer Statistical Recap – 14 Races In
• Through 14 races, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has seen eight different race winners. The 2018 season is tied with six other seasons (since the series inception in 1995) for the fourth-most different winners in the first 14 races of the season.
o The series record for the most winners through 14 races is 11 winners, it happened twice, in 2012 and 2013.
• Johnny Sauter leads the series in wins with four (Daytona, Dover, Charlotte, Texas).
• The average number of leaders this season is 6.50 – which is the highest average number of leaders since 2005 (7.00).
• The average number of lead changes this season is 11.14 – which is the highest in series history through the first 14 races of the year, tying the 2015 season.
• The average margin of victory through 14 races this season is 1.007 seconds – which is the closest average margin of victory in the series through the first 14 races since 2008 (0.816 seconds).

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Enfinger Wants A Win: 
Grant Enfinger wants a win to solidify his place in the Playoffs but has not been able to cross the finish line at the right time. Enfinger, who has four top fives, 10 top 10s and one pole so far this season, is currently sitting in a Playoff position but is not locked in. As the Truck Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for their next race, Enfinger will hit the track for the third time of his career. He has two top 10s in the Irish Hills.
OEM Battle: The manufacturer standings are getting closer and closer each week as the battles on the track continue. With six wins, Chevrolet still leads by eight points over Toyota. Toyota follows in second place with six wins and Ford is now only 41 points behind the leader with two wins.

Owner Standings: GMS Racing is the owner standings leader with 587 points and four wins from the No. 21. Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 and No. 51 hold second and third place in the owner standings. ThorSport Racing is in fourth place followed by Halmar Friesen Racing’s No. 52 rounding out the top five in owner standings.

Winning Is Key for Crafton: Veteran Matt Crafton has found himself in unlucky situations this season. Crafton has visited Michigan International Speedway 16 times in his career but has yet to win at the track. Along with his first track win, Crafton is also searching for his first win of the season. At Michigan, he has seven top-10 finishes and three top fives. Currently, Crafton sits in sixth place in the points standings and has five top fives and seven top 10s under his belt this season. He has not had a winless season since 2012.