Keep an eye on these five drivers in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.
Stewart has a track-record five wins at Watkins Glen, but since the last of those victories in 2009, he’s had it rough there. Stewart missed the 2013 and 2014 events at the Glen, and last year, he suffered a mechanical failure. But he’s coming in hot this weekend with four top-five finishes in the last six races – including his dramatic victory on the road course at Sonoma. Stewart said this week that his team, while making great strides, is still “a little bit short” of being ready for a title run. A win this weekend may change his mind.
Logano has become a reliable bet on road courses. In his last four runs on the twisty tracks, Logano has finished sixth-fifth-first-third, with the win coming at Watkins Glen last year. Oddly enough, he’s only led one lap during this stretch – the last lap of that aforementioned win, where he caught and passed Kevin Harvick, who was out of gas, in the final corner.
Facing a 59-point deficit to 16th place, Allmendinger faces a must-win situation at Watkins Glen to save his ebbing Chase hopes. ‘Dinger has the skills to contend here, but the bigger question may be about his luck. In each of the three road course races since his 2014 win at the Glen, he’s qualified on the front row only to be foiled by mechanical issues (fuel cell at Sonoma 2015, battery at Watkins Glen 2015) plus a pit road penalty at Sonoma this past June.
Six points to gain. Five races to go. The mission is clear for Buescher, who can shake up the Chase with his upset win at Pocono – but only if he enters the top 30 in points to be eligible for the playoffs. Buescher finished third at Watkins Glen last year in the Xfinity Series, and it’s worth noting that his first Xfinity win came on a road course (Mid-Ohio 2014). But his goal on Sunday isn’t winning. It’s beating David Ragan, who holds 30th place in points just above him.
After a crash in testing at Watkins Glen last week, many eyes will be on Keselowski this weekend. But here’s something to keep in mind: He had been fastest in the session prior to the wreck. And with four top-10 finishes in his last five Glen starts – including three consecutive runner-ups from 2011-13 – he figures to be toward the front on race day.