Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Weekend Update: Watkins Glen

Saturday, August 4, 2018


NASCAR has another enhanced schedule this week in the Go Bowling at Watkins Glen International. All practice and qualification occurred on Saturday with a different driver topping the charts each time. Erik Jones was fastest in the first practice, Chase Elliott led Happy Hour, and Denny Hamlin scored the pole. Kyle Busch had the quickest 10-lap average in final practice.

If you are confused, that is ok because this is a track that can be host to wild card top-five and -10 finishers.

Making this weekend even more of a challenge for fantasy owners is NASCAR's decision to wait until Sunday morning to run the cars through post-qualification inspection. Normally, we wouldn't sweat that much, but last week 13 cars failed and had to go to the back of the field, including both drivers scheduled to qualify on the front row.

One thing to keep in mind with this rule is that when a driver's time is disallowed, they officially qualify on owner points and place-differentials are counted from where they roll off pit road – as opposed to drivers who have to drop to the back of the field with unapproved changes or other infractions of that nature. Keep an eye out Sunday morning for hidden gems.

Practice

Jones may seem like a surprise to lead the first practice session, but he has been improving on road courses. He ran the K&N Pro Series races at both Sonoma Raceway and the Glen to get experience and he ran well both times; on Saturday, he drove from the back to the lead before falling back again with an ill-time pot stop. He scored top-10s in his last two Cup road course races and should be expected to challenge for another. He posted the ninth-fastest time in qualification, which will give him a good starting spot and pit stall if it holds up.

Elliott was fastest in Happy Hour. After qualification, Busch noted that Elliott's quick times came on new tires, but he will start the race on fresh rubber as well. Road course races are sprints and track position matters from the drop of the green flag. Busch also noted correctly that the real trick on this track is to manage the race correctly and that has not yet happened for Elliott with a pair of 13th-place results at the Glen. We are willing to bet that he will finish among the top 10 on Sunday, however.

Busch had the quickest 10-lap average in Happy Hour – which underscores his potential as a driver who will threaten for victory. He's been all-but perfect in 13 starts at the Glen in regard to top-10 finishes and it is inconceivable that he won't finish that well again. The only thing that will keep him from challenging for the win is lost track position if the team's strategy goes awry. Busch will start on the outside of the front row if he and his teammate Denny Hamlin pass inspection.

Click here for results from Practice 1 and Happy Hour.

Qualification

The first few minutes of practice were thrilling. Busch laid down a lap of 125.427 mph, only to see Elliott trend green for most of his lap. The driver of the No. 9 bobbled slightly in the final two corner and fell .003 seconds short. Busch's teammate Hamlin lurked, however, and nipped both of them by .060 seconds. This was not inconsequential because track position is critical on road courses and all three are raised in estimation as driver's capable of scoring top-fives.

Martin Truex Jr. starts fourth and as the defending winner of this race as well as the most recent road course event in Sonoma, he is another serious challenger for the win.

Fourth- and fifth-place qualifiers are a little less certin. Kyle Larson will start on the inside of row two, but he does not have a reputation as a great road course driver. Joey Logano starts fifth and has been great on the twisty tracks in the past. He is also coming off an Xfinity win on Saturday. Larson can reasonably be expected to drop back and lose place-differential points. Logano could maintain his position and score a top-five because he was third-fastest in the morning practice session as well. Unfortunately, he was mid-pack in final practice and therein lies the uncertainty.

AJ Allmendinger qualified seventh. That puts him close enough to the front of the grid to confidently predict he is going to score a top-10 finish. If he is rightly-priced, start him with surety, but don't over-commit in the belief that he is going to be a shoe-in to win.

Click here for the qualification results.

 



Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.
Email :Dan Beaver



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