The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series turns both left and right to Watkins Glen International for the I Love New York 355 at the Glen, the second of two-road course events this season. WGI is a unique 2.45-mile track with an emphasis on straightaway speeds compared to Sonoma, which is more focused on handling and grip. Drivers who have displayed better speeds compared to the rest of the field in pre-race events will excel at Watkins Glen.
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,500) has never won at Watkins Glen, but makes a good case as a threat to win this time. In his last three starts at the site, Truex has the eighth-best Average Running Position of 13.2, the fourth-most Fastest Laps at 12, and the ninth-best Driver Rating of 89.2. Truex was second in first practice and third in final practice. Truex led the most laps at Sonoma earlier this season before blowing an engine. He nearly finished second at last year’s Watkins Glen race before getting spun out on the last lap. Truex has been strong throughout recent road course races and will finish in the Top 5.
After winning last week at Pocono, Kyle Busch ($10,300) comes to Watkins Glen as one of the best fantasy options. Kyle Busch is the only active driver to have won at the site twice and has the most road course wins with four. He also was the winner of the Xfinity Series race at the site on Saturday. In his last three starts at Watkins Glen, Kyle Busch has the second-most Fastest Laps at 32, the fifth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 199, and the fourth-best DR of 102.0. Kyle Busch was the fastest in first practice and 10th in final practice. Kyle Busch’s practice speeds indicate that he will qualify close to the front and be a contender for the win.
Kevin Harvick ($10,000) is attempting to become the first driver to sweep both road course events in the Cup Series since Kyle Busch accomplished the feat in 2008. In the last three races at Watkins Glen, Harvick has led the third-most laps at 29, has the seventh-best ARP of 12.4, and the sixth-best DR of 101.0. Harvick placed 11th in both practices. Based on practice speeds, Harvick will likely qualify just outside the Top 10, meaning he can gain a small amount of points from Place Differential. He has finished sixth or better in the last three weeks and Harvick will place in that range once again.
Brad Keselowski ($9,800) has never won at Watkins Glen, but is still a great Fantasy play this week. In seven starts at the site, Keselowski has finished worse than seventh only twice. He also has four Top 3 finishes. In the last three Watkins Glen races, Keselowski has the most Fastest Laps at 32, the most Laps Led at 55, the sixth-best ARP of 12.0, and the fifth-best DR of 101.8. Keselowski was sixth in first practice and the fastest in final practice. Keselowski was very fast in practices, so look for him to qualify well and finish well.
Kurt Busch ($9,600) has been solid in recent races at Watkins Glen. Kurt Busch has finished 11th or better in his last four races at the site. In the last three races at Watkins Glen, Kurt Busch has the second-best Average Finishing Position of 6.3, the third-most Laps in the Top 15 at 212, the fourth-best ARP of 10.7, and the seventh-best DR of 98.9. Kurt Busch was 14th in first practice and second-fastest in final practice. His practice speeds signify that he will qualify and finish in the Top 10, making him a quality pick.
Clint Bowyer ($9,500) is a driver to watch at road courses. He nearly won at Sonoma in 2017 and has finished with a positive PD in his last two starts at Watkins Glen. Bowyer is racing in better equipment compared to previous years. His practice speeds are proof, since he was 12th in first practice and fourth in final practice. Based on practice speeds, Bowyer will qualify and finish in the Top 10 without issue.
Watkins Glen is one of only three tracks where Jimmie Johnson ($9,300) does not have a victory. It also is one of his worst tracks statistically with an overall AFP of 15.4, which is sixth-worst of all active tracks. Johnson has not finished better than 10th since his last victory at Dover this season. Johnson was 18th in first practice and 26th in final practice. He has not showcased greater speeds compared to other drivers in practices and has displayed unfavorable history at the site compared to other tracks. Do not use him regardless of where he qualifies.
The defending winner of this event is Denny Hamlin ($9,200). Hamlin has been fantastic at road courses recently as he has finished fourth or better in all road course events since 2016. In the last three Watkins Glen races, Hamlin has the ninth-best ARP of 13.7, the fifth-most Laps Led at 10, and ranks 10th in DR at 86.8. Hamlin was third in first practice and fifth in final practice. Hamlin has finished fourth or better in three of the last four races this season and has looked good in practices. It would not be a surprise to see him finish in the Top 5.
Kyle Larson ($9,000) has failed to finish well the last two weeks, but don’t let that deter you from using him. Larson has two Top 12 finishes in three starts at Watkins Glen and nearly scored a Top 5 finish before being wrecked on the final lap last year. In the last three Watkins Glen races, Larson has the seventh-most Fastest Laps at 9, the 10th-best ARP of 14.0, and ranks 11th in DR at 84.6. Larson was 17th in first practice and sixth in final practice. Larson will be a favorable fantasy pick that will finish in the Top 10, and can snag points from PD if he qualifies 15th or worse.
MID-RANGE PRICED PICKS
Whenever the Cup Series travels to Watkins Glen, one driver that is always a threat is A. J. Allmendinger ($8,800). It is the site of Allmendinger’s only victory and his AFP of 9.4 in eight starts leads all active drivers. In the last three Watkins Glen races, Allmendinger led the second-most Laps at 50, the fifth-best ARP of 10.8, the third-most Fastest Laps at 15, and the best DR of 105.5. Allmendinger was 23rd in first practice and 18th in final practice. Allmendinger has not looked outstanding in practices, but his history is too good to ignore and he may nab points from PD if he does not qualify well.
At Watkins Glen, Jamie McMurray ($8,400) has seen mixed results. McMurray has finished in the Top 15 for half of his 14 starts at the site, which includes three in the last four Watkins Glen races. In the last three races at the track, McMurray has the ninth-most Laps in the Top 15 at 174, and ranks 12th in DR at 80.2. McMurray was fourth in first practice and seventh in final practice. As signified by practice speeds, McMurray should qualify and finish in the Top 10.
Matt Kenseth ($7,900) only has one Top 5 in his entire Cup Series career on road courses, but he has been cpnsistent at Watkins Glen. Kenseth has three straight Top 10 finishes in his last three starts at Watkins Glen. In the last three races at the track, Kenseth has the second-best ARP of 10.1, the second-most Laps in the Top 15 at 213, and the eighth-best DR of 97.7. Kenseth was 13th in first practice and 20th in final practice. Kenseth’s practice speeds mark a qualifying position between 15th to 20th, but his history and performance in recent races suggest that he will finish better than that.
Michael McDowell’s ($7,100) best finish at Watkins Glen is 17th, which he obtained last year. McDowell has two Top 20 finishes in eight starts at the site. He has finished in the Top 20 in four of the last six races in 2017, which includes the last two finishes, where he captured positive PD gains. McDowell is known for his road course skills and scored his only victory in the Xfinity Series last year on a road course. McDowell was 10th in first practice and 9th in final practice. McDowell’s practice speeds suggest that he will qualify favorably and improve his career best finish at Watkins Glen.
Paul Menard ($7,000) has finished 22nd or better in four of the last five Watkins Glen races. In 13 starts at Watkins Glen, Menard has six Top 20 results and has finished with a positive PD in eight of them. Menard was 20th in first practice and 13th in final practice. Menard will qualify in the Top 20 and finish ahead of his starting position in the Top 15, making him an attractive option.
Chris Buescher ($6,900) is a bargain value to keep an eye on. In Buescher’s two starts at Watkins Glen, he finished 37th and 30th. He is in better equipment compared to his previous starts and has improved his performance since last season. Buescher acquired his first road course Top 20 finish this season at Sonoma. Buescher was 15th in first practice and 21st in final practice. His practice speeds point to a Top 20 starting position and a finish inside the Top 20.
Trevor Bayne ($6,100) has only raced twice at Watkins Glen, but he has already become one of the best fantasy bargains at the site. Bayne started outside the Top 30 in his two starts and went on to finish well ahead of his starting position both times. He also obtained a Top 10 finish last year. Bayne was 24th in both practices. Bayne’s history and his practice speeds designate that he will not qualify well, but he should finish ahead of his starting position.
Danica Patrick ($5,900) is a former IndyCar racer with plenty of road course experience and is one of the better bargains this week. Patrick is coming off a streak of four consecutive Top 15 finishes in the last four races this year. She has never finished worse than 21st in four starts at Watkins Glen. Patrick was 21st in first practice and 23rd in final practice. Her practice speeds and recent performances have been better than other drivers of similar or lower value. Watch for Patrick to finish around the Top 20.
TOP DRIVERS IN EACH PRICE RANGE FOR I LOVE NEW YORK 355 AT THE GLEN – BASED ON COMBINATION OF PROJECTED PERFORMANCE AND VALUE
$10,000 – Plus Range
1: Kyle Busch ($10,300) – His practice speeds have looked great and he won the Xfinity race.
2: Martin Truex Jr. ($10,500) – His practice speeds look indicative of a Top 5 finish.
3: Kevin Harvick ($10,000) – Harvick will qualify just outside the Top 10 and will finish near the Top 5.
$9,000 – Plus Range
1: Denny Hamlin ($9,200) – He is the defending winner and has looked fast both practices.
2: Brad Keselowski ($9,800) – He was the fastest in final practice and has great history at Watkins Glen.
3: Clint Bowyer ($9,500) – He has better equipment than previous years and will finish in the Top 10.
$8,000 – Plus Range
1: A.J. Allmendinger ($8,800) – Watkins Glen is Allmendinger’s best track statistically and he may not qualify too well based on practice speeds, allowing him to gain points from PD.
2: Jamie McMurray ($8,400) – McMurray has been fast in practices. He will finish in the Top 10.
3: Joey Logano ($8,600) – If he qualifies outside the Top 10, he can be a decent pick to steal points from PD as implied by practice speeds. Logano was seventh in first practice and 15th in final practice.
$7,000 – Plus Range
1: Matt Kenseth ($7,900) – Kenseth’s history at the site recently has been solid, and his practice speeds point to a qualifying position where he can earn points from PD.
2: Paul Menard ($7,000) – Menard’s practice speeds are decent and he will earn points from PD since he will qualify in the middle of the pack.
3: Michael McDowell ($7,100) – McDowell has looked decent in practice, better than most other drivers in this price range.
Below $7,000 Range
1: Trevor Bayne ($6,100) – Bayne will not qualify too well. Therefore, he will gain plenty of points from PD like in his past two starts.
2: Danica Patrick ($5,900) – She is in one of the best stretches of her Cup Series career and her practice speeds look exceptional for the value.
3: Chris Buescher ($6,900) – He’s looked decent for his value in practices.