My race is traveling to Watkins Glen

Aug 5, 2008 6:55 PM

Finish Line by Micah Roberts | This weekís NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, New York closes out the road course season for 2008.

The road course season consists of only two races but both, and particularly this one, are pivotal in the "Race for the Chase."

The road course races stand out because so few drivers are skilled at them. The problem with a driver just accepting that theyíre not good on the roads is that the two races still award the same amount of points for finish position as they at every other track.

I donít believe drivers really dismiss the races, but I do believe itís a defense mechanism by some after repeatedly being asked why they continually do poorly on a track that requires both right and left turns. Drivers in the chase like Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne will hurt their chances of making it by not being good on roads, while others like Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman will gain because they generally do well.

The two road courses couldnít be more different. Sonoma has tougher, tighter turns with serious elevation changes while Watkins Glen runs much faster with a few long drag strips that allow the cars to show off their horsepower.

The last two seasons, the Cup series has welcomed two newcomers to the fraternity of road race winners. Juan Pablo Montoya won at Sonoma last season and this year Kyle Busch dominated there. Other than that for the last 11 seasons itís basically been Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, with a sweeping hiccup by Robby Gordon in 2003. Jeff Gordon claims nine road course wins while Stewart has six.

Stewart has won four times at the Glen, including last season where he benefitted from a rare Jeff Gordon mishap. Gordon was leading with two laps to go when he spun out on turn 1 which gave the win to Stewart.

In 2008 Stewart was never a factor at Sonoma, while his Gibbs teammate dominated. Stewart always has spiced it up following the midseason July race at Daytona. Thus far though, no wins.

The only other logical conclusion to Stewartís demise in the win category is the switch to Toyota, but Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have kind of debunked that theory. So itís safe to say Stewart is definitely third on the three-car team and that nobody is going out of his way to get Stewart the best parts possible.

Because of Stewartís demise, Jeff Gordon is the 5-1 favorite this week. Kyle Busch is next at 6-1 along with Stewart. But right now, Stewart isnít generating much interest. Speaking of junk, Robby Gordon comes in next at 8-1 odds.

Robbyís odds are extremely low based on what equipment we all know he has, but it doesnít matter what kind of sled Robby rolls in with. The public always bet him. In reality, Robby should be near the 35-1 range.

Jimmie Johnson at 12-1 has transformed himself into a pretty good road driver and almost has me forgetting his most famous road race moment. Johnson slid through the kitty litter and slammed into the foam walls during a Busch Series race at Watkins Glen before Jeff Gordon brought him to Hendrick Motorsports. Because Watkins Glen isnít that technical, JJ probably has his best chance ever at the Glen.

Jamie McMurray is a possible longshot at 25-1 and the best of the Roush stable on the roads. Plus he has had pretty good cars the last two seasons. Ryan Newman will be in the 15-1 range and has just as good a chance as any after looking at Jeff Gordon, Stewart, and Kyle Busch.

Iím at Glen, but when?

For years I have always said that some August, I am going to make the trip to northern New York and cross several things of my "To Do List." The road race at Watkins Glen has always been a place I have sought to on the circuit.

First off, I love road races. And, as much as I love baseball, only a 2Ĺ-hour drive from the Glen lies the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. After I go back in time with the greatest sport ever played, and spend hours just reflecting on items Iíve only read about, I stay in a little boutique hotel and spend the night there.

The next day I take a two hour drive to Saratoga and visit, what many experienced horse players have told me, is the most colorful and gorgeous horse race facility in the world. Iíve always been fond of Del Mar, but the history of Saratoga already gives it an edge over most tracks even if it dead grass and no floral arrangements. Thereís nothing better than being at the track.

Following the day at the races, I tour Adirondack Park stopping to marvel at the scenery. Someday Iíll get there. Sounds like fun!

Micah Roberts has been a race and sports director with Station Casinos, who has contributed weekly to GamingToday for the last 11 years.

Copyright 2008 GamingToday
Jeff Gordon
Jimmie Johnson
Kyle Busch
Tony Stewart
Ryan Newman


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