Will 1 Start a Win Streak for Kyle Busch?
After 20 races and more than 1,000 laps led, Kyle Busch picked up his first win of the season last week at Pocono, snapping a career-long 36-race winless streak. That gave him 39 career Cup Series wins. This week at Watkins Glen, Busch can become the 18th driver in series history to win 40 races, and he'd be the 4th-youngest at the time of his 40th win.
We head to the 2nd and final road-course race of the season. Busch has 4 career road-course wins. With the recent retirements of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, that's the most among active Cup Series drivers. The only other active driver with multiple wins is Kevin Harvick (2).
With a win at Watkins Glen, Busch would become the 10th driver in Cup Series history with at least 5 road-course wins.
Who Can Steal a Playoff Berth at Watkins Glen?
Watkins Glen, 1 of 2 road courses on the current Cup Series schedule, could provide an opportunity for a driver to grab a playoff berth. Pit strategy comes into play, and the different form of racing somewhat levels the playing field. Of the 5 active Cup drivers with a win at Watkins Glen, 1, AJ Allmendinger, hasn't won this season, and another, Joey Logano, has won, but his win won't count toward a playoff berth due to rules violations.
Allmendinger finished 35th after starting 5th at Sonoma in June, but he's usually performed better at Watkins Glen. His only career win came at the track in 2014, and he enters on a 107-race winless streak. Dinger finished 4th in this race last year.
Or it could be a completely unforeseen winner. Each of the last 3 Watkins Glen winners had never previously won a road course race in the Cup Series.
What about Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Road courses were never his strength: He had 3 top-10 finishes and a 22nd-place average finish in them from the start of his career to 2013. But in 6 starts on road courses over the last 4 seasons, Junior hasn't finished worse than 11th, and has 3 top-10 finishes.
Hendrick 1 Win Away From 250
Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne get a 2nd shot this week to give Hendrick Motorsports its 250th Cup Series win. Hendrick would be the 2nd team to reach the 250-win plateau, joining Petty Enterprises, which won 268 races before merging into another team for the 2009 season. The current Richard Petty Motorsports counts as a separate team.
Most of Hendrick's Cup wins have come from either Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson. They've combined for 176 of Hendrick's 249 wins, or 71%. Among the rest of Hendrick's current lineup, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has 9 wins for the team, Kasey Kahne 6, and Chase Elliott is still looking for his 1st career Cup win.
With a win at Watkins Glen, Hendrick will tie Joe Gibbs Racing for the most Cup Series wins at Watkins Glen with 7. But the team hasn't won there since 2001 with Jeff Gordon.
Johnson In Midst of Slump
Jimmie Johnson has 3 wins this season, tied for the most in the series, but those are his only 3 top-5 finishes of the season. Since his last win at Dover, in 8 races Johnson hasn't finished any better than 10th, hasn't led, and has wrecked out of 4 races. This is Johnson's 16th full Cup Series season, and he's on pace to have his worst year.
Johnson doesn't have a top-5 finish since his win at Dover on June 4, an 8-race drought. That's just 2 off the longest top-5 drought of Johnson's Cup Series career. However, he tends to end those droughts with a bang.
Don't expect to see that drought end at Watkins Glen. Johnson has never won at Watkins Glen, 1 of 3 active Cup Series tracks where the 7-time champion has never won.
Harvick Goes for Road Course Sweep
Kevin Harvick is a previous Watkins Glen winner, and he picked up his only win this season at the road course of Sonoma. If he can pull off the sweep, he'd be the first driver to sweep both road course races in a season since Kyle Busch in 2008.
Next season, NASCAR will add a 3rd road course race to the schedule, running the combo oval-road course circuit at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Who's Hot and Who's Not - Watkins Glen Edition
• Kyle Busch: finished 9th or better in 10 of last 11 Watkins Glen races
• Brad Keselowski: 4 top-3 finishes in last 6 Watkins Glen races (3 2nd's and a 3rd)
• AJ Allmendinger: only career win (2014) and 3 of 10 career top-5 finishes came at Watkins Glen
• Joey Logano: finished 7th or better in last 4 Watkins Glen races (only driver to do so)
• Matt Kenseth: 4 top 10s in last 5 Watkins Glen races (none in previous 7)
• Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 0 top-10 finishes in last 10 Watkins Glen races
• Jimmie Johnson: Watkins Glen is 1 of 3 active tracks (Chicago, Kentucky) where he hasn't won Cup Series race (winless in 15 starts)
• Kasey Kahne: 0 top-10 finishes in 13 career Watkins Glen races (he's raced at 24 Cup tracks, only track where he doesn't have a top 5)
• Kyle Larson: finished 12th or worse in last 5 road course races
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: never finished better than 18th in 9 career road course races
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