XFINITY Race Preview: Watkins Glen

WatkinsGlen

Saturday's Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International is the first of three road course races in the month of August for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Entry List | Previous Winners | Driver Averages | Driver Stats | Schedule of Events

NASCAR XFINITY Series news, notes and fast facts in advance of Saturday's Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.

Radio: MRN, 1:30 PM (ET)
TV: NBCSN, 1:30 PM (ET)
Race Distance: 200.9 miles (82 laps)
Stage Lengths: Stage 1 - Ends Lap 20, Stage 2 - Ends Lap 40, Final Stage - Ends Lap 82

Races: 23
Pole Winners: 15
Youngest Pole Winner: Joey Logano (8/8/2015 - 25 years, 2 months, 15 days)
Oldest Pole Winner:

Scott Pruett (07/08/2001 - 41 years, 3 months, 14 days) 

Race Winners: 13
Youngest Race Winner:

Dale Earnhardt Jr (06/27/1999 - 24 years, 8 months, 17 days) 

Oldest Race Winner: Ron Fellows (7/8/2001 - 41 years, 9 months 10 days)
Races Won from Pole: 8
Last Race Won from Pole: Joey Logano (8/6/2016)
Race Record: Kurt Busch - 106.582 mph (8/13/2011)
Qualifying Record: Joey Logano - 124.552 mph (8/6/2016)

  Last Race Most/Largest Fewest/Smallest
Cars: 40 44 - Twice 29 (6/29/1991)
Lead Changes: 8 15 (8/9/2014) 2 (6/29/1991)
Leaders: 5 11 (8/9/2014) 2 - 3 Times
Cautions: 6 8 - Twice 2 (8/13/2011)
Caution Laps: 18 32 (8/13/2005) 5 (8/13/2011)
Lead Lap Finish: 17 28 (6/28/1998) 8 (6/27/1992)
Running at the Finish: 28 39 (6/25/2000) 21 (6/27/1992)
Laps Led (Winner): 67 67 (8/6/2016) 2 (6/27/1999)
Margin of Victory*: 1.517 6.82 (6/25/1994) 0.431 (6/29/1997)

*Since 1993 (advent of digital timing and scoring); does not include races completed under caution

The Glen: First Of Three Road Course Events For The NASCAR XFINITY Series In 2017
The upcoming stretch of the schedule, before the end of the regular season, could be considered the most treacherous or fortuitous to a competitor’s championship hopes. The final seven tracks of the regular season are quite diverse, as the series will face three road courses (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America), two short tracks (Bristol and Richmond), an egg-shaped track (Darlington) and a 1.5-mile speedway (Chicago) to decide the 12 drivers who will make the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs.

First up this weekend is Watkins Glen International, a seven-turn road course located in Watkins Glen, New York. On Saturday, August 5, the track will host the Zippo 200 at The Glen (on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at 2 p.m. ET) for the 24th running of the event, and the first-time the 2.45-mile road course will have the new stage racing format. Strategy will play a big role in this weekend’s event with the first two stages being 20 laps each, and the final stage is 42 laps.

In the first 23 NASCAR XFINITY Series races held at Watkins Glen International, there have been 15 different Coors Light pole winners, led by Kurt Busch (2006, 2007, 2011) with three. The famed road course has also produced 13 different race winners, led by Marcos Ambrose (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014) and Terry Labonte (1991, 1994, 1995, 1996) with four each. 

Currently nine drivers in the top 12 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship points have yet to win this season and lock themselves into the playoffs. Seven of those nine drivers have never won in the series. Could this weekend be the one they visit Victory Lane? Three drivers all-time have posted their first-career series win at Watkins Glen International – NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott (1993), and road course aces Ron Fellows (1998) and Marcos Ambrose (2008).  

Only three former series WGI winners are entered this weekend – Joey Logano (2015, ’16), Brad Keselowski (2013) and Kevin Harvick (2007).

Logano Looking To Become First To Win Three Consecutive Series Races From The Pole At The Glen
Team Penske will be in full force this weekend in the Zippo 200 at The Glen fielding both the No. 22 Ford Mustang for driver Brad Keselowski and the No. 12 Ford Mustang for Joey Logano, who will be looking to become the first driver in series history to win three consecutive races from the pole at Watkins Glen International.
That’s right. Three.

Logano has been lights out over the last two seasons at Watkins Glen, winning both XFINITY Series races from the pole. In 2015, Logano (39) and Brad Keselowski (40) combined to lead 79 laps of the 82-lap event (96.3% of the laps completed) and finished 1-2. Then last season Logano put on a clinic, leading 67 laps of the event, including the final 27, to win in dominant fashion.

Now the 27-year-old returns to the famed seven-turn road course to become the third driver in series history to win three Watkins Glen races in a row joining Terry Labonte (1994, ’95, ’96) and Marcos Ambrose (2008, ’09, ’10), but the first to win all three from the Coors Light pole.

Eight times the NASCAR XFINITY Series race has been won from the Coors Light pole among five different drivers – Terry Labonte (1991 inaugural event, 1995), Ron Fellows (2000), Kurt Busch (2006, 2011), Marcos Ambrose (2010) and Joey Logano (2015, 2016).   

Logano has made nine series starts at WGI, posting two wins, five top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 10.3.

Post-Season Countdown: Seven Races ‘Til the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs
Only seven races remain till the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs start, and with only three championship contenders with wins this season, nine spots are up for grabs to make the playoffs.  

William Bryon (three), Justin Allgaier (one) and Ryan Reed (one) are the three title contenders with victories this season; leaving the following drivers scrambling to get in on points.

As the current driver standings leader, Elliott Sadler (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet), has the largest points cushion (+368) ahead of 13th in the driver standings of the nine winless competitors currently eligible for the playoffs. In 19 starts this season, Sadler has posted eight top fives (series-most), 15 top 10s (series-most) and an average finish of 8.7 – series-best among title contenders. This weekend at Watkins Glen watch for Sadler to be running upfront; in eight series starts he has posted five top 10s and an average finish of 10.6 – second-best among series championship contenders.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Brennan Poole (No. 48 CGR Chevrolet) has the second largest points cushion (+179) between himself and JJ Yeley in 13th – the first spot outside of the playoffs. In 19 starts this season, Poole has posted one top five, eight top 10s and an average finish of 14.8 – third-best among title contenders. Last season, Poole made his series track debut at Watkins Glen; starting 16th and racing up to a 10th-place finish.

Next up is Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric (No. 21 RCR Chevrolet) with the third-best points advantage (+149) over 13th in the driver standings following Iowa.  In 19 starts this season, Hemric has posted two top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 15.0 – fourth-best among title contenders. Hemric will be making his NASCAR XFINITY Series track debut this weekend at WGI, but the Kannapolis, North Carolina native did make a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East start at Watkins Glen in 2015, posting a top-10 finish (10th).

Following Hemric is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer (No. 00 SHR Ford), who has the fourth-best points advantage (+135) over 13th in the series driver standings following Iowa last weekend. In 19 starts this season, Custer has posted four top fives, nine top 10s (fourth-most this season) and an average finish of 16.5 - sixth-best among championship contenders. This weekend will be Custer’s series track debut at WGI, but he does have three NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts at The Glen; having posted two top fives - including a third-place finish last season.  

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Tifft (No. 19 JGR Toyota) has the fifth largest points cushion (+97) between himself and the 13th position in the driver standings following Iowa. In 19 starts this season, Tifft has posted four top 10s and an average finish of 15.6 – seventh-best among title contenders. This weekend’s event will be Tifft’s series track debut at Watkins Glen.

The previous five drivers mentioned have built substantial point advantages over 13th in the driver standings, but the next four drivers are on the playoff bubble and the next seven races are imperative to their playoff contention.

JGL Racing’s Dakoda Armstrong (No. 28 JGL Racing Toyota) is just 49 points ahead of 13th in the driver standings following Iowa. In 19 starts this season, Armstrong has posted two top fives and an average finish of 17.4 – ninth-best among title contenders. Armstrong heads to Watkins Glen this weekend having made three career series starts at the famed road course, posting an average finish of 22.0.

Following Armstrong is Blake Koch (No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet) with just 35 points separating himself from the playoff cutoff line following Iowa. In 19 starts this season, Koch has posted a pole, two top 10s and an average finish of 19.9.  Koch has struggled at Watkins Glen in the past, he has five series career starts at WGI posting an average finish of 31.2. His series career-best finish at WGI was 18th in 2015.

JR Motorsport’s driver Michael Annett (No. 9 JRM Chevrolet) is a mere 32 points ahead of JJ Yeley in 13th in the driver standings following Iowa. In 19 starts this season, Annett has posted five top 10s and an average finish of 18.2. Annett has made five series starts at Watkins Glen posting an average finish of 18.2 – his best finish at WGI is 11th in 2012.

And the driver roasting in the hot seat this weekend is Richard Childress Racing’s Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 RCR Chevrolet) with a slight points advantage (+14) over 13th in the standings following Iowa. In 19 starts this season, Gaughan has posted one top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 20.9. Gaughan has made six series starts at WGI posting an average finish of 18.7 – including two top-10 finishes in his last two starts. Also worth noting, of the nine winless title contenders currently eligible for the series playoffs, Gaughan is the only one to win on a race on a road course in the NXS – Road America in 2014.

Outside Looking In: Yeley, Sieg, Chastain Still Have A Chance To Make The Playoffs
Three drivers outside the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs with the best chance to still make the post-season on points are JJ Yeley (13th in the standings), Ryan Sieg (14th) and Ross Chastain (15th). All three drivers are within 32 points of Brendan Gaughan in the 12th and final playoff spot following Iowa.

JJ Yeley drives the No. 14 TriStar Motorsports Toyota with crew chief Wally Rogers this season. The pair are currently 14 points back from Gaughan in 12th. In 19 starts in 2017, Yeley has posted one top 10 and an average finish of 19.9. The veteran driver, Yeley, is coming off his season-best finish (sixth) last weekend at Iowa. Yeley has made seven series starts at WGI posting one top 10 and an average finish of 22.1. He has finished inside the top-15 at The Glen in his last two series starts.
RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is only 16 points behind Brendan Gaughan in the final playoff spot (12th) following Iowa. In 19 starts this season, Sieg has posted one top five and an average finish of 19.8. In three starts at Watkins Glen, Sieg has posted an average finish of 23.7 – his best finish at WGI was 14th in 2015. 

Last but not least, is JD Motorsport’s Ross Chastain, who is 32 points behind Brendan Gaughan in the 12th position in the driver standings following Iowa. This season, Chastain has posted one top five, two top 10s and average finish of 20.9. Chastain has made three series starts at WGI, posting an average finish of 15.5.  

Take The Stage: Sadler Is Gobbling Stage Points Like Candy
When it comes to accumulating stage points this season, nobody is doing it better than JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler, who has gobbled up a total of 170 stage points (series-most) through the first 19 races of the season. 

Sadler is the current series driver points standings leader which should come as no surprise. The veteran from Emporia, Virginia has amassed 707 points this season, and his 170-stage points account for 24% of his points total. Sadler also leads the series contenders in stage wins with 5.   

Top five in stage point accumulation thus far this season: Elliott Sadler (170), Justin Allgaier (143), William Byron (118), Brennan Poole (96) and Daniel Hemric (68).
With a max of 20 stage points per race available for the drivers to win this season; it is impressive that through 19 races Elliott Sadler has been able to average 8.95 stage points a race – series-most.  

Iowa Puts Spotlight On NASCAR Next Program
Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver Ryan Preece, a NASCAR Next program alumnus, drove the No. 20 Toyota Camry to not only the pole, but also the win at Iowa Speedway last weekend with fellow NASCAR Next graduate Kyle Benjamin nipping at his heals in second. The great racing by the up-and-coming stars is just latest example of the hard work put in by the NASCAR Next program to shine a light on drivers trying to work through the ranks of NASCAR.

The NASCAR Next program began in 2011 and it has been an integral part of several drivers’ careers in helping them learn the ins-and-outs of the sport. The current NASCAR Next class for 2017 is Cayden Lapcevich, Chase Cabre, Chase Purdy, Hailie Deegan, Harrison Burton, Riley Herbst, Todd Gilliland, Ty Majeski and Zane Smith.
Five NASCAR Next alumni are participating in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race this weekend at Watkins Glen International – Cole Custer, Erik Jones, Matt Tifft, William Byron and Kyle Larson.  

A total of 52 different drivers have participated in the NASCAR Next program, and 15 of the 52 have made at least one start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series - the pinnacle of NASCAR.   

NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.
Track Milestones:  Joey Logano will attempt to post his third consecutive Coors Light pole at Watkins Glen this weekend tying Kurt Busch for the series-lead in poles at WGI with three, and becoming the first driver in series history to win three consecutive poles at WGI. .. Logano will also attempt to become the first driver in series history to win three consecutive races from the pole at WGI as well.

Doubling Down:  Eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars will be pulling double duty this weekend at Watkins Glen by entering in the Zippo 200 at The Glen on Saturday, August 5 (NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at 2 p.m. ET) – Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Erik Jones. Watkins Glen International is one of only two tracks currently on the NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule Kyle Busch has yet to win at; the other is Pocono Raceway.

Season-To-Date Loop Leaders: Below is a look at the top five series title-contending drivers in key season-to-date loop data categories (had to have started all 19 races to be included below):

- Driver Rating - Elliott Sadler (100.6); William Byron (98.5), Justin Allgaier (96.1), Cole Custer (86.7) and Brennan Poole (85.1).
- Average Running Position - Elliott Sadler (8.6), William Byron (10.1), Justin Allgaier (11.7), Cole Custer (12.4) and Brennan Poole (12.5).
- Laps Completed in the Top 15 – Elliott Sadler (92.2%, 3,169 laps), William Byron (85.8%, 2,950 laps), Cole Custer (79.1%, 2,719 laps), Justin Allgaier (78.8%, 2,708 laps) and Brennan Poole (75.6%, 2,598 laps).
- Quality Passes – Ryan Reed (808), Elliott Sadler (783), Brennan Poole (677), Justin Allgaier (672) and Brendan Gaughan (656).

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