In the spirit of Alan Bestwick, yours truly is getting that feeling like something wild could happen this weekend at Watkins Glen. Why? At this track, it often does- whether Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose stalking each other, Ambrose moving Brad Keselowski aside, or those frenetic restarts.
Speaking of Ambrose and Montoya, many observers are tabbing the former V8 Super Car champ from Australia and the former open wheel ace from Colombia as the odds on favorites. Ambrose has two consecutive wins at The Glen, and Montoya was the 2010 winner. Who won it before that? None other than the injured Tony Stewart, who has taken the checkered flag five times at the road course. Kyle Busch was the 2008 winner in a season where he won both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course events.
Picking Ambrose or JPM would be too easy. For conversation’s sake, let’s pose the question of who else may be a favorite to win this event? I would have picked Stewart myself, but that won’t happen now.
To no one’s surprise, Jeff Gordon was once dominant at the New York track, having taken the checkered flag four times. He could be a candidate, but like many other tracks, Gordon has not won here in quite some time. Believe it or not, part-timer Mark Martin won three races at WGI, but he’s not entered, and Brian Vicker will pilot the ’55,’ and this has not historically been one of his better tracks.
Kyle Busch has an incredible history on the course, with seven top tens in eight starts. Busch arch-rival Brad Keselowski has two top fives in just three starts, and you know he’ll be racing with a fire in his belly to try to get himself off the 2013 schnide, and squarely INSIDE the Chase conversation. Another Keselowski rival- Carl Edwards- has five top tens in eight Watkins Glen starts, plus he has seen victory lane in the Nationwide Series.
Former open wheeler and Road America NNS winner A.J. Allmendinger is an excellent candidate, so is 2006 winner Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr.’s numbers are more than respectable (plus he won at Sonoma) this year, and he’s close to his Marietta, New Jersey home. Then there’s that Jimmie Johnson guy. Five Time has never won at Watkins Glen (surprise!), but his numbers aren’t bad, and of course, he’s one of those top drivers who is a top threat anywhere.
Did you know that even Dale Jr.- a professed road course hater- even has a Nationwide win at The Glen? It’s true. Surprisingly- the track record for Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman isn’t as good as I thought it would be. Any one of these three might make a decent dark horse pick. Stewart replacement Max Papis knows his stuff on the road courses. The knock him is he’s never won a Cup race, and history is no friend of “road course ringers.”
I think I’ll be going with Brad Keselowski. Brad is coming off a good race at Pocono, and he’s motivated, not wanting to be a defending series champion who misses the Chase. The key for Keselowski is not refrain from being overly aggressive, which is not easy for the charging champ. For him to finish first, he must first finish. Now, the last lap is another ballgame; of course, if Keselowski is up against Ambrose or Montoya either one, given that they lack no hesitation in making contact, it could be real dramatic.
This could be the race of the year right here. There are a number of contenders and a number of drivers with a lot at stake.