NASCAR viewer’s guide: Watkins Glen International
Get your atlas to fully prepare for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series visit to Watkins Glen International.
For the first time in Cup history, drivers from seven countries are scheduled to compete in a series race. Sunday’s 39-driver entry list shows drivers from the United States, Mexico, Germany, England, the Netherlands, Finland and Russia.
Watkins Glen first hosted the Cup Series in 1957. Sunday’s event will be the 39th Cup race.
Kevin Harvick, winner of last Sunday’s race at Richmond Raceway, will be searching for a third consecutive win Sunday.
Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET, USA Network) is scheduled for 90 laps and 220 miles. Saturday’s schedule includes a 3 p.m. ET (USA Network) Xfinity Series race.
The Iceman (And Others) Cometh
The international representation of drivers scheduled to compete in Sunday’s race is led by former Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen, who will be making his Cup debut in a Chevrolet entered by Trackhouse Racing.
Raikkonen, who competed in Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2011, will be the first driver to participate in Trackhouse’s Project 91 program, which is designed to give leading racers from other countries a shot in quality equipment in Cup racing.
Raikkonen, known as the Iceman during his F1 career, ran laps over the Virginia International Raceway road course Aug. 11 to familiarize himself with the Cup car. He is a native of Finland who now lives in Switzerland.
Raikkonen, 42, won the F1 title in 2007. He won 21 career F1 races.
Also representing other countries on Sunday’s starting grid will be Daniel Suarez (Mexico), Mike Rockenfeller (Germany), Kyle Tilley (England), Loris Hezemans (the Netherlands) and Daniil Kvyat (Russia).
The numbers recorded by drivers in the field are impressive: 341 Cup wins, 407 Xfinity wins, 21 Formula 1 wins, five IndyCar wins and 29 IMSA wins.
Blaney vs. Truex Continues
The Cup Series regular-season schedule is down to two races -- Sunday at Watkins Glen International and the Aug. 27 finale at Daytona International Speedway.
With 15 drivers scoring wins and sitting on the probable playoff grid, the last spot is open for another winner or a qualifier via points. Ryan Blaney, currently in the 16th spot, and Martin Truex Jr., 26 points behind Blaney, are battling for the final playoff position if it is decided by points.
Road course races have been wildly unpredictable this season, and there is no reason to believe Sunday’s run on the very fast Watkins Glen course will differ.
How do Blaney and Truex stack up for the Glen? Blaney’s best career finish there is a fifth in 2019. He has two finishes of eighth or better in five career starts. Truex won at the Glen in 2017 and has four consecutive top-three finishes there.
A bad sign for Truex: Toyota has no road course wins this year, and its drivers have an average finish of 21.8 on the road.
Truex, however, has an average finish of 10.1 at Watkins Glen, third among active drivers (behind Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch). Blaney is fifth on that list at 11.6.
Buescher 16th Winner?
Chris Buescher has been making noise lately, and, with Watkins Glen on tap Sunday he could be noisier.
Buescher threatened to challenge Kevin Harvick for the win last Sunday at Richmond Raceway before falling to third at the finish. Three weeks ago, he was 10th at Indianapolis.
Buescher, winless this year, could be considered a victory threat at the Glen based on his road course resume. A win would make him the season’s 16th different winner.
The RFK Racing driver has four top-10 finishes in the past five road course events, and his top finish of the year -- a second -- came at Sonoma. His average finish of 9.75 on road courses this season is fourth on the list.
Buescher’s history at the Glen, however, is not great. His best finish is an 11th, in 2017.
There are 39 entries for 40 available spots in Sunday’s Cup Series race at the Glen.
In addition to international visitors Kimi Raikkonen and Mike Rockenfeller, the list includes Joey Hand and AJ Allmendinger.
Forty-two drivers are entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. The list includes four Cup regulars -- William Byron, Cole Custer, Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain.
Also entered are Austin Wayne Self, Stanton Barrett, Blaine Perkins, Timmy Hill and Spencer Pumpelly.
This weekend’s schedule and forecast
(All times Eastern)
Saturday, Aug. 20
Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 89.
- 10:05 - 10:35 a.m. -- Xfinity Series practice (NBC Sports App)
- 10:35 - 11:30 a.m. -- Xfinity Series qualifying (NBC Sports App)
- 12:05 - 1:05 p.m. -- Cup Series practice (NBC Sports App)
- 1:05 - 2 p.m. -- Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports App, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 3 p.m. -- Xfinity Series race (82 laps, 200 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, Aug. 21
Forecast: Mostly cloudy. Stray shower or thunderstorm possible. High of 87.
- 3 p.m. -- Cup Series race (90 laps, 220 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)