Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:03 AM
Best Bets - Watkins Glen
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS returns to Watkins Glen International for the second of three Cup road course races this season. Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (3/1) enters as the favorite to pick up the win, as the driver of the No. 18 Toyota searches for his seventh MENCS victory of the season.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Busch has been the strongest driver at the past five Watkins Glen races. He has led 57 laps, second-best among active drivers, and his Driver Rating of 111.6 is tops among all drivers with at least two starts at the New York road course during the past five seasons. He has run 79.3 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 over the past five starts, and his numbers would be even better if not for a 40th-place finish back in the 2014 race. In that race his team had pit errors and then a rare crash which ended his day prematurely. In his nine other races at the track since Aug. 2008, he has been eighth or better in each outing.
His teammate Daniel Suarez (50/1) became the first Mexican-born driver in NASCAR history to sit on the pole in a MENCS race last weekend at Pocono, and he ended up posting his best-ever finish in a Cup car in second place behind Busch. Suarez could be a nice sleeper for bettors and DFS players, as he was third in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen last season. Teammate Denny Hamlin (14/1) is always a threat at The Glen, as he has a win, three Top 5s, six Top 10s and a strong 17.7 Average-Finish Position (AFP) in 12 career starts at the Finger Lakes road course. Erik Jones (75/1) also proved to be a quick study at The Glen in his initial Cup race last season, placing 10th. It could be another banner day for the JGR Toyota's. In fact, a Toyota has won three of the past five races at the track.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (4/1) is also in a 'Yota, and he is the defending champ. Don't sleep on him at the road course. He set a race record 104.132 mph average speed last season to pick up his first-career win at the track. He has been dominant over the years, racing to four Top 5s, seven Top 10s and an AFP of 12.1 in his 12 career runs at the track. He has also led the pack 30 times, and his worst finish is 28th. He has registered five Top 10 finishes over his past seven starts at The Glen, too, while posting a 105.0 Driver Rating across his past five runs. That ranks second only to Rowdy, as far as drivers with more than two starts during the span.
Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski (7/1) looks to crash the Toyota party and pick up a much-needed checkered flag. He has posted a 103.5 Driver Rating over his past five runs on this road course, leading a circuit-best 75 laps, including 41 fastest laps. He has never won at Watkins Glen in eight career tries, but he has five Top 10 finishes, while posting three consecutive runner-up results from 2011-13. His teammate, Joey Logano (8/1), struggled on road courses early in his career. However, he has picked up the pace and is a threat to win. That's exactly what he did in Aug. 2015 at The Glen, and he followed that with a runner-up showing in 2016. Last season he had to settle for a 24th-place showing, as crew chief Todd Gordon elected to pit the Ford Fusion No. 22 for four tires and fuel at Lap 75, betting on a late race caution to help vault his driver into a big finish. That never materlialized and he was stuck in the middle of the pack. Their late-race strategy will be interesting to watch this time around.
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (15/4) has picked up six victories this season, so naturally he is always a threat to win. However, Watkins Glen hasn't been his most consistent track. He has managed just two Top 10 finishes over his past six stops at this road course, and he ranks outside the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five seasons at Watkins Glen. He has a win in 17 career starts at the New York road course back in Aug. 2006 in a crash-marred race which featured a record 10 cautions and a record-tying 14 lead changes. He has led 66 laps in his 17 starts, and his 13.5 AFP is third-best on the circuit among all drivers with at least 10 career starts.
Harvick's teammate Kurt Busch (10/1) looks for his first-career Watkins Glen checkered flag while he tries to improve his 16.7 AFP. He has made 17 starts, turning in just three Top 5s and eight Top 10s. He is a respectable sixth in Driver Rating (97.6) over the past five years at The Glen, so he makes sense for DFS players at the right price. Clint Bowyer (9/1) also has some short odds this week, as he looks for his third Cup win of the season. He has averaged a 9.7 AFP over the past three years at The Glen, and that was mostly in inferior equipment. In a SHR Chevrolet, he could be a threat. He has never won at this track, but he has a respectable 14.3 AFP with five Top 10s and nine Top 20 finishes in 12 career starts.
It's now or never for JTG Daugherty Racing's A.J. Allmendinger (20/1) as he tries to punch his ticket into the Chase with a victory. His only win in a Cup car came in the 2014 Watkins Glen race, and if he doesn't come up with a victory this weekend he is unlikely to race into the playoffs since he is currently 23rd in the standings and more than 100 points back of the cut-off to make it without a checkered flag to his credit. Allmendinger won the first stage at Sonoma, and he is considered one of the best road course racers on the circuit. However, he missed a shift and ended up dead-last after checking out in Lap 33 of that race. He'll get a lay of the land in Saturday's Zippo 200 on the Xfinity Series, looking to get a leg up on the Cup competition on Sunday.
The Hendrick Motorsports team shouldn't necessarily be discounted this week, but the favorite on the team might not be who you think. Jimmie Johnson (28/1) has never won at the track, and the seven-time series champ has just four Top 5s and eight Top 10s in 16 career starts with a rather pedestrian 16.3 AFP. He has had his difficulties this season in a transition year for Hendrick, as the team has several young drivers and the graying veteran behind the wheel. The best bet might be Chase Elliott (14/1), as he has a pair of 13th-place finishes in his two-career Cup finishes. Don't sleep on Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (28/1), either, as he has a 17.0 AFP in four career starts with a best of fourth-place in 2014.