Updated for Ryan Blaney news

The Finger Lakes region of New York is home to sleepy hamlets and villages and pristine views of mountains and lakes alike. That is except for when NASCAR comes a callin’ for one weekend a year and those sleepy towns are awoken by the raw horsepower and speeds roaring through the 2.45-mile layout of Watkins Glen International. The rolling hills play a role on the course as the first four turns on the track all have elevation change to them as does the chute between Turn 5 and Turn 6 making for a few blind corners. Overall though, this track is known as the superspeedway of road courses and is far less technical of a layout than Sonoma was earlier this year. You can expect the speeds to hit about 190 mph down the backstretch on the way into the bus stop or inner loop portion of the track before the Carousel turn.

There are only 90 laps in the scheduled distance for this race meaning that laps led and fastest laps won’t be a big portion of the score and in the past five or so races the laps led have been split by a handful of drivers each race with three of the last five having three different drivers top 20 laps led. Passing is possible here, as we saw in the Xfinity race on Saturday, and at Sonoma in this package this year which means the position differential marks in the track breakdown should hold well.

Pit strategy will also be key this week as there are only a couple of stops required to complete the race and tire wear isn’t a big factor but they will wear after long green flag runs. There typically aren’t a lot of cautions either since most wrecks involve just one car or are out of the racing groove enough that there’s not a reason to stop the race much like Sonoma where the only cautions were the stage breaks.

Avg. Points Scored by Position Over Last Five Watkins Glen Races

Starting Avg.   Avg.   Starting Avg.   Avg.  
Position DK Pts. Rank FD Pts. Rank Position DK Pts. Rank FD Pts. Rank
1 18.20 33 24.48 30 21 36.30 6 38.90 6
2 22.25 26 27.68 24 22 28.50 12 32.80 13
3 25.80 19 30.86 16 23 24.30 21 29.56 20
4 40.30 3 42.54 3 24 19.70 32 24.92 28
5 28.30 15 35.28 10 25 27.00 18 30.96 15
6 30.60 10 34.92 11 26 22.50 25 27.00 26
7 30.00 11 37.36 8 27 23.40 23 27.80 23
8 32.25 7 37.56 7 28 28.50 12 29.64 19
9 27.40 17 34.00 12 29 16.60 35 21.62 35
10 0.00 39 13.98 39 30 17.55 34 21.48 36
11 38.45 4 42.24 4 31 28.35 14 29.98 18
12 37.50 5 40.06 5 32 20.00 30 23.46 32
13 -5.35 40 8.16 40 33 23.90 22 26.20 27
14 40.35 2 43.52 2 34 22.10 27 24.64 29
15 32.20 8 36.86 9 35 14.20 37 18.28 37
16 47.70 1 48.22 1 36 20.50 29 22.88 34
17 19.95 31 27.58 25 37 20.60 28 22.92 33
18 23.20 24 28.86 21 38 14.00 38 17.30 38
19 16.40 36 23.98 31 39 31.33 9 30.50 17
20 25.80 19 31.14 14 40 28.00 16 27.97 22

These ranks aren’t a hard and fast rule to go by, but rather just another tool to help use when weighing roster decisions based on previous races regardless of who started in those spots each year.

Prop Bet Challenge

  1. Will the polesitter lead the first seven laps? Chase Elliott is on the pole and he’s had a very strong car this weekend. He’s also the defending champion of this race and while he hasn’t registered a top ten in quite some time he’s hungry for a strong showing. As long as he holds off William Byron at the beginning of the race I think he can lead the first seven laps and more so I’ll say YES.
  2. Will the Stage 1 winner lead O/U 5.5 laps in the first stage? The first stage is only 20 laps. And since I’m already taking Chase Elliott to lead the first seven laps I’ll also take Elliott to win the stage as well so I’ll take the OVER.
  3. Will the Stage 1 winner score stage points in Stage 2? Yeah I think so. Track position is key in this race and the polesitter can pick their own pit lane which is vital. I think whoever wins stage 1 should be able to maintain track position and register points in Stage 2. I’m going with YES.
  4. All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers will be running in the Top 10 at the end of Stage 2? This is a bit of a tall order to get Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Erik Jones in the Top 10 at the end of Stage 2. It’s not that they haven’t done it before, but it’s just more likely that it won’t happen. Busch, Truex, and Hamlin are all starting in the Top Six so they have great track position and Erik Jones had a bit of a scare during qualifying, but managed to qualify 14th. If this prop was for Stage 1 I’d go for it. But there could be more movement in Stage 2 so I’ll say NO.
  5. A Chevrolet driver will win Stage 2? For the record the Chevy drivers are Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Daniel Hemric, Austin Dillon, and a few others. I think Chase will win Stage 1, and to be completely honest I think Kurt Busch wins Stage 2. It’s hard to project, but he’s solid at this track and I think he wins Stage 2. Call me crazy, but I say YES.
  6. Daniel Suarez has a 3.5 average finish at Watkins Glen. Will he finish in the Top 5? I’m going to have exposure to Suarez in DFS, but I’ll take the obvious option and say NO he will not finish inside the top five. He’s starting 18th and while I think he finishes in the top ten, I don’t think he’ll finish top five.
  7. O/U 8.5 lead changes? I hate this prop every time it’s presented. 90 laps doesn’t present a lot of opportunities for lead changes and I don’t foresee many lead changes occurring. I’ll take the UNDER.
  8. Which driver will finish higher? Brad Keselowski or Denny Hamlin? I’m going to take Denny Hamlin based on his respectable track record here and his recent run with three straight top five’s and a win last week have me feeling good about him. I won’t be sleeping on Keselowski because he could easily go out and win this week. I’m still going to take Denny Hamlin
  9. Chase Elliott, the defending Watkins Glen winner, hasn’t finish in the Top 10 since June. Does that trend change on Sunday? Yes, it changes on Sunday. Yes, Chase Elliott will finish in the top ten at WG. This seems almost too easy.
  10. Which driver finishes higher? Paul Menard or Ryan Newman? So Menard is starting 22nd and Newman is starting 25th. Newman has done very well with position differential lately, but Menard is sneaky good at Watkins Glen. The trendy pick might be Newman because of how well he’s run lately, but I’m going to go contrarian here and take Paul Menard.
(Max 3)