Crunching numbers for Watkins Glen

August, 5, 2010

One of my favorite parts of road-course racing is the road-course ringers who are brought in. Whether they come into existing teams for a one-race only appearance or are driving to give a start-up team a shot for a good payday, they provide some excitement and variety to the field.

However, we've failed to see a road-course specialist win since Mark Donohue won at Riverside in 1973. It's not like the current crop of Sprint Cup Series driver are slouches on road courses.

Eventually, somebody like Boris Said or Patrick Carpentier is going to find his way into Victory Lane at Sonoma or Watkins Glen. Ringers, such as Ron Fellows, have already won in the Nationwide Series, and Said won a Truck Series race at Sonoma in 1998.

Obviously, ringers won't get a top-flight ride, those drivers need to be in the seat for all 36 races to accumulate points and bonus Chase points for wins.

But, perhaps start-up teams, in order to collect a little coin and stay in the precious top 35 in owner points, could not only use road-course ringers but could also put together some ringers for short tracks and restrictor-plate tracks.

Chalk it up to another one of my wacky ideas. I'm full of them!

Anyway, here's my favorite loop data info going into The Glen.

Tony-Award Winning

As much as road-course races can come down to pit strategy and a single spin can send your hopes for victory out the window, Tony Stewart has just owned Watkins Glen.

He's won five times there in just 11 starts, including four times in the past six races. Oh, and those two races he didn't win in that time? He finished second in both.

NASCAR's loop data just goes back five years, but in that time, look at the list of who has run the most fastest laps.

That's right, Stewart has more than the next three drivers combined and nearly three times more than second-place Kurt Busch. Hey, a little unexpected out of the Busch brothers, eh?

Road Warriors

There are only two road course races per year, much to my dismay, but let's look back to Sonoma to get an idea of who might be fast this weekend.

You don't have to do much digging to remember that race-winner Jimmie Johnson was fast, and Marcos Ambrose was fast until his blunder under caution. But how fast were they?

Johnson had the most fastest laps run. He was fastest early in runs, on restarts and in overall green flag speed. Marcos Ambrose was the fastest late in runs and in the top three in all situations.

However, before you judge only by these facts, remember that being out in front of the field and not worrying about side-by-side racing doesn't greatly improve your speed numbers, and there's not as much lapped traffic to worry about on road courses.

Juan To Win?

Juan Pablo Montoya still has only one Sprint Cup Series win, despite having the car to beat at Indy, but that one win was on the road course in Sonoma.

Despite his rough breaks and a tough season overall, Montoya has raced much better than his results have indicated. He's 21st in points but eighth in overall driver rating this season.

Thanks to Mike Forde for this info. Over the past nine races, Montoya has an excellent 98.2 driver rating and 9.1 average running position. However, his average finish in that time is just a 21.6.

He's been fourth and sixth in the past two Watkins Glen races and should be a threat again this weekend.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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