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NASCAR at Watkins Glen: everything you need to know about racing this weekend

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Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Images

NASCAR at Watkins Glen: everything you need to know about racing this weekend

Let's turn left and right, shall we?

NASCAR travels to the Fingerlakes Region of upstate New York this weekend, as Watkins Glen International plays host to the second of three road course races this season.

Here's what we're watching for on Sunday afternoon in the Go Bowling at The Glen (3 p.m. EST on NBCSN).

WATKINS GLEN STATISTICS
Watkins Glen International: 2.45-mile road course in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Race information: 220.5 miles, 90 laps
Stage lengths: 20 laps, 20 laps, 50 laps
Defending winner: Chase Elliott
Most wins: Kyle Busch (2)

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL & ELDORA SPEEDWAY

Eldora Speedway, Thursday, Aug. 1

7 p.m. – First qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

7:09 p.m. – Second qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

7:18 p.m. – Third qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

7:27 p.m. – Fourth qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

7:36 p.m. – Fifth qualifying race; 10 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

8:15 p.m. – Last chance qualifying race; 15 laps (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

9 p.m. – Eldora Dirt Derby; 150 laps/75 miles ; (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Watkins Glen International, Friday, Aug. 2

12:35 – 1:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

2:05 – 3:25 – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

Saturday, Aug. 3

10:35 a.m. – 11:25 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

11:40 a.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/two rounds (NBCSN)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

3 p.m. – Zippo 200; 82 laps/200.9 miles (NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

6:40 p.m. – Cup qualifying/impound; multi-car/two rounds (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Aug. 4

3 p.m. – Go Bowling at the Glen; 90 laps/220.5 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Where The Ringers At?

Go back a handful of years, look at the results of road course races and you'll see a plethora of unconventional names from top to bottom. They came in once or twice a year, showed their skillset on road courses, and left.

The road course ringers are few and far between nowadays, not present if at all. Where'd they go? What happened?

Simply put, the regulars got better. The days of drivers saying, "ah, screw it. I'll just take the 20th place finish here and move on" over. Road course racing is a big part of NASCAR racing in 2019. That's why you see Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and other big names/former champions running inside the top five with regularity at road courses now.

New Crew Chief for Seven-Time

The Kevin Meendering/Jimmie Johnson era lasted 21 races.

Hendrick Motorsports announced this week that Meendering will not be Johnson's crew chief, effective this weekend at WGI. Cliff Daniels, a former race engineer on the No. 48 team (was alongside Chad Knaus for their 2016 championship and with Stewart-Haas Racing for Tony Stewart's 2011 title run) will assume crew chief duties atop the pit box.

Daniels and Johnson spoke about their communication, calling the move the "secret sauce" to what the team needs to reignite the spark that has been missing for the past couple seasons. The change also comes in hopes of securing a playoff spot for Johnson, who hasn't missed the postseason since its inception in 2004. WIth five races remaining, he sits 12 points back of the final transfer spot.

MTJ The Man To Beat?

Martin Truex Jr. hasn't been good on road courses lately. He's been flat out dominant.

The 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series champion has won three of the last five road course races. In his other two, he finished second and was in the process of taking the lead in the final corner (last year's ROVAL) before Jimmie Johnson's contact took him out.

However, there have been zero repeat winners in the last seven races at WGI. Truex is looking to change that statistic this weekend, and it seems as if he's im prime position to do so.

2019 NASCAR STANDINGS

Next week, NASCAR heads to Michigan International Speedway for the Consumers Energy 400, scheduled place on Sunday, August 9 at 3:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.

NASCAR weekend recap: Denny Hamlin recaptures Pocono prominence

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Matthew OHaren/USA Today Images

NASCAR weekend recap: Denny Hamlin recaptures Pocono prominence

As the summer rolls on, so does the NASCAR curcuit. This time, the Cup Series made a trip to Pocono Raceway, where a familiar winner found Victory Lane.

Here's what went down this weekend in the racing world.

It's Been A Minute...

Pocono Raceway and Denny Hamlin are synonymous--er--have been in the past.

Hamlin earned his first two career victories in 2006 at The Tricky Triangle, and added two more in 2009 and 2010. But since then, he hasn't visited Victory Lane. He's scored a few top fives and a handful of top 10 finishes, but no trophies.

Until this past weekend. He and his crew chief Chris Gabehart played the fule mileage game to a tee, which wound up earning them his fifth checkered flag in Long Pond.

Following a winless 2018 season, the first of Hamlin's career, he now has three wins and seems to be running the best he has in recent years. Although Kyle Busch is the alpha at Joe Gibbs Racing, Hamlin may be asserting himself as the second in command.

Not Your Average Pocono

It's no secret that Pocono Raceway hasn't necessarily put on the greatest shows in the past. But it seemed that PJ1 helped matters a ton.

Drivers have always fanned out on the longest frontstretch in NASCAR, sometimes going three, four and five wide, but then getting back to two-wide going into Turn 1, which only has one preferred lane.

However, this weekend, cars were able to stay side-by-side through turns thanks to the traction compound put down by NASCAR and the track. Add in the fuel mileage intrigue, restarts following crashes (due to more side-by-side action) and you have yourself a pretty entertaining Gander RV 400.

Jones' Future

Erik Jones' future in the Cup Series has been in question ever since Christopher Bell rumors have started swirling more and more in 2019. Jones has said he believes he will be back at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020, and Joe Gibbs has said he wants Jones in the organization as well.

Following driver No. 20's third straight top five and fifth top 10 in the last six races, his team owner was asked about his contract situation for next season and was rather non-commital.

"I want to say this to everybody, it's so hard putting everything together," Gibbs said. "I know people get frustrated because you haven't made a decision yet on some things. But I just say this: there's sponsors involved, so many relationahips involved, you're trying to get through all that and work it all out."

Not exactly the biggest vode of confidence to the Byron, Michigan native and Cup Series winner, who is actually younger than the aforementioned Bell. Worth watching moving forward.

2019 NASCAR CUP SERIES STANDINGS

This upcoming weekend, NASCAR travels to Watkins Glen International for right and left turns in upstate New York. The Go Bowling 400 is scheduled to go green on Sunday afternoon (August 4) at 3 p.m. EST on NBCSN.

NASCAR at Pocono: everything you need to know about racing this weekend

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Matthew OHaren/USA Today Images

NASCAR at Pocono: everything you need to know about racing this weekend

New Hampshire Motor Speedway brought us another memorable finish. Can The Tricky Trinagle deliver for a third week in a row?

Here's what we're watching for on Sunday afternoon in the Gander RV 400 (3 p.m. EST on NBCSN).

POCONO STATISTICS
Pocono Raceway: 1.058-mile oval in Long Pond, Pa
Race information: 318.46 miles, 301 laps
Stage lengths: 50 laps, 50 laps, 60 laps
Defending winner: Kyle Busch
Most wins: Jeff Gordon (4)

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

POCONO RACEWAY

Friday, July 26" data-reactid="25" type="text">Friday, July 26

8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Truck garage open" data-reactid="26" type="text">10:35 – 11:25 a.m. – Truck practice

8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Truck garage open" data-reactid="26" type="text">12:35 – 1:25 p.m. – Final Truck practice

8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Truck garage open" data-reactid="26" type="text">6:05 p.m. – Truck qualifying

Saturday, July 27" data-reactid="31" type="text">Saturday, July 27

Saturday, July 27" data-reactid="31" type="text">9:05 – 9:55 a.m. – Cup practice

Saturday, July 27" data-reactid="31" type="text">11:05 – 11:55 a.m. – Final Cup practice

Saturday, July 27" data-reactid="31" type="text">1 p.m. – Gander RV 150 Truck race; stages 15/30/60 laps = 150 miles

Saturday, July 27" data-reactid="31" type="text">4:05 p.m. – Cup qualifying

Sunday, July 28" data-reactid="40" type="text">Sunday, July 28

Sunday, July 28" data-reactid="40" type="text">3 p.m. – Gander RV Cup race; stages 50/100/160 laps = 400 miles

IOWA SPEEDWAY

Friday, July 26

5:05 – 5:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice

7 – 7:50 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice

Saturday, July 27" data-reactid="54" type="text">Saturday, July 27

Saturday, July 27" data-reactid="54" type="text">12:05 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying

Saturday, July 27" data-reactid="54" type="text">5 p.m. – U.S. Cellular 250 Xfinity Series race; stages 60/120/250 laps = 218.75 miles

It Can Only Improve

Let's face it: the last Pocono race was a snoozer. Not much passing, not much action (besides restarts). But at least it can't get worse, right?

NASCAR has applied PJ1 (traction compound) along Pocono Raceway, as they have the past few weeks at Kentucky and New Hampshire, in hopes of improving the racing. Trying to imagine cars going two-wide into the Tunnell Turn (Turn 2) is almost mind-blowing.

The KB Show?

He's won the last two races at Pocono Raceway and he's won four races this season, but Kyle Busch hasn't won in six races. Sound the alarms!

Joking aside, it does feel like Busch is due for a win. The Tricky Triangle is one of the most sensible places to do so. Joe Gibbs Racing has some of the best straightaway and corner speed in the Cup Series nowadays, and Pocono requires both.

Playoff Push

With only six races remaining until the playoff field is set, it's officially crunch time.

Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer currently sit above the cutline, with Jimmie Johnson and Daniel Suarez on the outside looking in. To imagine a seven-time champion not in the postseason is almost unimaginable, but it;s becoming more and more realistic.

Plus, if a driver not mentioned were to come in and win one of the remaining six races, well, that changes everything.

2019 NASCAR STANDINGS

Next week, NASCAR heads to Watkins Glen International for the second road course race of the season. The Go Bowling at The Glen will take place on Sunday, August 4 at 3:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.