As the regular season of the Cup Series grinds to an end, we’re left with just two races left to break into the postseason. Only one spot remains for a new winner, and should we get two more (today, and next Saturday) someone is going to be sitting on the bench with a Win and nothing else to show for it. This is the latest Watkins Glen has been on the schedule since the inception of the Playoff system, leaving the door wide open for an underdog to swoop right in and punch their ticket. Do we see that today, or will it be ol’ reliables?
Here’s what to look for:
-Starting off the ol’ reliables, Chase Elliott — the best road course driver going today — will be our polesitter. He had a great time on the track alone, and he doesn’t even mind driving with others because he’s pretty good then, too. Of his last three attempts here, he’s got a pair of Wins and a runner-up last year to his teammate, Kyle Larson. When you’re averaging 1.33 at a place through four calendar years, that’s pretty good.
-Here’s Larson, winner of the 2021 Glen race. The switch to Hendrick flipped a, er, switch in him at this place. Before his 2021 victory, he had multiple mid-/late-20s finishes to accompany a trio of Top 10s spread out over six races. Ok, could be a lot worse, sure. In any event, he’ll start 2nd today, opposite of where he and Chase finished last year’s event. Yesterday in the Xfinity Series: he Won.
–Martin Truex Jr. is still one of those drivers who isn’t locked into the postseason, and it just so happens that we’ve come to a track where he’s got eight Top 10s over the last ten races. Now, that isn’t a Win, no, but it shows us that he’ll more than likely be competing for a victory today. Six of those were Top 5s, too, best among his Cup Series brethren.
–Chris Buescher may not be somebody who you’d expect to see on this list now, but he’s got a fire inside of him and could very well make that leap today. His previous best at The Glen is an 11th, but he’s already earned his best start here — today — rolling off 7th. He’ll have to do something he’s never done before if he wishes to punch his ticket today; Win a road course race.
-Kimi Raikkonen is making his first Cup start today (through a Trackhouse Racing satellite team, Project91), and he’s a driver that I’m not at all familiar with. That is, until I did some research! He’s made a handful of combined Xfinity and Truck Series starts, but where he’s really buttered his bread is Formula One. There he’s got 21 Wins and 103 Podiums in 350 attempts. That sounds pretty good to me, career average finish of 8.5? Sure! What this also does is show us how an experienced driver as he is measures up against the Cup regulars, and just how difficult this new car is to drive. We’ve seen Ron Fellows and Boris Said hop into Cup cars for a weekend in the past and do pretty well, how will newer ringers measure up? Joey Hand has been “ok” this season. AJ Allmendinger is running today, too. Mike Rockenfeller is making his first Cup start, too. Michael McDowell starts 3rd. Could one of these guys hoist the trophy at the end of the day? We’ll find out soon enough..
No food again this week, we’re headed to The Glen in just a few minutes. Stay away, rain!
Coverage of the race starts on USA at 3:00pm, green flag scheduled for 3:19pm.