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Race Weekend Preview – August 4-5, 2018

This weekend we are watching four races:

Saturday, August 4
1. NASCAR Xfinity Zippo 200, Watkins Glen International, NY
2. IMSA Continental Tire Series, Road America 120, Elkhart Lake, WI

Sunday, August 5
3. NASCAR MENCS GoBowling at the Glen, Watkins Glen International, NY
4. IMSA WeatherTech Continental Tire Road Race Showcase, Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI

With Formula One on hiatus until the Belgian GP on Aug 26 and IndyCar on a off-weekend, we are watching only four races this weekend – two NASCAR races at Watkins Glen and two IMSA races at Road America, both road courses.

Both of these traditional road courses have a well-known race fan watering hole associated with them. At the Glen it is the bar in the Seneca Lodge situated on the original circuit above the village. At Road America it is the Siebkens bar in the village of Elkhart Lake. I’ll be at the Seneca Lodge on Saturday after the NXS race as part of my Watkins Glen race-going tradition; I’ve been going there every year since the early 1970s. See you there?

NASCAR MENCS at Watkins Glen

NASCAR uses the short course at the Glen for its stock car races (it is 2.45 miles around counting the 'bus stop' chicane) and it seems to be an ideal road-course circuit for these cars. Given the different nature of this venue compared to the ovals, it generates extra interest, There are two other road-course events for MENCS this year, the race at Sonoma, which has already been run, and the October race at Charlotte, which will be run on a newly-laid-out ‘Roval’ or road course variant of that track’s traditional oval.

This Watkins event continues to be popular with the race fans. Although accommodation in the immediate area is a bit limited, many fans ‘camp out’ trackside in their motor homes. This style of camping might be a bit pricey to some; less expensive and less upmarket camping is usually available on the south side of the Townsend Road (#16) just to the west of the track (within easy walking distance) [42.346579, -76.937633].

All of the ‘Big Three’, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex are capable road course drivers, so it would not be unexpected for any one of these three to win here this weekend. Some MENCS drivers have a special reputation as road-course specialists, so keep an eye on people like A.J. Allmendinger and Daniel Suárez.

Last year’s winner was Truex over Matt Kenseth and Suárez. At Sonoma, the previous road-course race this year, it was Truex again, winning ahead of Harvick and Clint Boyer. At the most recent MENCS race, at the 2.5-mile Pocono triangular course, Kyle Busch was the winner ahead of Suárez, Alex Bowman and Harvick. Despite the consistency of the race winners here, given the unusual nature of the Watkins Glen circuit, I would consider a wild card like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano as well.

NASCAR Xfinity at Watkins Glen

The Xfinity race this weekend is running alongside the MENCS race and as such it has attracted a few Cup drivers onto the entry list – notably, Brad Keselowski, A.J. Allmendinger and Kyle Larson, all of who have serious road-racing talent.

Last year, the race was won by Cup drivers 1-2-3 – Kyle Busch, Logano and Keselowski. The top-finishing Xfinity regular was the JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier in fourth. This is the first road-course race for the Xfinity Series this year. The most recent Xfinity race was at the 7/8-th Iowa Speedway last weekend. That race, which had no MENCS drivers due to a conflict with the Cup race at Pocono the same weekend, was won by Christopher Bell holding off Allgaier and Kyle Benjamin.

Bell has won four NXS races in all so far this season and, as such, he looks like the best prospect to win the series championship this year. Having won each of the last three races he will be trying to tie Sam Ard’s 1983 record of four consecutive wins. He may find this to be a difficult feat given that his best road-course result in NXS was 19th last year at Road America.

The New England modified driver Ryan Preece will be entered again in a KBM Xfinity car. He has had some good runs recently with this team, including a win last year on the Iowa oval and one this year at Bristol. Those tracks are nothing like the Glen so it will be interesting to see how he manages on the road course.

IMSA WeatherTech at Road America

The 4.0-mile Road America road course is, along with Watkins Glen, one of the classic road courses in America. This track, which is located in the post-glacial moraine about one-hour’s drive north of Milwaukee, is often mentioned when possible F1 venues are mooted – but it is a bit too far out of the way and a bit too rustic as it stands now to properly host such a snooty event as an F1 Grand Prix. Nevertheless, this is a circuit that produces excellent racing and this IMSA weekend should be outstanding.

Last year’s race here was won by Overbeek/Derani in the No. 22 Nissan DPi with the Taylor brothers second in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi and the No. 2 Nissan driven by Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel was third. So far this year, we have seen two wins go to Cadillac DPi, two to the Penske Acuras, two to the LMP2 ORECAs and one to Nissan DPi. So, on the face of it, who is going to win the Elkhart Lake race is anybody’s guess.

IMSA Continental Tire Road America 120

Last year this race, for GT4 spec cars, was won by Dean Martin/Jack Roush Jr. In a Mustang with a Porsche Cayman second and a McLaren third. This year so far, four of the six races have been won by Mustangs, three of them by the pairing of Kyle Marcelli/Nate Stacy in a Roush/KohR entry. The first race, at Daytona, was won by a Porsche Cayman GT4/MR and the most recent race, at the tight Mid-Ohio circuit was won one-two by a pair of Mercedes-AMGs, this marque’s first win in the Continental series.

There are 25 GS class cars entered for Road America, so we can expect competitive racing here. There are many other makes of cars beyond the three that have recorded wins so far this year, so this race on the long Road America circuit may produce an unexpected winner





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