NASCAR Cup Series: Watkins Glen Preview, Predictions, & How to Watch

The start of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Watkins Glen
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The fight for the final playoff spot intensifies as NASCAR heads to Watkins Glen for the penultimate race of the regular season.

Barring a surprise winner in one of the final two races of the regular season, it appears the battle for the final playoff spot in the NASCAR Cup Series will come down to Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. 15 of the 16 drivers currently in a playoff position have already gone to victory lane this season, with Blaney being the odd man out. Truex Jr. sits 26 points behind Blaney as both look to capture their first victory to clinch their playoff spot.

NASCAR’s variety of winners with the new rules package in 2022 has the two perennial playoff contenders in an unfamiliar spot. Since the current playoff format began in 2014, Truex Jr. has clinched a spot every year since 2015, while Blaney has been in since 2017. Unless they can both conjure up winning performances in the next two races, one of those streaks will end.

This weekend will also feature two drivers making their Cup Series debuts. The “rookies,” however are motorsports icons from other series. First, former Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen will take the wheel behind Trackhouse Racing’s No. 91 Chevrolet as a part of the team’s Project91 initiative, which was created to help get top drivers from around the world into NASCAR. Also making his debut is Mike Rockenfeller, a two-time winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans who will drive the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports. Rockenfeller will also get the seat for the October 9th race at the Charlotte Roval.

The Track – Watkins Glen International

Located in upstate New York, Watkins Glen International is one of the oldest and most well-known road courses in the United States. It opened in 1956, and in addition to NASCAR, it has hosted Formula 1, IndyCar, and IMSA over the years. This is the 39th race for NASCAR at Watkins Glen.

The 2.45-mile track layout also provides a challenge to the drivers, with a few overtaking opportunities

The front straight leads into a 90-degree Turn 1 with a large run-off area that tightens again as drivers get to The Esses. From there they hit the back straight where drivers reach the highest speeds during the race, before slowing down at the tricky chicane that provides some solid, and sometimes desperate overtaking chances. Out of the chicane, the drivers quickly turn right for the long Turn 5 before getting back on the throttle. Turns 6 and 7 are a quick left-right combination that takes us back to the main straight to finish the lap.

Sunday’s race will be 220.5 miles long over 90 laps. Stage 1 will end on lap 20, Stage 2 will end on lap 40, and Stage 3 will make up the final 50 laps of the race.

Bus stop? Boot? See Watkins Glen layout, terms | Official Site Of NASCAR


NASCAR Playoff Standings – Current Playoff Points

  1. Chase Elliot, Hendrick Motorsports – 2040 points
  2. Ross Chastain, Team Trackhouse – 2021 points
  3. Joey Logano, Team Penske – 2018 points
  4. Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports – 2016 points
  5. Ryan Blaney*, Team Penske – 2015 points

* Needs a race win to clinch a spot

Playoff Cutline

In: Ryan Blaney, Team Penske +26

Out: Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing -26

Blaney is in the top-five thanks to his haul of regular season points, but he still needs a win to officially clinch his spot.

Race Predictions – Go Bowling at The Glen

Chevrolet has dominated the road courses this year, and I expect that to continue. Some desperate Fords will make their way into the mix though.

  1. Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports
  2. Ross Chastain, Team Trackhouse
  3. Ryan Blaney, Team Penske
  4. Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing
  5. Chris Buescher, RFK Racing

How To Watch: NASCAR at Watkins Glen (All Times in EST)

  • Practice/Qualifying: Saturday, 8/20 – 12:05 p.m. on USA (Live coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • Go Bowling at The Glen: Sunday 8/21 – 3:00 p.m. on USA (90 laps, green flag at 3:19)
Featured Image Credit: NASCAR Digital Media

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