NASCAR Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen

NASCAR Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen
Watkins Glen International Raceway – Watkins Glen, New York
2.45 mile road course – (90 laps)
Sunday, August, 12, 2012 – 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Defending Champion: Marcos Ambrose
All Odds Courtesy of Bovada

Tony Stewart has won 5 times at Watkins Glen, and is one of the favorites to do so again in the Finger Lakes 355.

NASCAR makes it’s annual trip to the road course at Watkins Glen. The Glen, as it is affectionately known, is one of only 2 road road courses on the Sprint Cup schedule along with Sonoma. Because the drivers don’t drive on road courses, some of the people who are normally among the favorites have much higher odds than normal. The opposite is true as well, as some drivers will have much lower odds because they are better on road courses than the normal oval tracks.

This race is also vital because there are only 5 races left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. Only 8 points separates first from fourth in the Race to the Chase Standings. The top 10 in points automatically qualify for the chase along with two wild cards determined by wins among those not in the top 10.

Juan Pablo Montoya won his second pole in as many weeks. Kyle Busch will start second. Here is a complete look at the starting grid.

Let’s take a look at some of the favorites and contenders for the Finger Lakes 355, with odds courtesy of Bookmaker.

Marcos Ambrose (4/1)

Ambrose is 18th in points, 191 behind the leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. He doesn’t have a win this season but does have 5 top 10’s in 21 starts this season, including last week at Pocono. Not surprisingly his best finish of the year came at Sonoma, the other road course, where he came in 8th. His only career win came last year at Watkins Glen. In four races at the track, he has never finished lower than 3rd. Of his 12 career top fives, 6 have come at the two road course tracks. He qualified 5th this week, and barring accident or engine problems he should be there at the end.

Tony Stewart (5/1)

Stewart is 6th in points, 53 behind Earnhardt. He has 11 top 10’s, 9 top 5’s and 3 wins this season at Las Vegas, California, and in the July Daytona race. Stewart is one of three drivers who have three wins this season along with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. The drivers in the Chase are reseeded by number of wins once the Chase starts, so wins are crucial.  He came in 5th last week at Pocono, and came in second at Sonoma in June. Stewart loves this track. In thirteen career starts at the Glen, he has 10 top finishes including 7 top 5’s and 5 wins. His last win at the track came in 2009. Stewart had his worst ever finish at the track last year when he came in 27th. That broke a streak of 9 straight races at the track where he finished 11th or better, including 7 first or second places. He qualified 7th for the Finger Lakes 355. He should contend for the win.

Juan Pablo Montoya (5/1)

Montoya is 21st in points, 244 behind the leader. He has 2 top 10 finishes this season. He came in 20th at Pocono last week after qualified for the pole. He struggled at Sonoma this year finishing 34th. He will also start from the pole in this race. In 5 career Watkins Glen races, Montoya has 4 straight top 10’s, including a top 5 and a win in 2010. His two career NASCAR wins have both come at road courses. He is worth a play, but he has struggled this season.

Kyle Busch (11/2)

Busch is 15th in points, 145 behind Earnhardt. He is in danger of missing the Chase. A 33rd place finish at Pocono last week coupled with Jeff Gordon winning the rain shortened race dropped Busch out of the second wildcard spot. It looks like the spot will come down to Gordon, Ryan Newman, Busch or Joey Logano, who each have one win. Kyle is 12 points behind Gordon and Newman, and 24 ahead of Logano. For the season, the younger Busch brother has 9 top 10’s, 6 top 5’s and a win at Richmond. He will start second at Watkins Glen, and could badly use a win here. In 7 career starts at the Glen, Kyle has 6 straight top 10’s, including 3 top 5’s and a win in 2008. Busch is my pick to get his second win and solidify his position in the wild card.

Jimmie Johnson (6/1)

Johnson is 4th in points, only 8 behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Earnhardt. Johnson will likely be the #1 seed in the Chase with his three wins at Darlington, Dover, and Indianapolis unless Stewart or Keselowski wins one of the last five races before the chase. Johnson has 15 top 10’s in 21 races including 10 top 5’s this season. He finished 14th at Pocono last week, and 5th at Sonoma in June. Johnson will start 3rd at Watkins Glen. In 10 races at the track he has never won, but does have 5 top 10’s and 3 top 5’s. He came in 10th last year, and his best ever finish at the Glen was third in 2007.

Jeff Gordon (17/2)

Gordon jumped into the second wild card spot last week with his win in the rain shortened Pocono race last week. He is 13th in points, and tied with Ryan Newman for the wildcard spot. Gordon holds the tiebreaker though. Gordon has 9 top tens and 4 top 5’s in addition to the Pocono win. He qualified 12th for the Finger Lakes 355. In 19 career starts at the Glen, he has 9 top 10’s, 6 top 5’s and 4 wins. However, Gordon’s last win here came in 2001, and he has only 2 top tens since then. He hasn’t finished higher than 9th in that span. Gordon came in 13th at Watkins Glen last year.

Brad Keselowski (17/2)

Keselowski is 7th in points, 54 behind Earnhardt. For the season, he has 11 top tens, 7 top fives, and wins at Bristol, Talladega, and Kentucky. He finished 4th last week at Pocono, his fifth straight top 10 finish. He came in 12th at Sonoma, the last time he didn’t finish in the top 10 of any race. He will start 4th at Watkins Glen. Keselowski finished second in this race last year, only his second ever race at the track.

Other contenders include Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Carl Edwards ( all 20/1). Edwards won the Nationwide race Saturday at Watkins Glen. Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman are both 25/1. Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth are all 40/1. The field is 15/1. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is not listed in the odds, despite leading the points, because he struggles on road courses. The field would be worth a play just for that reason.

Check out Maddux’s Sports Picks for expert handicapping advice.



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