Bump & Run: Who had more impressive Watkins Glen performance?

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Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen was 2 hours and 13 minutes. Too short? Just right? Or did you even notice?

Nate Ryan: It seemed to go by quickly, but that also could have been because it was so highly entertaining. I didn’t know the actual duration until now, but that length seems perfect. If NASCAR can consistently package that amount of drama and storylines into that window of time, that’s the sweet spot for how a race unfolds.

Dustin Long: Didn’t notice. The racing was entertaining and the drama was taut. Shows that a race at just over two hours can be satisfying. Didn’t see anyone complaining the race wasn’t three hours or longer.

Daniel McFadin: It’s almost in that sweet spot. The race could stand to be padded by 10 laps, with five added to each of the first two stages. Other than that, I was a happy camper on Sunday.

Dan Beaver: Much too short. Road racing’s popularity is on the rise and with limited slots on the Cup schedule, one way to give the fans more would be to extend the races. And an excellent way of doing that at the Glen would be to add the extra half mile or so of the boot.

Who had the more impressive drive Sunday at Watkins Glen: Chase Elliott in battling Kyle Busch early and then Martin Truex Jr. late for the win or Kyle Busch for charging up to third without the aid of a caution after his issues on pit road?

Nate Ryan: A strong case can be made for Kyle Busch because there probably is no other Cup driver who could make a swift rally so efficiently. But Chase Elliott bookended his first career victory by winning two battles against probably the reigning two greatest drivers at Watkins Glen. Give a slight edge to the No. 9 for most impressive.

Dustin Long: While Chase Elliott’s drive was impressive, Kyle Busch’s drive was memorable. Busch was right after the race. He drove his “ass off” after falling to 31st after the pit road issue.

Daniel McFadin: Chase Elliott. Not just because he bested two members of the “Big 3,” but because he did it in such dominating fashion and with a tenacity Elliott hadn’t shown before Sunday.

Dan Beaver: The heart says Elliott because a first time winner is always a great story – but the head has to go with Kyle Busch’s drive from the back. It ranks as one of many great runs for him at the Glen.

Will there be any more new winners in the final four races before the playoffs? If so, who do you think it will be?

Nate Ryan: If there is one, it’ll be Daniel Suarez this Sunday at Michigan.

Dustin Long: Two more. Hard to think Kyle Larson won’t win before the playoffs. And I’ll throw out Ryan Blaney as joining the young drivers in Victory Lane.

Daniel McFadin: The possibility of Kyle Larson winning at Michigan is high, but I’m looking more to Bristol. Both Larson and Ryan Blaney had strong days there in April before Blaney was caught in a wreck while leading and Larson was passed by Kyle Busch with six laps to go. It’ll be interesting to see if Bubba Wallace’s team can improve on their brief time at the front in that race.

Dan Beaver: Now that the Big 3 have proven to be beatable, Kyle Larson will do just that at Michigan this Sunday.

Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones help put three Joe Gibbs cars in top five

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While Kyle Busch was frustrated with a third-place finish Sunday at Watkins Glen, a result of a refueling issue on pit road, it was the leading performance in a strong day for Joe Gibbs Racing, which placed three cars in the top five.

Busch led teammates Daniel Suarez, who finished fourth, and Erik Jones, who placed fifth.

It’s the second year in a row JGR has placed three cars in the top five. Last years’ effort was led by Matt Kenseth (second), Suarez (third) and Denny Hamlin (fourth).

Busch, who leads the points, has finished in the top five in nine of the last 10 races.

Suarez was coming off a career-best second-place finish a week ago. After starting 21st, he placed 10th in Stage 2.

Sunday’s race marked the first time he’s earned consecutive top fives. He has top fives in both of his Cup starts at Watkins Glen.

“It was a decent race,” Suarez said. “I felt like we had a top-five, top-seven car or so. The car was good, but not extremely good. Definitely the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones) were better, but it was a good race. Solid effort for my team. We’re getting close. This is what we need – to run top five every week and if we continue to do this, I’m going to be a happy boy.”

Jones, four races removed from earning his first Cup win, also earned a second consecutive top five and his fourth of the season.

He also placed fourth in Stage 2.

Jones’ top five came after competing in Friday’s K&N Pro Series East race at WGI.

“I think that helped,” Jones said. “A combination of things – having a little experience here and having a good Toyota Camry to get around here was the two things that you need. I don’t consider myself a road course racer and you know we’re working that way to get better on those things. I feel like I put in a lot of work on it. It’s rewarding when you can run well. That’s two top fives in a row for us. I’m wore out – a little out of breath. Just a hard day. You’re running here. You’re hustling as hard as you can and it takes a toll on you.”

The fourth JGR car, the No. 11 Toyota of Hamlin, placed 13th.

Hamlin started the day from his first pole of the season. His chances of winning vanished after a chaotic pit stop under the final caution that sent one pit crew member tumbling to the ground and resulted in Hamlin being penalized for removing equipment from his pit box.

What drivers said after Watkins Glen

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Chase Elliott — Winner: “Holy cow! What a thrill! I don’t know what to say. I’m just so thrilled and so emotional. There’s so much relief you know; it’s been working on three years and I hadn’t won a one and came here with a good opportunity today. I was able to get it done. But, just thanks to all the fans. I hope all my buddies are ready to get rowdy tonight because it’s going to be a good one.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I gave it everything I had for our guys at Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY and Toyota, and all of our partners. I gave it everything I had every single lap. I could catch him but right when I got close, I’d get loose and fall back. I was too loose all day. Traffic made it worse for sure. He had the upper hand there at the end. We were a little faster but hats off to him. He did a great job. He put his car exactly where I needed mine to be. I couldn’t get it and I was sideways. Congrats to him on his first win. We ran out of gas the last lap anyway, so I guess it wouldn’t have mattered. I’m proud of my guys. I am proud of the effort. I love coming to these road courses.”

 

Kyle Busch — Finished 3rd: “I think what impressed me the most was just that (Elliott) was hammer down and elbows up and flying – loose here, loose there and going through everything and doing everything right and really attacking the race course and not putting the wheel too far out of shape. He did a really good and he was really hustling it and keeping the car under him. He looked like a pro. That was cool to see. It’s pretty early for him – like what third year – to be able to come out here and run like that at Watkins Glen and to be able to win, so pretty impressive. Overall, wish we could’ve raced with him and certainly think we would’ve had a shot for him.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 4th: “It was a decent race. I felt like we had a top five, top seven car or so. The car was good, but not extremely good. Definitely the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones) were better, but it was a good race. Solid effort for my team. We’re getting close. This is what we need – to run top five every week and if we continue to do this, I’m going to be a happy boy.”

ERIK JONES — Finished 5th: “That’s what we’ve got to keep doing. We’ve only had one bad race since Daytona and that was New Hampshire. Two top fives in a row for us, so we need to keep going that way and hopefully we can contend for a win at Michigan. That’s the goal. We want to win another race. I know we can do it. If we’re this close on a road course, I know we can do it on an oval, so we’ll keep working on it.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 6th: “Yeah, a lot better finish than I thought we would have. I always feel like I don’t race well at these places, but able to run a nice smooth race, so I was happy about that and I think we finished sixth or seventh, so yeah, pretty cool. … Today was a fun day, finally, on a road course.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 7th: “Yeah, I think we finished sixth or seventh and that was about where we were when we unloaded and we had a really clean race, we had good fuel mileage.  Just a really good day for our GearWrench Chevy. “

William Byron — Finished 8th: “Yeah, it’s awesome. Good for those guys to get the win. I feel like we are just getting faster and it’s just being easier. I don’t know if we hit everything just right today, but it was easier to run where we were. It’s fun, it’s getting there. I’m excited.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 9th: “We had a surprise flat right-rear (tire) and that forced us into taking two tires and we had to improvise from there. It’s kind of a bummer, but we made the best we could with it and got a top 10. We want to win, but the car can’t quite steer from the rear and the front is chattering a little bit. We’re close, but we’re not quite there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: “That was a tough day for the Rush Truck Centers Ford, but we fought hard. It was hard to pass out there. We were struggling to make grip. We tried to play the strategy game, and that got us a decent finish. It was a long weekend, but everyone worked hard.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 12th: “It was a long day. We struggled all weekend, really, and just couldn’t really go anywhere. We’d fire off OK and then just fade terribly, so we’ve got some work to do here.” 

Alex Bowman — Finished 14th: “I really feel like the car was a little better than the driver all day. But it still wasn’t a terrible day for us. Just a little off of where we needed to be. Still a good points day and the pit crew was really good, they did a good job. We will move on and got to Michigan.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 15th:  “I was just kind of in the train of cars there just trying to be patient and they just stopped. I tried to get checked up and just got into the No. 22 (Joey Logano) and it just got the nose. Did decent amount of damage and took a lot of the front aero away and the car wasn’t the same, obviously. … The guys did a good job to kind of button it back up and at least make it somewhat drivable. It didn’t have the speed that it was going to have. I don’t think we had the pace all weekend to go win the race, but for how the car drove with that much damage, I thought we could have easily run in the top 10 and got a decent result out of it, but that is just the way it is.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 16th: “All in all it was a decent weekend. Practice was good and qualifying not so good. The first quarter of the race we obviously had a lot of issues, but we were able to bounce back and get a good, decent finish. We had good, decent speed at the end of the race, so it’s something to build off of on the road course for sure. I look forward to getting to Michigan and hopefully keep improving.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 19th: “The start of our race went as planned. Our goal was to earn as many stage points as we could and we accomplished that in the first stage by finishing sixth. That’s a positive. But 20 laps into Stage 2, we got spun out by a competitor and it was costly to us, resulting in the 34th-place running spot. We regrouped and drove up into the top 20 but that’s all we could get by the time the checkered flag waved. We had a good run against the No. 2 car, but our handling needed a little more work. We just battled with Turns 5, 6 and 7 all weekend. I feel like our Lucas Oil Camaro ZL1 was an improvement from last year so we’ll take it and keep digging.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 22nd: “I don’t know what happened there. I’d have to see it, so it’s hard to say. The 12 (Blaney) diving inside of me, I guess, kind of dive-bombed in there. It’s really hard for the spotters to see over there because we’re coming out from behind the trees and I honestly didn’t know he was there. I guess he hit the curb and wiped us out, so it’s disappointing. I thought we had a car we could have run in the top 10 or top 12 with and just didn’t do it. This is a couple weeks of bad luck and we’ve got to battle back from this and rebound and get going before the Playoffs start.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 23rd: “Making the trip up to The Glen is always interesting. We only come to this track once a year, and we came this year with a new crew chief, a new body style and a new inspection system to adapt to. We had decent practice sessions with our GEICO Camaro ZL1, and I felt good going into the race today because I like road-course racing. We just struggled through the esses all weekend. I was loose all the way up the hill at the start of the race. We improved it a bit with air pressure adjustments, but then the front end was struggling to turn and we had to address that with changes too. We made the adjustments that we need to throughout the day to make it to the end of the race. I wish we could have cracked into the top 20, but this team worked hard. We’ll have all of these notes to build on next year.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 27th: “What a day for the Dow Racing team. Going into the weekend, I had high hopes for our team because I felt like our car was really good on the long run. We were challenged throughout the race, but we were able to run solidly in the top-20. When the caution flag was displayed with 53 laps remaining we decided to gamble and pitted for fuel only, which put us in the second spot for the restart. We fought hard for the remaining laps to keep track position on old tires, knowing that we would have a fresh set ready for a late-race caution. Our strategy proved challenging, though, because tires meant so much today and the late-race caution we gambled on never came. Oh well, it was worth a try. We have a lot to work on when it comes to road course racing, but we will get there as a team.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 33rd: “I think we exploded a gear. I felt a drive line vibration for a little bit and it finally let go, so these places are tough on cars. Those kind of failures can happen, so we’ll see. We struggled with the car all weekend, so it was a tough weekend.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished 37th: “We were just racing hard and I tried to make a run off the carousel. Pulled out on (Kyle) Larson and tried to keep the nose out going into the bus stop. I saw they were all racing in front of me hard and thought I could make a run and get some momentum off the carousel and I was right on Larson. I think they checked up in front of him. He lifted, and I was right there. I guess my bumper bar went underneath his bumper and just knocked into the radiator and punctured a whole in it. … I went from hero to zero pretty quick.” 

Points after the Cup race at Watkins Glen

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Kyle Busch had to battle back from a refueling problem on his last pit stop to finish third at Watkins Glen International.

Busch stretched his lead in the points to 70 over 10th-place finisher Kevin Harvick.

Truex ran out of gas on the final lap, but managed to finish second to Chase Elliott and retain third in the points.

Clint Bowyer took advantage of the early elimination of Joey Logano for a broken radiator to climb to fifth in the standings.

Elliott’s victory at Watkins Glen locked him into the playoffs. He also scored a stage win and currently has eight playoff points.

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Results, stats for the Cup race at Watkins Glen

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Almost 35 years after his father Bill Elliott won his first career Cup race at Riverside International Raceway, Chase Elliott scored his first at Watkins Glen International.

Elliott had a furious battle with Martin Truex Jr. that was resolved on the last lap when the No. 78 ran out of gas on the backstretch. Truex was able to coast across the finish line second.

Joe Gibbs teammates Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones rounded out the top five.

Busch had one of the dominant cars until a problem with the fuel filler in the final stop caused him to pit twice.

Click here for complete results