Fantasy NASCAR preview: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen
by C.J. Radune
on August 5, 2009 @ 14:01:04
Like Infineon Raceway, Watkins Glen International brings out the road course specialists to handle a track with many different types of turns and elevation changes. As on most road courses, qualifying and track position are very important. With 43 cars on a tight and twisty road course, the pack can be quite intense. To be in front with little interference from other cars is an important advantage.
Pit strategy at the course is very different from other tracks. Teams do not depend on cautions to dictate when they pit due to the length of the lap and the rarity of full-course cautions. Cars do not go a lap down when pitting under green due to the length of one lap, so a caution coming out while a team is in the pits can actually become an advantage. Pit boxes are also on the right side, causing additional adjustments for the pit crews.
Passes usually result from outbraking another car into a corner. Most passes take place in Turn 1, the inner loop or Turn 6. Some drivers have tried with varying degrees of success to make banzai moves heading into the bus-stop chicane too. The tight line through there often presents what looks like a good opportunity only to be squeezed back out as the road switches directions again. Unlike other Sprint Cup races, cars can qualify and race in the rain, if necessary.
Location: Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Drivers to keep an eye on
Busch is definitely one of the regular drivers to watch this weekend at Watkins Glen International. He finished 10th in his last visit to the track; his average finish in the last five Glen starts is 17.8 and includes a DNF from an accident in the 2005 Sirius Satellite Radio at The Glen. He started that race fifth, so we know he had a fast car. Busch had a decent run at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 earlier this season; he finished 15th after starting 27th. All told, Busch is one of the better road course drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This weekend, with the strong showings Penske has had this season, could be a good one for Busch.
Biffle qualified in the top 10 at Watkins Glen three times out of his six career attempts. His best start was in the 2003 Sirius at The Glen when he started second; he qualified eighth last year. His career finishing average hasn't been as good, though. In six career starts, his best finish is 10th in the 2007 Centurion Boats at The Glen, and he averages a finish of 28.7. He finished 21st last season; his run of four straight finishes of 30th or worse unfairly overshadow his solid showing in each of the last two years. Biffle consistently unloads a fast car at Watkins Glen but has struggled to put it into the top 10 at the finish. If he can steer clear of trouble this weekend, his speed will rise to the front of the pack. Biffle could be a strong fantasy option at Watkins Glen.
NASCAR Sprint Cup's resident Formula 1 ace Montoya will feel right at home at the track that used to host the United States round of the Formula 1 World Championship. This weekend will be his third career start at the track. Montoya crashed in his first Watkins Glen attempt but came back last year to finish fourth. He earned that finish after starting 25th, which shows that he can pass nearly anyone on the tight road courses. He also finished sixth earlier this season at Infineon Raceway. Montoya should be on every fantasy player's roster on road courses. He is one of the best road course drivers in the world, and there is no reason not to rely on his prowess at Watkins Glen.
Hornish had three Watkins Glen International starts prior to his first start there with the Sprint Cup Series in 2008. He scored two top-10s at the track (along with a 12th-place finish) in IndyCar but struggled in his first Sprint Cup outing there. He started that race 34th and finished 32nd, not a very good day for a strong road course racer. He finished this season's Toyota/Save Mart 38th but spent a good portion of the race running near the front of the pack. Contact essentially ruined his day. Hornish should make amends for past disappointing road course finishes with a strong run this weekend at Watkins Glen. Feel confident having him on your roster.
It is hard to think of a driver more versatile than Said. He ran very well at Infineon Raceway this season despite not running the car every weekend. Contact ruined that day, a race he potentially could have won. While he will have to qualify on time at Watkins Glen and may still yield to driving partner Terry Labonte, it would still be unwise to bet against Said making the race. He qualified ninth at Infineon under the same circumstances. The only risk from a fantasy perspective with Said is that without a championship to fight for, it is a win or nothing for the driver. If you're willing to take that risk on your fantasy roster, there is probably no better driver to start than Said.
Temper your expectations
Truex has an excellent record at Watkins Glen International. Two top-10 finishes in his three career starts at the track give him an average finish of 13th. This season has been a struggle for Truex, though. He currently sits a lowly 24th in points with just three top-10 finishes to his credit this year. While Truex is a strong one at The Glen, his woes this season and his impending departure from the team don't bode well for his chances this weekend. Truex could be a good start, but there may be too much external distraction for him to be a serious fantasy choice.
Harvick scored just his third top-10 finish of the season two weeks ago at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. He backed up that good performance with a respectable 12th at Pocono Raceway Monday. Perhaps it is too soon to write Harvick off completely, but we have to be wary of his fantasy value this weekend at Watkins Glen. His average finish in the last five races there is decent at 12.8, and that span even includes a win in the 2007 AMD at The Glen and a sixth-place finish last year. While Harvick could be a decent choice this weekend, his inconsistency this season might be the biggest negative fantasy factor.
Logano doesn't have much road racing experience in his short career. His first NASCAR Sprint Cup road race was the Toyota/Save Mart 350 earlier this season, and he finished 19th there. He did race in the Nationwide Series' Zippo 200 last year at Watkins Glen though. He finished that race in seventh after starting 20th. Logano may have the skills to score a strong finish in the Sprint Cup at The Glen, but his lack of history provides a major gap for fantasy owners. It would be best to see how he does this weekend before relying on him at The Glen in years to come.
Ragan is pushing through a miserable 2009 season. He currently ranks 30th in points, nowhere near where he and the team should be. A lone Ragan top-10 this season is not what the team had in mind when UPS became his primary sponsor. The future isn't looking better for Ragan by coming to Watkins Glen, either. He has two series starts at the track, and his average finish is 31.0. Steer clear of Ragan this weekend and look more towards his Roush Fenway Racing teammates for some fantasy options at Watkins Glen.
Allmendinger scored some impressive results despite having only a part-time ride in 2009 so far. He has one top-five and three top-10s to his credit in 21 starts, and is 26th in points. One of those top-10 finishes was at the last road course, the Toyota/Save Mart 350. He has just one start at Watkins Glen, but that was an 11th-place result. His experience is not deep at Watkins Glen, and that is the detracting factor from a fantasy perspective this weekend. Allmendinger could be a good choice, but some of the other part-time drivers or road course ringers would make better fantasy fodder. Allmendinger doesn't make the most attractive option for fantasy owners at The Glen.
About C.J. Radune
Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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