I Love New York 355

Season-low cautions leads to shortest Cup race of NASCAR’s modern era

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Anyone who watched Sunday’s Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International may have thought the race went by really fast.

That’s because it transpired in a historic pace.

When Martin Truex Jr. took the checkered flag to win the I Love New York 355, it was 2 hours, 7 minutes and 3 seconds after the initial green flag at 3:18 p.m. ET.

That made it the shortest Cup race of NASCAR’s modern history, which dates back to 1972. While the Cup race was only 90 laps long, it lasted three minutes shorter than Saturday’s Xfinity Series event, which was 82 laps.

The Cup race was slowed three times for eight laps due to caution.

The yellow was displayed at the end of Stages 1 and 2 and then on Lap 53 for debris from Landon Cassill after he blew a tire. It’s the fewest cautions in a Cup race this season. The previous low was four in June at Pocono.

The last time there were fewer than four cautions was in the 2016 Atlanta race (three).

A Cup race has not lasted less than 2 hour and 7 minutes since a Aug. 28, 1971 race held at Hickory Speedway in Hickory, North Carolina. That day, Tiny Lund won a 276-lap race on the .363-mile track in 1 hour, 22 minutes and 25 seconds.

While a fast race, fans were given plenty of action on Sunday with qualifying being held a few hours before the green flag.

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Ryan Blaney started saving ‘too late’ in bid to win Watkins Glen on fuel mileage (video)

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Even though Ryan Blaney gave up to the lead to pit for fuel coming to two laps to go, Ryan Blaney managed to salvage his day at Watkins Glen with an eighth-place finish.

Blaney, who was making his second Cup start at the road course, had inherited the lead from Brad Keselowski a lap earlier when he also pitted for fuel.

“It stinks, we were close,” Blaney told NBCSN. “Just like (Keselowski), he was in the same boat that we were. He went hard to try and stretch it. I kind of saved a little bit. I got by (Martin Truex Jr.) and he was saving hard. I should have backed up to (Truex) and just stayed in front of him. I started saving a little bit too late. Not hard enough.”

Blaney finished 19th in his first start at the road course.

Blaney’s result was his first top 10 since finishing 10th at Kentucky. The Wood Brothers Racing driver has yet to put together consecutive top 10s.

Watch the video for the full interview.

Daniel Suarez earns best Cup result with top-three finish at Watkins Glen

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It took 22 races, but rookie Daniel Suarez finally did two things he hadn’t accomplished to-date in his Cup career.

Suarez posted his best day yet as a Cup driver, finishing third in the I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International after also claiming his first stage win.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was unable to keep up with his teammate Matt Kenseth and race-winner Martin Truex Jr. in the closing laps, a result of Suarez trying to save fuel in the closing laps around the road course.

“I’m very happy for the third-place (finish) and for the result and for the overall race,” Suarez said. “But (it’s) very hard to finish third when you can see the leader right there and you are just cruising to try to save fuel because you don’t really know how much fuel you have left.”

Suarez wound up finishing 5.1 seconds behind Truex.

The 25-year-old driver did get a chance to reign supreme over Truex early in the race. Suarez successfully fended off Truex at the end of Stage 2, throwing a block on the No. 78 in Turn 6 before beating him to the finish line.

Suarez kept Truex from adding to his series-leading stage win total of 14.

“I knew that (Truex) was coming fast,” Suarez said. “I’m not sure if he had fresher tires or something, but he was coming very fast, and I was just trying to hold him off a little bit, and luckily we were able to do it.

“I knew that we’d raced each other very clean, and he’s been super strong the entire year, and I knew that he wasn’t going to do anything crazy and I wasn’t going to do anything crazy, either.

“It was just a little hard racing right there at the end, but congratulations to the 78. He did a really good job, and overall, like I said, it was a good, solid day for us. We just have to keep it up, and hopefully we can catch a break before the playoffs to make it.”

Suarez led the final 14 laps of the second stage, his most laps led this season. He led 11 laps at Daytona in July and one last week at Pocono.

The rookie who succeeded Carl Edwards now has four straight top-10 finishes. The stretch began with a sixth-place finish at New Hampshire, was seventh at both Indianapolis and Pocono and third Sunday in upstate New York.

“I think I mentioned in the beginning of the year that I was so looking forward to the second half of the year,” Suarez said. “I knew that the second half of the year we were going to be more competitive, and our second time at all these racetracks we were going to have enough book and we were going to go to those racetracks already knowing what to expect.

“You know, all the hard work from my team and from everyone in the 19 group and from Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD, Toyota, it’s paying off. In the beginning of the year, we were not like that. I wasn’t the same driver, either, and now I feel like we are moving in the right direction. We have speed pretty much every weekend now where we are running in the top 10. I don’t think it’s a surprise anymore to run in the top 10.”

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Clint Bowyer gets top-five finish at Watkins Glen after starting from the rear (video)

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In a race defined by pit strategy and fuel mileage, Clint Bowyer managed to finish fifth in Sunday’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

It’s Bowyer’s second top five at the road course, the first came in 2012. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has five top fives this season.

Bowyer fought to the front after an unapproved adjustment on his brakes forced him to start from the rear.

“All weekend long the car just wasn’t good,” Bowyer told NBCSN. “(Starting from the rear) definitely impacted the day, it made it hard. It never was on the fighting side of strategy, just protecting all day trying to figure out how to get that track position.”

Watch the video for the full interview.

End of Watkins Glen race was contrast in pit strategies

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Pit strategies have determined the finish in countless NASCAR races over the years.

But Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International was one that ran the gamut of pit strategies, with most playing out wrong, while one ultimately played out right for race-winner Martin Truex Jr.

Crew chief Cole Pearn had Truex save fuel for the better part of the final 15 laps. While Truex was dismayed that so many other cars would pass him during that stretch, Pearn’s call was spot-on. And in just a matter of moments, Truex went from dismayed to overjoyed.

Pit strategy for Ryan Blaney didn’t work, as he ran out of fuel with two laps left in the race (finished eighth).

Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski hoped to make it to the finish but realized with two laps he was going to come up short. Ergo, enter pit road for a splash and go (finished 15th).

Ditto for pole-sitter Kyle Busch, who also had to pit late when it appeared he wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it to the finish (finished seventh).