If Saturday’s two rounds of practice for the I Love NY 355 at the Glen Cup race at Watkins Glen International were any indication, Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race might be a very chaotic affair.
Brad Keselowski was fastest in final practice and the Toyota armada from Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing dominated the opening session. But lots of top drivers struggled on the day.
Among the drivers who crashed or spun in one of the sessions were seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, 2004 champ Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, Corey LaJoie and Boris Said.
Add into that the fact that this race has had seven different winners in the last eight years, and Marcos Ambrose, the only repeat winner in that time, isn’t even in the field.
So on Sunday, expect the unexpected — chaos, crashes and fuel mileage all could factor into the outcome.
“There’s so many wrecks that happens on road courses, different strategy plays into the outcome,” said Denny Hamlin, who is on baby watch and may miss Sunday’s race if girlfriend Jordan Fish goes into labor.
Strategy also could play out in terms of fuel mileage.
“When you come to a track where the tires don’t wear out much and you don’t slow down much it definitely becomes a fuel mileage race,” said Joey Logano, who won here in 2015 and was second last year. “I think this race has come down to fuel mileage with everyone trying to pit when they can and not getting caught by the caution. Yeah, there will be a lot of strategy.”
And there will be crashes. There always are.
“We’re running pretty quick times here and so you hang a wheel off one corner and it becomes very tough,” said Hamlin, the defending winner of this event. “When you make a mistake it usually is pretty big.”
Johnson said he expects an aggressive race on Sunday.
“If you’re somebody that needs a win or who is desperate in points, you might have a bumper coming in your direction,” he said.
And that could mean some high drama, especially with drivers who need to win to make the playoffs.
“I anticipate it being very exciting here,” said Johnson, who is looking for his first win here. “The speeds are higher here versus Sonoma. So moving somebody out of the way is a bit trickier and I don’t think as common. But, it should be a very exciting race.”