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Chase Elliott
Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Statistically Speaking

Analyzing Watkins Glen International: Superspeedway of road courses

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: January 20, 2022, 3:56 pm ET

For decades, Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway were the only two road courses on the NASCAR schedule. For experienced road racers, this was a great combination, because the two courses were not at all similar.

Sonoma was the more technical of the two.

Watkins Glen, on the other hand, was always considered the superspeedway of road courses with its long straightaways, heavy braking zones, and sweeping corners. Officially listed with 11 turns, it depends on exactly how one defines that term. The esses leading onto the backstretch count as three turns with NASCAR counting the bus stop chicane as a four-turn complex. Why does this matter? Because in essence, there are really five turns that make this track so distinct.

At the end of the frontstretch, Turn 1 is one of the more popular passing zones. Drivers who forget just how long that straightaway is, and how much speed they carry into the corners, tend to wheel hop badly there. That often creates a traffic jam entering a funnel into Turn 2 – the first of three left-right turns that create the esses. The backstretch plus the carousel at its end is one of the most treacherous zones in NASCAR.

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The bus stop chicane near the end of the backstretch was added after a couple of nasty crashes entering the carousel – most notably, one in 1994 that took the life of JD McDuffie. Even with the chicane at the end of the stretch to slow speeds, drivers race through the sweeping corner with a ton of speed.

NASCAR does not utilize the "The Boot", but the asphalt that leads to that sports car complex remains and drivers will sweep as wide as possible to carry speed out of the carousel. The trouble comes if another racer is too close when they try to come back on course. Some extremely scary crashes have come on this third straightaway that leads to a sharp left-right set of turns leading to the checkers.

All of this is performed with fast speeds and heavy braking. It was a brake issue that sent McDuffie into the tire barrier and the highlight reel is filled with equally terrifying accidents.

But racing on the edge is what makes the sport challenging for drivers. Unless they don't care for road course racing in any form, most of the racers in the field enjoy the Glen and winning here comes with bragging rights.

The Glen has been on NASCAR's calendar full-time since 1986 and yet only two active drivers have multiple wins. Kyle Busch won in 2008 and 2013. Chase Elliott won his first Cup race at the Glen in 2018 and followed it up with another in 2019. In addition to those two drivers, five other active drivers have graced Victory Lane entering the 2022 season.

In total, 24 drivers have won in 38 events on this course, which makes it an opportunity race. Despite that, there weren't a lot of surprises when the checkers waved over the 2021 Go Bowling at the Glen.

The top four finishers all entered the race with PointsBet Sportsbook odds under 9/1. Traders had figured out Kyle Larson's road course worth with +480 odds ahead of his win. Second-place Elliott was the favorite at +195, third-place Martin Truex Jr. posted at +675, and Kyle Busch was at +850. Even fifth-place Denny Hamlin's +1300 odds were too low to drag his top-five number to a plus level.

But there were some interesting dark horses lurking in the top 10. With a little luck, they could get track position and provide a huge payout in 2022. Remember that Christopher Bell won on the Daytona International Speedway road course and AJ Allmendinger took the checkers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and then consider that the drivers finishing sixth through 10th all had outright win odds of 20/1 or greater.

Perhaps the most intriguing of these were ninth-place Chase Briscoe (+6600) and Tyler Reddick (+6000) because the book is still being written about their road racing skills.

2022 Race
August 21, Go Bowling at the Glen

Active Winners
2: Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott
1: Martin Truex, Jr., Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick

7: Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch
5: Denny Hamlin
4: Brad Keselowski
3: Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano
2: Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Larson
1: Ryan Blaney

Current Streaks
Martin Truex Jr.: 4 top-fives; 5 top-10s; 15 lead lap finishes (all); running at the end of all 15 races
Chase Elliott: 3 top-fives; 5 lead lap finishes (all); running at the end of all 5 races
Denny Hamlin: 2 top-fives; 8 lead lap finishes
Kyle Larson: 3 top-10s; 4 lead lap finishes; running at the end of all 7 races
Kevin Harvick: 3 top-10s; 4 lead lap finishes
Kurt Busch: 8 lead lap finishes
Aric Almirola: 7 lead lap finishes
Kyle Busch: 6 lead lap finishes (and 15 of 16); running at the end of all 16 races
Michael McDowell: 6 lead lap finishes
Ryan Blaney: 5 lead lap finishes (all); running at the end of all 5 races
Chris Buescher: 4 lead lap finishes; running at the end of all 6 races
Alex Bowman: 4 lead lap finishes; running at the end of all 5 races
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 4 lead lap finishes
William Byron: 3 lead lap finishes (all); running at the end of all 3 races
Ross Chastain: 2 lead lap finishes
Joey Logano: 2 lead lap finishes
Bubba Wallace: 2 lead lap finishes; running at the end of all 3 races
Brad Keselowski: running at the end of all 11 races
Austin Dillon: running at the end of all 7 races
Ty Dillon: running at the end of all 3 races

First-time Winners
2018 Go Bowling at the Glen: Chase Elliott
2014 Cheez-it 355k at the Glen: AJ Allmendinger
2011 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen: Marcos Ambrose
2000 Global Crossing at the Glen: Steve Park

2021 Race
June 6, Go Bowling at the Glen
1. Kyle Larson (480), 2. Chase Elliott (195), 3. Martin Truex, Jr. (675), 4. Kyle Busch (850), 5. Denny Hamlin (1300)

Road Courses: Watkins Glen, Road America, Sonoma Raceway, COTA, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road), Daytona road, Charlotte road

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Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.