Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen

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With multiple teams having targeted Watkins Glen International as an opportunity to make the Chase, Sunday’s Cheez-It 355K at the New York State road course is shaping up to be quite a race.

Obviously, this is a big one for guys like Marcos Ambrose, Tony Stewart, A.J. Allmendinger, and Martin Truex Jr., who are all buried so far down in the standings to the point where they’re not making the post-season without a win.

Meanwhile, winless drivers Matt Kenseth (+78 points above 16th) and Ryan Newman (+52 points above 16th) still have good holds on the 12 and 13 seeds in the Chase Grid.

However, behind them are five drivers – Clint Bowyer in 14th, Kyle Larson in 15th, Greg Biffle in 16th, Kasey Kahne in 17th, and Austin Dillon in 18th – that are separated by just 29 points.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the notes and numbers to keep in mind as we head into Round 22 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series…

WATKINS GLEN-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Scott Products Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 9.2
· Average Running Position of 13.5, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.7, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.842 mph, seventh-fastest

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 STANLEY Ford)
· Two wins, five top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 6.8
· Average Running Position of 8.6, second-best
· Driver Rating of 120.1, second-best
· Series-high 125 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 120.616 mph
· 425 Laps in the Top 15 (78.4%), 10th-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One top five, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 19.8
· Driver Rating of 91.8, 10th-best
· 47 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 364 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.901 mph, sixth-fastest
· 475 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4%), eighth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· Two wins, four top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.1
· Average Running Position of 10.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 113.3, third-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 120.107 mph, fourth-fastest
· 616 Laps in the Top 15 (75.7%), third-most
· 175 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Kelloggs/Cheez-it Ford)
· Four top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.8
· Average Running Position of 12.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.6, eighth-best
· 15 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 405 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.630 mph, ninth-fastest
· 588 Laps in the Top 15 (72.2%), fourth-most
· 178 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)
· One top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.0, 12th-best
· 11 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 374 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.598 mph, 10th-fastest
· 416 Laps in the Top 15 (57.6%), 11th-most
· 158 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One win, two top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 15.7, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 88.3, 11th-best
· 10 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 390 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.442 mph, 11th-fastest
· 480 Laps in the Top 15 (59.0%), seventh-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· Four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.8
· Average Running Position of 10.2, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 100.6, sixth-best
· 27 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.971 mph, fifth-fastest
· 637 Laps in the Top 15 (78.3%), second-most
· 188 Quality Passes, second-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· Three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 6.5
· Average Running Position of 12.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 102.8, fifth-best
· 29 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.842 mph, eighth-fastest

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Five wins, seven top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 7.9
· Series-best Average Running Position of 5.7
· Series-best Driver Rating of 120.4
· 106 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 120.465 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 678 Laps in the Top 15 (93.6%)
· Series-high 195 Quality Passes

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 12.4
· Average Running Position of 12.0, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.8, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.400 mph, 12th-fastest
· 519 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), sixth-most
· 179 Quality Passes, third-most

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Watkins Glen International Data
Season Race #: 22 of 36 (08-10-14)
Track Size: 2.45-miles
Number of Turns: 7
Race Length: 90 laps / 220.5 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Watkins Glen
Tony Stewart……………………….. 120.4
Marcos Ambrose………………….. 120.1
Kyle Busch…………………………. 113.3
Juan Pablo Montoya…………….. 110.5
Brad Keselowski………………….. 102.8
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 100.6
AJ Allmendinger…………………….. 94.7
Carl Edwards………………………… 94.6
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 92.8
Kurt Busch……………………………. 91.8
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Watkins Glen International.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 128.241 mph, 68.777 secs., 08-09-13
2013 race winner: Kyle Busch, Toyota, 87.001 mph, (02:32:04), 08-11-13
Track qualifying record: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 128.241 mph, 68.777 secs., 08-09-13
Track race record: Mark Martin, Ford, 103.030 mph, (02:11:54), 08-13-95

Watkins Glen History
· After several events were held on the streets of Watkins Glen, a permanent facility was opened in 1956.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was in 1957, won by Buck Baker (83.064 mph, 8/4/57).
· After a six-year absence, NASCAR returned to The Glen in 1964 and 1965.
· After a 21-year absence, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returned to The Glen, and has run one race a year there since 1986.

Watkins Glen Notebook
· There have been 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen International, one race per season.
· The first NSCS race at Watkins Glen was scheduled for 101.2-miles in 1957, the second race was 161.7-miles (1964) and the third race was 151.8-miles (1965). Every race since has been scheduled for 220.5-miles.
· 252 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen; 152 in more than one.
· Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip and Terry Labonte lead the series in starts at Watkins Glen with 22 each. Jeff Gordon leads the series among full-time active drivers with 21.
· Buck Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Watkins Glen in 1957 with a speed of 87.071 mph. Driver/owner Buck Baker went on to win the inaugural race from the pole.
· 19 drivers have Coors Light poles at Watkins Glen, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin with three each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with two.
· Mark Martin is the only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to post consecutive Coors Light poles at Watkins Glen (three) – 1993, 1994, and 1995.
· Youngest Watkins Glen pole winner: Kyle Busch (08/15/2011 – 26 years, 3 months, 13 days).
· Oldest Watkins Glen pole winner: Morgan Shepherd (08/13/1989 – 47 years, 10 months, 1 day).
· 18 different drivers have won at Watkins Glen International in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, led by Tony Stewart with five wins.
· Jeff Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in road course wins with nine (Sonoma, five; Watkins Glen, four); Tony Stewart has the second most road course wins all-time with seven (Watkins Glen, five; Sonoma, two).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record for the most wins at a single road course track with six – Riverside International Raceway.
· Four drivers have posted consecutive wins at Watkins Glen, including three consecutive by Mark Martin (1993, ’94, ‘95) and Jeff Gordon (1997, ’98, ‘99). The other two drivers to win consecutive races at Watkins Glen are Tony Stewart (2004, ’05) and Marcos Ambrose (2011, ’12).
· Youngest Watkins Glen winner: Kyle Busch (08/10/2008 – 23 years, 3 months, 8 days).
· Oldest Watkins Glen winner: Geoff Bodine (08/11/1996 – 47 years, 3 months, 24 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing are tied for themost wins at Watkins Glen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six:
o Hendrick Motorsports: Jeff Gordon (four), Tim Richmond (one) and Ricky Rudd (one).
o Joe Gibbs Racing: Tony Stewart (four) and Kyle Busch (two).
· Six different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Watkins Glen; led by Chevrolet with 16 victories; followed by Ford with seven, Pontiac with four, Toyota with two and Buick and Mercury each have one.
· Nine of the 31 (29%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kyle Busch in 2008.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (nine) than any other starting position at Watkins Glen.
· 11 of the 31 (35.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from the front row: nine from the pole and two from second-place.
· 21 of the 31 (67.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen have been won from a top-five starting position.
· 22 of the 31 (70.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· None of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Watkins Glen was 18th, by Steve Park in the 2000.
· Brad Keselowski and Mark Martin lead the series in runner-up finishes at Watkins Glen with three each.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Watkins Glen with 12; followed by Ricky Rudd with eight. Tony Stewart leads all active drivers with seven.
· Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen with 16; followed by Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart with 10 each.
· Tony Stewart leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Watkins Glen with a 6.286.
· Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Watkins Glen with a 6.500.
· All five of the active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Watkins Glen participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane.
· Kevin Harvick (2006) competed at Watkins Glen five times each before winning; the longest span of any the five active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen without visiting Victory Lane at 18. Nemechek is followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth with 14 each.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen is the 2001 race won by Jeff Gordon over Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.172 second.
· There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Watkins Glen (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2005 (90/92) and 2011 (90/92).
· Only one of the 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen has been shortened due to weather conditions – the 1992 race – only 51 of the scheduled 90 laps were completed.
· The 8/14/2011 race was the only NSCS race at Watkins Glen that has been postponed to another date due to weather (8/15/2011).
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen six times; most recently in 2008.
· One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Watkins Glen: Marcos Ambrose (08/15/11).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Watkins Glen with 233 laps led in 21 starts.
· Danica Patrick and Patty Moise are the only two female NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to compete at Watkins Glen International.
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NASCAR in New York
· There have been 66 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among 15 tracks in the state of New York.
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· 185 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as New York; 11 of them have posted at least one victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
· Only two of the New York natives have won at Watkins Glen International in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Geoff Bodine (1996) and Steve Park (2000).
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MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Saturday times and notebook

New Tatuus PM-18. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s a rundown of times and notes from Saturday at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test, as all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder had their first day of testing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A link to Friday’s notebook is here.

Times are below, followed by notes.

COMBINED TIMES

INDY LIGHTS (Best Session); Full Results

Jamin. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 5-Nico Jamin, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:15.7173 (Session 2)
2. 98-Colton Herta, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, 1:15.8246 (Session 4)
3. 23-Victor Franzoni, Juncos Racing, 1:15.9875 (Session 4)
4. 4-Rinus Veekay, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:16.2067 (Session 4)
5. 31-Nicolas Dapero, Juncos Racing, 1:16.2491 (Session 4)
6. 3-Pato O’Ward, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.2563 (Session 4)
7. 48-Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.3285 (Session 4)
8. 27-Anthony Martin, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.5185 (Session 4)
9. 2-TJ Fischer, Team Pelfrey, 1:17.1030 (Session 4)
10. 21-Heamin Choi, Juncos Racing, 1:18.5179 (Session 4)

PRO MAZDA (Best Session); Full Results 

Askew. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 8-Oliver Askew, Cape Motorsports, 1:19.8920 (Session 2)
2. 1-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:20.0236 (Session 2)
3. 3-Robert Megennis, Juncos Racing, 1:20.1268 (Session 4)
4. 81-Kaylen Frederick, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.2252 (Session 2)
5. 79-David Malukas, BN Racing, 1:20.2456 (Session 4)
6. 91-Nikita Lastochkin, Exclusive Autosport, 1:20.7001 (Session 2)
7. 18-Calvin Ming, Pabst Racing, 1:20.7373 (Session 4)
8. 80-Kris Wright, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.9930 (Session 4)
9. 2-Sting Ray Robb, Juncos Racing, 1:21.1250 (Session 2)
10. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:21.4425 (Session 4)
11. 78-Leonard Hoogenboom, BN Racing, 1:23.0447 (Session 4)

USF2000 (Best Session); Full Results

Gutierrez. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photgraphy

1. 22-Andres Gutierrez, Pabst Racing, 1:25.5618 (Session 3)
2. 27-Callan O’Keefe, BN Racing, 1:25.6295 (Session 2)
3. 36-Darren Keane, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.6882 (Session 3)
4. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:25.8743 (Session 2)
5. 23-Lucas Kohl, Pabst Racing, 1:26.0760 (Session 2)
6. 21-Hunter McElrea, Pabst Racing, 1:26.1432 (Session 3)
7. 37-Jake Craig, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.2452 (Session 4)
8. 80-Michael D’Orlando, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.2751 (Session 2)
9. 31-Rasmus Lindh, Team BENIK, 1:26.3193 (Session 4)
10. 20-Aaron Telitz, RJB Motorsports, 1:26.4349 (Session 4)
11. 32-Jaden Conwright, Team BENIK, 1:26.4557 (Session 2)
12. 38-Max Peichel, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.5739 (Session 4)
13. 82-David Osborne, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.6824 (Session 2)
14. 25-Elliott Finlayson, BN Racing, 1:26.8219 (Session 3)
15. 33-Myles Rowe, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:27.0620 (Session 4)
16. 34-Sabre Cook, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:27.2107 (Session 4)
17. 92-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:27.7750 (Session 3)
18. 24-Zoey Edenholm, BN Racing, 1:28.6730 (Session 2)
19. 81-Jacob Loomis, Team Pelfrey, No Time
20. 93-Jayson Clunie, Exclusive Autosport, No Time

NOTES

Kohl and McElrea joined Gutierrez in Pabst’s pace. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Drivers and teams alike have raved about the pace, and the rather loud sound, of the new Tatuus PM-18 Mazda. Reports from private testing had the new car rather close to Indy Lights pace at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and rather quicker than the old car at Road America. The first tangible evidence of that occurred today as all 10 of the Pro Mazda drivers who got representative laps (second BN Racing car of Leonard Hoogenboom ran only a few laps in session four after engine issues all day) supplanted the Pro Mazda lap record at IMS – 1:22.8800 by Pato O’Ward in 2016 – easily. Oliver Askew’s best time of 1:19.8920 in the second session was nearly a full three seconds quicker on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
  • Of the 11 Pro Mazda drivers that ran today, only Carlos Cunha, Robert Megennis, Nikita Lastochkin, Kris Wright and Sting Ray Robb ran in the 2017 season. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any or all five of them running full-time in 2018 for what would be each of their second seasons in the championship, as returning sophomores along with what should be a glut of strong rookies. Wright, who also races sports cars, looks poised to add a second program of some other series to a planned Pro Mazda full season.
  • Megennis is planning to test with other teams in the weeks to come, as he tests for Juncos this week after racing in USF2000 with Pelfrey the last two years. Both he and Robb missed portions of sessions today with new car issues.
  • Several Indy Lights spins and off-course excursions occurred but none produced any serious issues. Rinus Veekay and Anthony Martin were among those to test the course limits but kept on going unharmed. Veekay had a spin in session three on new tires, then promptly laid down the fastest lap of the session for Belardi later on.
  • His teammate this weekend, Nico Jamin, wound up with the fastest lap of the day in Indy Lights – although he wasn’t quickest in the cool evening session, the fourth of the day, when most of the field ran some sticker tire runs on their Cooper tires.
  • Pro Mazda title combatants Victor Franzoni (Juncos) and Anthony Martin (Andretti) made their Indy Lights test debuts. The perpetually happy Franzoni wrote on Instagram, “Awesome day!! We finished the day in P3!! The most import we learned a lot!! Tomorrow will be even better!!” Martin, meanwhile, said this: “It’s obviously a new car – bigger, faster and a lot more downforce, so I’m adapting to it and growing up to it nice and slowly. You don’t want to push yourself too early, so we’re working up to a few things. You have to do things a lot quicker and you have to use a lot more brake pressure.”
  • In USF2000, it was an excellent day at the office for Pabst Racing with Andres Gutierrez – who impressed in a pair of weekends with DE Force Racing this year – leading three of four sessions, while teammates Hunter McElrea and Lucas Kohl were also in the top-five. Pabst has been busy running cars in both USF2000 and Pro Mazda this weekend.
  • Beyond Pabst, Newman Wachs Racing also had an excellent day, mainly with sophomore Darren Keane and Californian rookie Jake Craig. Keane, who’s coached by Ozz Negri, led the fourth and final session of the day, and stands as a driver who could make a big leap forward in performance if he secures a full season in 2018.
  • Another team of note today was BN Racing, with Callan O’Keefe – Keane’s teammate when both drove for Team BENIK at this race weekend last May – second best on the day. The South African is poised to be that team’s lead driver next season. Teammates Elliott Finlayson and Zoey Edenholm are working towards seasons of their own; Finlayson having coming off a recent Super Sweep in SCCA Runoffs competition at IMS last month and Edenholm having only just graduated from karts into cars just this month.
  • While the USF2000 field was primarily rookie-dominated, two-year series veteran Aaron Telitz made a cameo return today with RJB Motorsports, and brought the ex-ArmsUp chassis its best pace yet in RJB’s hands as the Wisconsinite ran with Mirl Swan and Alex Barron’s crew support. Past RJB driver and two-time Team USA Scholarship, Michai Stephens, was also on site today.
  • Speaking of ArmsUp, its top rookie from 2017, Devin Wojcik was on hand today making the rounds as well, although wasn’t in a car. He looks to return to USF2000 for a second season in 2018.
  • USF2000 boasted some good diversity with Pabst, BN, Newman Wachs, Exclusive, Pelfrey, BENIK and RJB teams in the top 10 today, but there’s one notable omission: Cape Motorsports. The seven-time defending champions in the series are not testing in USF2000 this weekend, and has just a single Pro Mazda car on site for Oliver Askew. Granted, the team is also at Circuit of The Americas this weekend for F4 U.S. Championship action, where Kyle Kirkwood has taken that series’ championship. DE Force, which also ran in USF2000 this year, is also not here this weekend as it’s at COTA. ArmsUp isn’t here this weekend either.