Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen
Watkins Glen International in the second and final road course track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. The first, Sonoma Raceway, is a more technical track and requires more finesse to get around. The straightaways at The Glen allow for more speed and passing zones. While success at one road course doesn't automatically mean success at the other, reviewing the results from Sonoma is certainly useful.
Practice session: Friday, Aug. 10 at 12:00 pm ET, 4:10 pm ET
Drivers to keep an eye on
With five victories, Stewart is the all-time wins leader at Watkins Glen. He also leads all drivers with a sizzling career average running position of fifth. Last year, Smoke ran seventh, on the average, but was wrecked on the final lap of the race and finished 27th. Stewart wasted no time showing his road course prowess this season finishing as the runner-up at Sonoma despite qualifying back in 24th spot.
After registering three top-fives and four top-10s at Sonoma in a span of five years, Bowyer's victory at the site in late June was not exactly a surprise. The shock was the absolute domination he laid down in wine country, leading 71 of 112 laps. While Bowyer's resume at The Glen is not as impressive, he's finished 11th or better two of the last three years. Even though the secret is now out of the bag, Bowyer is worth a look in hopes he brings a broom for a road course sweep.
Despite winning four races at The Glen, Gordon has only managed a pair of top-10 finishes at the site since 2002. However, he recently piloted the No. 24 machine to a sixth-place finish at Sonoma qualifying on the outside pole and leading 13 laps. After a very unlucky start to the season, Gordon has jumped 11 spots in the standings over the last 10 races. Coming off a rain-shortened win at Pocono Raceway, Gordon needs one more victory to all but secure a wild card spot in the Chase. Over the last seven races he's finished sixth or better half a dozen times and just might sneak into the postseason on points.
A rash of equipment problems and last week's crash has caused Busch to drop to 15th in points and in danger of missing the Chase. He'll have a great opportunity to get win No. 2 on the season this week at The Glen. Rowdy has rattled off six straight top-10s at the site, highlighted by a win in 2008. Last year, Busch started on the pole and led a race-high 49 laps.
Last year's victory at Watkins Glen was the first in a Cup car for Ambrose, atoning for a gaffe that cost him a win at Sonoma in 2010. The Australian has made four career starts at The Glen, never finishing worse than third. A pretty amazing feat. Earlier in the season, Ambrose captured the pole at Sonoma and led 11 laps prior to finishing eighth.
In addition to winning the 2010 race at Watkins Glen, Montoya has finished seventh or better in four straight starts at the site. While he's stuck in the midst of an awful season this is probably the last time a fantasy owner will consider starting Montoya. At Sonoma, JPM had to be very conservative in the pits due to a busted tachometer. To make matters worse he got spun out late and finished 34th. If you are willing to give him a pass, Montoya has a great shot to make up for that debacle.
The big highlight for Busch and his underfunded team came at Sonoma where the No. 51 team finished third, their only top-five thus far in 2012. He's been very solid at The Glen, highlighted by a runner-up performance in 2010, with four straight finishes of 11th or better prior to last year's DNF due to crash. Fear not, Busch's equipment disadvantage is not much of a factor on a road course versus a traditional speedway. Don't be surprised if he contends once again while making right hand turns.
While Vickers is not known as an ace on the road courses he's the best option this week among the bottom-tier drivers. At Sonoma, he railed from starting 21st on the grid to finish fourth, his second top-five in four starts this season for MWR. Vickers has exceled as Mark Martin's fill-in and is worth starting each week his name appears on the entry list.
Temper your expectations
From 2003-05, Earnhardt scored a pair of top-fives and three straight top-10s at The Glen. In the six years that have passes he's finished outside of the top 20 on four occasions with only one top-15. Earnhardt is leading the points for the second straight week but his 23rd-place finish at Sonoma offers little inspiration he'll redirect his road course woes.
With all due to respect to Said and the other road course ringers that go toe-to-toe with the Cup regulars twice a year the time has come to admit it's over. Cup drivers have become so well-rounded and focused on road racing these part-timers simply don't stand a chance anymore. Said, the best of the bunch, has finished outside of the top 20 with two DNFS at The Glen in his last four starts. He ran for this same team at Sonoma and finished two laps down in 29th after qualifying 28th.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. Follow @EricMcClung
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