Photo: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Up to Speed: I Love New York 355 at The Glen Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

After a trip to Pocono last weekend that saw Kyle Busch score his first win of the season, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stays in the Northeast as they go road course racing this weekend in the I Love New York 355 at The Glen.

The Cup Series raced at Watkins Glen in 1957, 1964, and 1965 before returning to the track full-time in 1986, utilizing the “short course” layout initially, but after a series of violent crashes at the end of the long back straightaway, the track underwent changes with the addition of the “Inner Loop” in 1992 and the series has raced in the seven-turn, 2.45 mile configuration ever since.

As one of the only two road courses on the MENCS schedule, Watkins Glen races completely different than the other road course on the schedule, Sonoma Raceway, as Watkins Glen is known for more brute speed down the long straightaways and through the turns while Sonoma is much more technical. Over the past few years, racing at Watkins Glen has put on some of the most exciting on the circuit with battles all the way down to the finish becoming the norm.

Just like at Pocono, this weekend will also be another two day show for the Cup Series with all of their practice on Saturday, followed by qualifying and the race on Sunday.

By the Numbers

What: I Love New York 355 at The Glen, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race No. 22 of 36

Where: Watkins Glen International – Watkins Glen, New York (Opened: 1956)

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 3:00 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size:  2.45 mile, seven turn road course

Race Length: 90 laps, 220.5 miles

Stage Lengths: First two stages – 20 laps, Final stage – 50 laps

2016 Race Winner:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota (Started sixth – 10 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Jeff Gordon – 68.126 seconds – 129.466 mph – 8/10/2014

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Watkins Glen International:

  • Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 110.4 – 2 wins
  • Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 102.4 – Best finish: 2nd
  • AJ Allmendinger – No. 47 Chevrolet – 98.7 – 1 win
  • Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 95.2 – Best finish: 3rd
  • Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 93.5 – Best finish: 2nd
  • Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 91.8 – Best finish: 3rd
  • Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 91.5 – 1 win
  • Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 87.0 – 1 win
  • Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 86.8 – 1 win
  • Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 84.6 – Best finish: 4th

From the Driver’s Seat

“I really enjoy road-course racing and am glad we’ll have another on the schedule next year,” said Paul Menard. “Watkins Glen is a lot of fun because there are multiple passing opportunities around the track and you can really out-brake the car in front of you to make those passes. You have to get aggressive, especially in the bus stop. If you go through there two-wide, you’re going to make contact. You just have to make sure you come out of it better than the other guy, but there is a lot of give-and-take through there early in the race. We’ll see how aggressive people get given the new stage formats, though.”

Last Time at Watkins Glen

Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch looked to be the two drivers to beat before overshooting Turn 1 on restarts at lap 80 and lap 83, which allowed Denny Hamlin to sneak by into the lead. The late cautions and a red flag set up a final restart with four laps to go as Hamlin was in the race lead trying to hold off Joey Logano, Martin Truex, Jr., and Kyle Larson.

Hamlin got the jump on the restart with Truex slotting into second place and though Truex would try and run down Hamlin for the lead, it was all Hamlin over the final four laps as he scored his second race win of the season. The win for Hamlin was redemption from coming up short of the win in the first road course race of the season at Sonoma, where Tony Stewart was able to pass him on the final lap for the win.

The win also came as Hamlin was battling back spasms that have plagued him over the last few years and flared up again on Sunday morning before the race.

“I just woke up with back spasms this morning,” said Hamlin. “Just hits me every three or four months or so. I just wake up and can’t move. Really doubted being in the race car today to be honest with you, but can’t say enough about this whole FedEx Freight Toyota team. It’s just a – should’ve won both road courses which is something we never would’ve predicted going into the year. But, I’ve got to thank all of my partners – Toyota, FedEx especially but Sprint and Coke, Jordan Brand, The Greenbrier, Sport Clips and the fans. Sold out crowd, two years in a row, just this is a good time. I’ve finally won at all of the race tracks so it’s a great accomplishment for us.”

“Really, I didn’t do anything special. It was just the front two cars, the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) just overshot the corner in that one restart and gave us an opportunity. And, then it was just about hitting my marks and making sure that I didn’t give those guys a chance like I gave Tony (Stewart) a chance at Sonoma. You know, really proud of this effort. This is a great sign of things to come. I feel like we’ll be a good threat in the Chase.”

Following Hamlin to the finish was Logano, Brad Keselowski, AJ Allmendinger, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Truex, Trevor Bayne, and Matt Kenseth.

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Saturday, August 5

  • MENCS Practice (10:00 am to 10:55 am – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Final Practice (12:30 pm to 1:20 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Sunday, August 6

  • MENCS Qualifying (12:05 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS I Love New York 355 at The Glen (3:00 pm – 90 laps, 220.5 miles – NBC Sports Network)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.