The summer swing continues and the schedule starkly shifts from a short track to a speedy road circuit in the state of New York. As always, trust the spreadsheet but also trust your eyes. Here are the best bets for the NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen, which gets underway Sunday, August 21 at 3 p.m. ET.
Race Winner — Go Bowling at The Glen
Christopher Bell +1800
Before the New Hampshire race, Christopher Bell boldly claimed he was the best JGR driver this season. He was speaking the truth. He went on to win at New Hampshire, finish second at Richmond and battle for the win late at Michigan.
Road courses have been a challenge for JGR, but the team will not struggle forever. A playoff road course race is looming. The Toyotas need to figure out their Next Gen road course problems at Watkins Glen. It’s all hands on deck. This is the perfect time to buy low and get a big return. Bell is a past winner at Road America in the Xfinity Series. He also won the 2021 Daytona Road Course race. Neither are perfect comparisons for Watkins Glen, but they are high-power road courses and less on the technical end.
Full Disclosure: Bell was the pick to win in the Michigan article and the Richmond Article. Everyone knows what will happen if he is not the pick this week. If such universal laws of fate and fortune exist, and leaving him out means a certain win and leaving him in means the opposite, some would be right to fade the Bell pick — if you’re of the astral variety.
Head 2 Head
Ross Chastain vs. Austin Cindric — Ross Chastain -115
If Kurt Busch misses another race, then Cindric’s spot in the playoffs is safe. Then again, this is NASCAR. They once made up a rule on the fly and kicked a driver out of the payoffs because of a spin. They made up a fake rule that let Kyle Busch qualify for the playoffs despite missing half of the season — he would win the championship that season thanks to NASCAR’s generosity. Will NASCAR do Kurt dirty? Austin Cindric better not assume anything. He needs points and will likely point race at Watkins Glen, lest he wants to leave his fate in the hands of the NASCAR suits — or polo shirts, that seems to be more of their style.
Kurt Busch races for Toyota and Michael Jordan. NASCAR has shown in the past that it will not bite the hand that feeds, These are two big supporters of the sport and NASCAR needs to show them respect. Then there is the small issue of driver safety. The Next Gen car is not safe, but the drivers do not have a union and have no way to protest. The onboard shots of driver wrecks have been extremely violent. Their heads bounce around the cockpit like a pinball. This is a dirty little secret that NASCAR is desperate to keep under wraps. Busch’s head injury has exposed this safety issue. NASCAR needs this to go away and if a driver misses the playoffs because NASCAR rushed an unsafe car, there will be big problems. Cindric’s team has to keep this in mind. NASCAR does what it wants, when it wants. They will gladly sacrifice Cindric to cover their own behind. If Cindric is on the bubble, NASCAR will prick it.
TLDR: Cindric is point racing at Watkins Glen and is not likely to earn a top-10 finish because he’ll be buried in traffic to begin Stage 3.
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Todd Gilliland vs. Harrison Burton — Todd Gilliland +100
This is a fun matchup. Both drivers have been decent road course drivers in the lower series. Each earned a top-5 finish at Watkins Glen last season — Burton in the Xfinity Series and Gilliland in the Truck Series. Burton has been better in four road course races this season, but Gilliland was better in the most recent road course race at Indianapolis — a track where he did not have any previous experience. Gilliland has a win at COTA and a near win at Bowmanville in the Truck Series. Advantage, Gilly.
Ryan Blaney vs. Denny Hamlin — Denny Hamlin +100
What will be Ryan Blaney’s plan for The Glen? If he races for the win, then he should be able to beat Hamlin. The JGR Toyotas have lacked speed at the road courses this season. The JGR cars should show improvement this weekend, but how much is uncertain. Blaney has been great at the road courses this season, but is he racing for a finish or points? A win would be great, but can he beat Reddick, Trackhouse and Hendrick. Blaney can get a top-5 finish, but a win is asking for a lot. With a 26 point lead for the final playoff spot, Blaney is comfortable. However, if he pits before the end of stage 1 and stage 2 and chases the win, Truex will counter and take the stage points. At the end of the race, Blaney’s comfortable 26 point lead will be gone heading into the volatile race at Daytona. He has to take the points. This means he will start Stage 3 deep in the field and Hamlin — in an inferior car or not — will start near the front and easily cruise to a win in this matchup.
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