Photo: Chris Owens/ASP, Inc.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Goes Road Racing at Watkins Glen

By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The first of four upcoming road course events for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Saturday’s Zippo 200 at The Glen (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is always a must-see event pitting series championship contenders against Cup regulars and quite often against road course ringers just competing for the chance to win at the historic track.

Team Penske’s Joey Logano has won three of the last four races, but won’t be competing this weekend. Instead his Monster Energy Series teammate Ryan Blaney – who won last year’s inaugural ROVAL Cup Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield road course – will drive the No. 12 Team Penske Ford. Kyle Busch, who won this race in 2017, is entered for Joe Gibbs Racing, as is Cup rookie Ryan Preece, who will drive for JR Motorsports.

The current three top Xfinity series championship contenders certainly would like to stop the run of Cup winners, however experience at the track is not in their favor. Points leader Tyler Reddick has only one start at Watkins Glen – an 11th place finish last year. Both Christopher Bell and Cole Custer – in second and third place in the championship standings – are averaging a 9.0 average finish at Watkins Glen also in limited starts.

Reddick has never finished top-five on any NASCAR road course race. Last year, Bell was fifth at the Charlotte ROVAL and Custer was fourth at Road America. Custer’s best road course finish was a very dramatic runner-up showing to John Hunter Nemechek at the 2016 Bowmanville, Ontario NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race.

Justin Allgaier, who is ranked fourth in the championship standing is still looking for his first win of the season after a career best five wins in 2018. And the driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet is a favorite on any road course. He has finished top-10 in the last five races at The Glen. Allgaier won two of the four road course races last year – at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America.

Austin Cindric, who is ranked fifth in the championship, is another driver bringing well-earned road course skills to the series. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford won the pole position at both Mid-Ohio and the Charlotte ROVAL races last year and finished runner-up at Mid-Ohio and third at the ROVAL.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Zippo 200 At The Glen

The Place: Watkins Glen International

The Date: Saturday, August 3

The Time: 3 p.m. ET

TV: NBC, 2:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200.9 miles (82 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 82)

2018 Race Winner: Joey Logano

What to Watch For: Joey Logano has won three of the last four Xfinity races at The Glen and is the defending winner. … NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte and Australian Marcos Ambrose are the winningest drivers in this race with four victories each. …Twice a driver has won three consecutive events – Labonte in 1994-96 and Ambrose 2008-10. …Ford has won six of the last seven races at The Glen and is defending winner. …. Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with 10 victories. Ford has eight and Toyota has three. … Terry Labonte beat Joe Nemechek in the inaugural Xfinity Series race here in 1991, leading 53 of 62 laps. …The race was 150 miles from 1991-94 and has been 200 miles in length since. …. Terry Labonte won the first 200-miler, beating Chad Little by 3.888-seconds in 1995. …. The largest Margin of Victory ever in this race is 6.82-seconds when Terry Labonte beat Bobby Dotter in 1994 when the event was still a 150-lapper. … The closest Margin of Victory (other than the race ending under caution) is .431-second when Mike McLaughlin edged Todd Bodine in 1997. …The polesitter has won this race nine times – the winningest starting position. Fifteen times in the 25-race history, the winner has started from the front row. …The farthest starting position on the grid for a winner is 22nd place. Ernie Irvan won from there in 1992. … Top-10 starters have won 21 of 25 races. … The most lead changes in a race was 15, in 2014. Marcos Ambrose was the race winner. … Among the three current Xfinity Series championship leaders, the average finish at Watkins Glen is 9.0 for both Christopher Bell and Cole Custer – who are second and third in the points standings. Neither has led a lap. Championship leader Tyler Reddick finished 11th last year in his only start. … Three Cup regulars will be competing in this race, including Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch, the 2017 race winner; JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ryan Preece and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney. … Former Cup regular A.J. Allmendinger will be driving this weekend for Kaulig Racing. Allmendinger won the 2014 Cup race at Watkins Glen. He finished runner-up to Logano in this race last year.

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