Starting up front is pivotal for drivers looking to do well at Watkins Glen. The furthest back a driver has come from to win a race at The Glen was 18th by Steve Park in 2000. Fifteen of the 23 races at Watkins Glen have been won from a top-five starting position.
Races won from the pole: 8 of 23 events (35%)
Races won from in top 10: 16 of 23 events (70%)
Races won from outside top 10: 7 of 23 events (30%)
Five of the last 13 Cup races at The Glen were won from the pole position. Mark Martin started the string by doing it 3 straight years from ’93 to ’95. Jeff Gordon did it in ’98 and Tony Stewart did it last year. Five of the other eight races over that span were won from outside the top10 starting position.
|Jeff Gordon will be looking for his fifth career win at Watkins Glen. (Getty)
Three of the last 6 races have had the starting lineup set by points due to rain. The last two seasons have been set by points. This doesn’t bode well for the hired assassins. Not only do they start way in the back, but in some cases, they may not even make the race. So be careful when hunting for odds to win wagers. In most cases, once the driver is on the entry list it is fair action whether the driver starts the race or not. Only in matchups and other propositions is it stipulated that a driver must start a race.
Mark Martin has been the model of consistency over his career on the road courses, particularly at Watkins Glen. He’s finished in the top ten there in 16 of his eighteen career starts. Twelve of those are top 5 finishes that include the three consecutive wins.
He leads all active drivers with a 6.2 average finish.
He is not a driver you want to mess around with by betting against in matchups. We know Martin will have a great run and finish around 5th. It’s just as solid as the Sun coming up in the morning. I don’t think I could feel good about betting anyone against Martin just because you have to almost win the race to beat him. His car isn’t going to break down, and he isn’t going to miss anything while driving. I can’t say the same thing about Gordon or Stewart because they have both had some real clunkers and poor road course finishes in their careers. They have also had most of the road course wins in the last 8 years, but that isn’t the point. With all this non-sense being said, I’ll just advise on Martin wagers in matchups against anyone.
It’s likely either Gordon or Stewart will win the race but it’s also a good possibility that one of them will have issues related to the engine or transmission which ends their day. Gordon won at Sonoma so everyone thinks he’s back to being the “King of the Roads”. In 5 of his last six Watkins Glen starts, he’s finished 14th or worse. If you had Martin in all 6 Glen races in matchups against Gordon you collect in 5 of the six races. You collect big plus money too because Gordon is the large favorite usually around 3 to 1 while Martin comes in at around 12 to 1.
A Chevrolet has won eight of the last nine races at Watkins Glen. Pontiac won in 2002 when Joe Gibbs was still using the Grand Prix. Ford’s last victory at Watkins Glen occurred in 1996, a win by Geoffrey Bodine. That Bodine win was extra sweet for him since the track is in his back yard. That was the last of 4 consecutive Ford victories. A Dodge has never won a Cup race at The Glen. Because of all the numbers above, Chevy is a heavy -300 favorite.
Dodge could be a major player this week if things turn out the way they did back in June at Sonoma, the other road course on the Cup schedule. Penske teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch both had stellar runs with Busch finishing 5th while Newman came in 2nd. Busch’s best finish in New York has been 10th while Newman rolled to a smokin’ 2nd during his rookie year.
Busch has had the good will of starting up front having gone 4 straight starts within the top 10. He’s going to need a great run this week because the clock is ticking for Busch. He’s outside looking in at the Chase from the 13th position with 5 races remaining. If he doesn’t do well here he may as well stop his talk about making the chase like Kenseth did last year. He should be good at Bristol and Richmond and he’s likely to do poorly at both California and Michigan, so this race at The Glen because sort of his money ball game. He should have a top 5 car.
TOP 5 Finish prediction:
1) #20 Tony Stewart (4/1)
2) #2 Kurt Busch (18/1)
3) #24 Jeff Gordon (3/1)
4) #7 Robby Gordon (8/1)
5) #6 Mark Martin (12/1)
Here’s some more notes for this week:
Greg Biffle has finished 30th or worse in his three career Cup races at The Glen.
Mark Martin has competed in all18 modern era races at Watkins Glen International. He has led 204 laps in those races, the most of all drivers. Jeff Gordon (13 races) ranks second in laps led at Watkins Glen with 175 while Tony Stewart (seven races) follows in third with 163. Sounds like a good enough reason to include them all in my top 5 finish prediction this week.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has surprisingly posted top 10 finishes in his last three races at The Glen. His daddy never won there, but he did have 3 poles, a record that still stands today.
Rick Hendrick has been the top owner at The Glen with six wins in 23 races. Four wins were scored by guess who, Jeff Gordon, while Tim Richmond and Ricky Rudd took the checkers once each. It was a bit surprising not to see Terry Labonte’s name not on the winners list at the Glen because he’s won at all the other road courses including the old Riverside course. He’ll be driving the No. 44 Kelloggs ride this week and try to duplicate the 3rd place run he had at Sonoma in June.
Robby Gordon has posted five top-five finishes in his seven races at Watkins Glen and has led in his last six races there. At Sonoma this year he was a non factor with a 41st place finish.
Watkins Glen Milestones
Dale Jarrett is expected to make his 625th Cup start this week. Jeff Burton will make his 425th Cup start and Kevin Harvick will be making his 200th Cup start. Jarrett and Burton are no shock, but Harvick’s 200th really took me by surprise. I suppose it has been a long time since the man in Black passed.
New arrival this week in the Top 10: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dropped out of the Top 10: Kasey Kahne
Races remaining in the chase: 5 – The Glen, Michigan, Bristol, California, & Richmond
NEXTEL Leader Bonus: $10,000.
Goodyear Tire Codes: Left-side -- D-4044; Right-side -- D-4044
Other Nextel Cup Tracks At Which This Tire Combination Is Run: Infineon Raceway
Estimated Pit Window: Every 32-34 laps, based on fuel mileage
Watkins Glen International
Race #: 22 of 36 (8-13-06) Track Size: 2.45 Miles/11 Turns
Event: AMD at the Glen Number of Laps: 90
Location: Watkins Glen, NY Length of Event: 220.5 Miles
Length of Front Stretch: 2,141 Feet Degree of Banking on Straights: 0 degrees
Length of Back Stretch: 1,839 Feet Degree of Banking in Corners: 6 - 10 degrees
Last year?s event pole winner: None
Last year?s event winner: Tony Stewart 86.804 mph 8-14-05 2 hr, 35 min, 48 sec
Track qualifying record: Jeff Gordon 124.580 mph 8-08-03 70.798 seconds
Track race record: Mark Martin 103.030 mph 8-13-95 2hrs, 11min, 54 sec
Previous winners at Watkins Glen:
Jeff Gordon (4) Mark Martin (3) Tony Stewart (3) Rusty Wallace (2) Ricky Rudd (2)
Tim Richmond (1) Buck Baker (1) Billy Wade (1) Marvin Panch (1) Ernie Irvan (1)
Kyle Petty (1) Geoffrey Bodine (1) Steve Park (1) Robby Gordon (1)