Monday, August 5, 2013

Watkins Glen Storylines: 2013 Cheez-It 355

Marcos Ambrose has won the past two Watkins Glen races
NASCAR Storylines for Week of Aug. 5, 2013
 
It’s August and appropriately, many are on the road. Road courses, that is.
 
The NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series head for the 2.45-mile road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y., while the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron – two organizations comprising United SportsCar Racing in 2014 – share an unprecedented doubleheader weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
 
Just five races remain before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ lineup is set. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson can become the first to lock up a postseason berth this weekend if he leaves The Glen with a margin of 193 points or more over the 11th-place driver. He currently leads 11th-place Tony Stewart by 178 points.
 
Last year’s Cheez-It 355 finished in dramatic fashion as Marcos Ambrose and champion-to-be Brad Keselowski traded paint on and off the racing surface during the race’s final lap. Ambrose goes for his third consecutive victory at The Glen; Keselowski finished second in both 2011 and 2012.
 
The Chase top 10/Wild Card fray is in full boil. Provisional Wild Card holders Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. are five and 15 points, respectively, out of the top 10. Stewart has won five times in the past 11 races at The Glen. Truex, the Sonoma winner, can improve his Chase chances by becoming the first driver to sweep both NASCAR Sprint Cup road-course events since 2008.
 
Jeff Gordon, a four-time Glen winner and the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup road-course winner (nine victories) solidified his top-10 standing with a runner-up finish at Pocono. His first victory of 2013 could be just around The Glen’s seven corners.
 
Austin Dillon is on a roll, but this weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 could prove to be a speed bump in his quest for the championship. Dillon currently holds a 14-point lead over Regan Smith and Sam Hornish Jr., but he finished 23rd at Watkins Glen last year in his only series start at the road course.
 
Not only is Smith hoping to regain the lead in the championship points standings this weekend, he hopes he can do it in front of a hometown crowd. Smith is a native of Cato, N.Y.
 
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series takes the weekend off before heading to Michigan International Speedway for the Aug. 17 Michigan National Guard 200. Matt Crafton padded his championship lead at Pocono as the Californian fashioned his 11th consecutive top-10 finish of the season.
 
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – CHEEZ-IT 355 AT THE GLEN, SUNDAY, AUGUST 11, 1 P.M. ET ON ESPN
Johnson Can Clinch Chase Berth At The Glen
Jimmie Johnson this week can become the first driver to clinch a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion needs to leave Watkins Glen International with at least a 193-point lead over the driver holding the 11th position in the standings. Johnson, the only driver to appear in all previous nine editions of the Chase, currently leads 11th-place Tony Stewart by 178 points. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has never won at The Glen, but has finished third twice – including a year ago.
 
Truex’s Chase Chances Could Improve With Road-Course Sweep
Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr., second in the current Chase Wild Card standings, could improve his postseason chances considerably by sweeping the season’s two NASCAR Sprint Cup road races. A victory at The Glen would mark the first season sweep since Kyle Busch won both road races in 2008. Truex, who drives for Michael Waltrip Racing, owns two top-five and four top-10 finishes at The Glen. His best performance at the track was fourth in 2011.
 
Ambrose Bids To Become Third Driver To Score Glen "Triple"
Australian import Marcos Ambrose has his sights set squarely on a Glen "triple" as the two-time reigning winner of this weekend’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. Ambrose’s 2011 victory was his first in NASCAR’s premier series. A year ago, the Richard Petty Motorsports competitor repeated by holding off champion-to-be Brad Keselowski in a door and fender rubbing, on- and off-track lap that proved to be one of the most intense and exciting serials of the 2012 campaign. Only two drivers – Jeff Gordon (1997-99) and Mark Martin (1993-95) – have won three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup races at The Glen.
 
Stewart Nothing Short Of Superlative At The Glen
Nobody does The Glen better, arguably, than three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. The Indiana competitor has the most victories at the 2.45-mile road course – five over the past 11 races, the most recent victory coming in 2009. A sixth win most likely would cement a Chase Wild Card spot – Stewart provisionally holds the top Wild Card position – and could restore him to the top 10 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. Stewart, five points behind 10th-place Greg Biffle, owns The Glen’s top Driver Rating of 120.4.
 
Is This Gordon’s Weekend For First 2013 Victory?
NASCAR Sprint Cup’s all-time road-race winner Jeff Gordon, with nine victories, continues his mid-season climb into championship contention. Gordon has won four times at The Glen, most recently in 2001. His second-place finish at Pocono Raceway advanced the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion to ninth in the standings – one spot behind Pocono winner and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne. All four of the Hendrick drivers – Johnson, Kahne, Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – occupy a top-10 spot and provisional Chase berths.
 
Kurt Busch Continues Pursuit Of Chase History
Drivers from single-car teams have been under-represented in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ - in fact, never represented at all. Kurt Busch, who drives the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, can eliminate that statistic; especially if he wins this Sunday’s event at The Glen. The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is winless at the New York track but has a road-racing victory at Sonoma in 2011. Busch, who finished third at Pocono, is in the thick of the Chase’s top 10/Wild Card fray ranking 13th in the standings just 11 points behind 10th-place Greg Biffle.  

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