MWR Looking To Sweep The Road Courses In 2012
The rain followed the Sprint Cup Series from Pocono to Watkins Glen but the good news is that the forecast for the Finger Lakes 355 looks clear. Thankfully, NASCAR added a practice session this weekend to make up for the missed time on Friday. In case you missed the Average Practice Speeds post, click here to check that out. Juan Montoya won the pole for Sunday’s race, and the full starting lineup can be found by clicking here. Don’t forget you can save 25% off an ifantasyrace advantage subscription by using the promo code “Ringer“ this week.
My Probable Yahoo! Roster: Brad Keselowski, Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex, Jr., Sam Hornish, Jr.
My Probable Yahoo! Bench: Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Brian Vickers
Final Top Fifteen Ranking For The Finger Lakes 355:
1. Kyle Busch – Starts 2nd – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
In typical Kyle Busch fashion, he reported that the car was “absolute junk” after spinning his Toyota out in first practice and then went and posted the 9th-fastest lap. Kyle followed that up with the best lap in Happy Hour. The #18 was 7th on the average speed chart and Busch has been one of the best at Watkins Glen when the Cup Series stops here. Even with his 33rd-place finish in his first start here, Kyle has an average finish of 9.3 in seven starts here including a win from the pole back in 2008. When you take out that 33rd, Rowdy’s average finish jumps up to an incredible 5.3 and he hasn’t finished worse than 9th in the last six races here. He should be a threat on Sunday and a win could really help this team’s Chase chances. It doesn’t hurt that Kyle qualified on the outside pole. He’s also running the Nationwide race at The Glen this weekend, if that means anything to you. The only thing that worries me about the #18 this week (and the reason I have him as Medium Risk) is the bad luck they’ve been hitting as of late—and all season, really. If nothing bad happens to Busch on Sunday, there’s no doubt in my mind that he will challenge for the win.
2. Tony Stewart – Starts 7th – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Low Risk**
If you follow my average speed chart post every week and pay close attention, you will know that Tony Stewart rarely ends up in the top half of the chart—except, of course, when he has a really good car. In the two practice sessions this weekend, Smoke ran a total of 39 laps (more than all but one other driver) and still ended up with the 11th-best average speed. In other words, the #14 is a rocket ship and should contend for the win on Sunday. He looks even better this weekend than back in Sonoma, and Stewart finished 2nd out there to Clint Bowyer. Statistically, this is Tony’s best track and his 7.1 average finish is bested only by Marcos Ambrose’s ridiculous 2.3. Stewart has five career wins here and had seven straight finishes of 7th or better here up until last season when he finished 27th. Remember, though, Smoke was running comfortably inside the top 10 until the last lap when he had contact with Clint Bowyer. The #14 should be top 5 on Sunday and could challenge for the win. The 7th-place qualifying effort didn’t hurt anything.
3. Jimmie Johnson – Starts 3rd – Yahoo! A Group
**Risk Factor: Medium Risk**
Five Time has never won here at Watkins Glen but has been good all weekend and with the way this team is running right now, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the #48 in victory lane on Sunday. However, a top 5 is much more likely. Jimmie ranked 8th on the average speed chart this weekend and will roll off the grid in 3rd when the green flag waves on Sunday. He finished 5th back in Sonoma in a somewhat quiet—but strong—day (zero laps led, 114.7 driver rating). Johnson’s record here at The Glen is nothing to get excited about (14.2 average finish in ten career starts) but he has finished inside the top 10 in three of the last five events here and should make it four of the last six on Sunday. This team is about as hot as you can get right now even after the disappointing 14th-place finish in Pocono last weekend. Johnson should remain in the top 6 or 7 all day on Sunday at least.
Those To Avoid For The Finger Lakes 355:
Denny Hamlin - I completely wrote off Denny Hamlin once he wrecked his primary car in first practice, but his average speed in Happy Hour made me re-consider him this morning. Still, I’d stay away from the #11 this weekend. The backup car that he is in is the same chassis that Hamlin raced at Sonoma back in June, and he finished 35th in that race. He had a lot better car (Yahoo! chart here) but nothing special. He’s finished 36th and 37th in the past two Watkins Glen races after finishing inside the top 10 in each of his first four starts here. Hamlin is just too risky of a pick this weekend.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Junior’s 16th-place qualifying effort was actually a little surprising, but I’m still not going to recommend that you pick the points leader. His average speed this weekend was terrible (Scott Speed was faster) and Dale’s average finish of 22.3 here at The Glen is nothing to get excited about. He could finish top 15, simply because of how strong this team has been this year, but you want more out of the #88 when you pick him. Not this week. Junior ended up 23rd back at Sonoma after starting 19th.
Regan Smith - If you’re looking for a sleeper pick this weekend and noticed that the #78 qualified 13th, don’t be fooled. For whatever reason, Smith generally qualifies really well here but racing well is a completely different story. He has started 10th in two races here at The Glen but finished 37th and 23rd in them. This team would probably consider it a win if they finished in the top 20 on Sunday. Regan was 32nd back at Sonoma in June.