By David Morgan, Associate Editor
The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season is winding down, with just two races remaining to set the field for the Playoffs heading into the annual trip to upstate New York for the Go Bowling 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. The series has raced in the seven-turn, 2.45-mile configuration ever since.
As one of a number of road courses on the 2022 schedule, Watkins Glen races completely different than the others, as Watkins Glen is known for more brute speed down the long straightaways and through the turns. 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.
This year’s trip to WGI brings a couple of wrinkles, with the track debut of the Next Gen car, which has flexed its muscles on the other road course races this season. The other is the fact that 15 of 16 spots in the Playoffs have already been claimed by race winners, leaving just one spot up for grabs over the course of the next two weeks at The Glen and Daytona.
Half of the road course races this season have featured first-time winners, so the possibility is there that someone could sneak up and steal one on Sunday, throwing the Playoff outlook into full chaos heading into the regular season finale at Daytona.
Sunday’s race will also feature an international flair, as drivers from seven different countries will be represented. Cup Series regulars from the United States make up the majority of the field, along with Daniel Suarez, who hails from Mexico.
The other countries represented include sportscar ace Mike Rockenfeller from Germany, Kyle Tilley from England, Loris Hezemans from the Netherlands, and former F1 drivers Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen from Russia and Finland, respectively.
For Raikkonen, Sunday will mark his first start in the Cup Series as a part of Trackhouse Racing’s PROJECT91 endeavor.
By The Numbers
What: Go Bowling at The Glen, NASCAR Cup Series race No. 25 of 36
Where: Watkins Glen International – Watkins Glen, New York (Opened: 1956)
When: August 21, 2022
TV/Radio: USA 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 each, Final stage – 50 laps
2021 Race Winner: Kyle Larson – No. 5 Chevrolet (Started fourth – 27 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Jeff Gordon – 68.126 seconds – 129.466 mph – 8/10/2014
Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Watkins Glen:
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 117.6
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 110.4
- Martin Truex Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 102.0
- Christopher Bell – No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 100.7
- Brad Keselowski – No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford – 95.4
- Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 95.1
- AJ Allmendinger – No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet – 94.4
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 91.7
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 91.0
- Erik Jones – No. 43 Petty GMS Racing Chevrolet – 90.0
From the Driver’s Seat
“Watkins Glen is higher in grip than most places,” said Ross Chastain. “It seems simple, but it’s actually more technical because there is so much grip. It’s simple when it comes to the turns but that means all of the inputs are much more important. It will be hard to pass so there’s a high risk of contact when it comes to passing.
“The history of the track carries it. You look back at how many drivers have driven there, not just in NASCAR, but all forms of motorsports. The beginnings of the Watkins Glen racing scene and where they used to race on the streets and over by the lake, that’s cool. Thinking about how many world class drivers went down the frontstretch, turned up through the esses and went through the bus stop.
“I hope one day to run the boot. I know we won’t do that in NASCAR, but I hope to do it one day and extract that last little bit of lap time out. The boot layout would be on my bucket list.”
Last Time at Watkins Glen
The 2021 edition of the Go Bowling at The Glen came down to a battle between Hendrick Motorsports teammates to see which of them would come out on top in New York.
Kyle Larson assumed the lead with 27 laps to go, but as the laps wound down, it became evident that he would have a challenge from teammate Chase Elliott.
Elliott started shotgun on the field after failing pre-race inspection, but quickly began his march forward, snaking his way forward to eventually climb into second-place, setting his sights on Larson and the lead.
Both drivers would have to contend with lapped traffic in the closing laps, but Larson was able to get through with the advantage, crossing the line 2.430-seconds ahead of Elliott to take the win.
“Chase was already catching me pretty quick, even with me being in open track, so when I caught those, I think, four cars and got into the 38 right here, I thought I would look at my mirror and the 9 would be right on me, but thankfully had a comfortable enough gap to where I could make a mistake like that,” Larson said.
“I want to say a big apology to Christopher Bell. I was inside but I wasn’t inside enough, and I didn’t — I needed to have the nose a few feet further ahead, and the angles just caught there in the middle and I ended up turning him. I hate that. I race with him a lot. He’s probably the one guy that I race with the most in all my racing, so hate to turn him like that. We’ve had incredible races together.
“Anyways, hats off to Hendrickcars.com. Thanks for everything you guys do for me, everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon, Cliff Daniels, this whole 5 bunch. Another amazing car. I could tell from about lap 3 after I stopped making a bunch of mistakes that we were going to have a car that could win today.”
Following the Hendrick duo across the line was Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Christopher Bell, Kevin Harvick, Chase Briscoe, and Tyler Reddick rounding out the top-10.
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern
- Saturday, August 20
- NASCAR Cup Series Practice (12:05 pm – TV at 12:30 pm on USA Network)
- NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (1:05 pm – USA Network)
- Sunday, August 21
- Go Bowling at The Glen (3:00 pm – 90 laps, 220.5 miles – USA Network)