Let’s turn leftÂ andÂ right, shall we?
NASCAR travels to the Fingerlakes Region of upstate New York this weekend, as WatkinsÂ Glen International plays host to the second of three road course races this season.
Here’s what we’re watching for onÂ Sunday afternoonÂ in theÂ Go Bowling at The GlenÂ (3Â p.m. EST on NBCSN).
WATKINS GLENÂ STATISTICS
Watkins Glen International: 2.45-mile road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Race information: 220.5Â miles, 90 laps
Stage lengths: 20 laps, 20 laps, 50 laps
Defending winner: Chase Elliott
Most wins: Kyle Busch (2)
Eldora Speedway, Thursday, Aug. 1
7 p.m. â First qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
7:09 p.m. â Second qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
7:18 p.m. â Third qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
7:27 p.m. â Fourth qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
7:36 p.m. â Fifth qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
8:15 p.m. â Last chance qualifying race; 15 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
9 p.m. â Eldora Dirt Derby; 150 laps/75 miles ; (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Watkins Glen International, Friday, Aug. 2
12:35 â 1:25 p.m. â Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
2:05 â 3:25 â Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
Saturday, Aug. 3
10:35 a.m. â 11:25 p.m. â Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)
11:40 a.m. â Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/two rounds (NBCSN)
1:05 â 1:55 p.m. â Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)
3 p.m. â Zippo 200; 82 laps/200.9 miles (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
6:40 p.m. â Cup qualifying/impound; multi-car/two rounds (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, Aug. 4
3 p.m. â Go Bowling at the Glen; 90 laps/220.5 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Go back a handful of years, look at the results of road course races and you’ll see a plethora of unconventional names from top to bottom. They came in once or twice a year, showed their skillset on road courses, and left.
The road course ringers are few and far between nowadays, not present if at all. Where’d they go? What happened?
Simply put, the regulars got better. The days of drivers saying, “ah, screw it. I’ll just take the 20th place finish here and move on” over. Road course racing is a big part of NASCAR racing in 2019. That’s why you see Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and other big names/former champions running inside the top five with regularity at road courses now.
The Kevin Meendering/Jimmie Johnson era lasted 21 races.
Hendrick Motorsports announced this week that Meendering will not be Johnson’s crew chief, effective this weekend at WGI. Cliff Daniels, a former race engineer on the No. 48 team (was alongside Chad Knaus for their 2016 championship and with Stewart-Haas Racing for Tony Stewart’s 2011 title run) will assume crew chief duties atop the pit box.
Daniels and Johnson spoke about their communication, calling the move the “secret sauce” to what the team needs to reignite the spark that has been missing for the past couple seasons. The change also comes in hopes of securing a playoff spot for Johnson, who hasn’t missed the postseason since its inception in 2004. WIth five races remaining, he sits 12 points back of the final transfer spot.
Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t been good on road courses lately. He’s been flat out dominant.
The 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series champion has won three of the last five road course races. In his other two, he finished second and was in the process of taking the lead in the final corner (last year’s ROVAL) before Jimmie Johnson’s contact took him out.
However, there have been zero repeat winners in the last seven races at WGI. Truex is looking to change that statistic this weekend, and it seems as if he’s im prime position to do so.
Next week, NASCAR heads to Michigan International SpeedwayÂ for the Consumers Energy 400, scheduled placeÂ on Sunday, August 9Â at 3:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.