THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR hits the road at Watkins Glen
This week, The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the finger lakes in Watkins Glen New York. This track is one of the three road courses on the schedule and if you ask me, easily the most exciting. Ever since the dramatic last lap duel between Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski in both 2011 and 2012, this track has not had one bad finish. Besides the obvious Daytona or Talladega, this track poses the biggest chance for a first-time winner. Since 2010, there have been three first time winners including last season when Chase Elliott claimed his first win. This should be a can't miss race for any hardcore race fan.
Last week, Denny Hamlin went on to claim his third victory of 2019 after he was able to save enough fuel to hold off his teammates Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr. This was Joe Gibbs racing's second 1-2-3 finish of 2019. This was another one of the many races that really ramped up in the final laps. While it appeared as if it was going to come down Hamlin, Jones and Harvick a caution came out after Josh Bilicki broke a driveshaft and stalled. This type of outcome seems to be a trend as it has happened so many times in the past few weeks and it isn't the worst thing for NASCAR right now. While watching the first two stages of the race is essential, everyone comes to see the closing stages of a race when the intensity heats up and lately even if it was unintentional these finishes have been incredible. It should be fun to watch during the remainder of the season.
The Jimmie Johnson saga continues as this week it was announced that he would hire a new crew-chief in Clif Daniels. This doesn't necessarily come as a surprise as Johnson has continued to struggle performance wise with his former Crew-Chief Kevin Meendering. Overall, I think that Kevin could be a good crew chief but the pressure might have been too much for him. Coming into 2019, Meendering was making his debut at crew-chief in the cup series as he worked for JR Motorsports with Elliott Sadler from 2016 to 2019 when he relieved Chad Kanaus. He was fairly successful in his efforts after he was able to guide Sadler to two championship races at Homestead in 2016 and 2017. In time, I think he will find his way back onto a pit-box in the Cup series, maybe some more time as an engineer or possibly crew-chiefing back in the Xfinity series will help him when he gets back whenever that may be. As for the guy they tapped to replace him, I think Daniels can definitely come in and help fix things from a technical standpoint as he has been an engineer at Hendrick since 2015, it should be interesting to see how this team progresses.
The driver that I have winning this weekend is Joey Logano. While it has been a struggle for him here in the past few years, this Sunday should be different; besides what a lot of people forget is that last season, Logano could have been a major contender if he wasn't involved in a first lap crash as he started the race in sixth. This is a track that Joey knows how to get around considering he won here back in 2015. This race also plays into pit strategy as well and for my money, crew-chief Todd Gordon is one of the best race strategists in NASCAR. I look for him to claim his third win of 2019.
(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).