WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Three-peat at Watkins Glen? Not on Chase Elliott’s radar.
OK, maybe a bit.
“I’m just excited to be going back. I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Elliott, the reigning NASCAR Cup champion, said this week. “Every time you go to the track, look, it’s always going to be tough. As I’ve said many times before, past success doesn’t equal future success, and I don’t think that’s any different this weekend. I anticipate everybody else will be better than they were last time we were up there. And we just try to make sure we match it ourselves to have another shot.”
The NASCAR Cup Series resumes at Watkins Glen International on Sunday after a two-week break for the Tokyo Olympics, and Elliott will be chasing a little history.
He’s won the past two races at the natural terrain road course in the Finger Lakes region of New York — last year’s race was moved to the road course at Daytona International Speedway because of the pandemic and Elliott won that one, too — and another victory would put him in select company. Only Mark Martin (1993-95) and Jeff Gordon (1997-99) have won three in a row at The Glen since NASCAR began racing there annually in 1986.
Brad Keselowski will start on the pole alongside Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney is third, giving Team Penske the top three spots. Kyle Larson will go off fourth, Kevin Harvick fifth, points leader Denny Hamlin sixth, and Elliott 11th. There was no practice or qualifying.
Elliott will be making his 17th Cup road course start for Hendrick Motorsports. What he, crew chief Alan Gustafson and the rest of the team have accomplished with the No. 9 Chevrolet on the circuitous layouts is remarkable: seven wins across five tracks, nine top-five finishes and 326 laps led. He’s one victory shy of tying Tony Stewart for second all-time in road course wins and two behind Gordon.
And it all began at Watkins Glen in 2018, when he started third and led the final 33 laps to score his first career Cup victory after finishing second eight times.
“I think, for me, it’s a great honor to be even on the same page as Tony or Jeff,” said Elliott, who held off Martin Truex Jr. in both his wins at The Glen. “Whether we can ever get there or not, to even be in the same sentence, or ... on the same page, I think is very cool. While I appreciate it and I think it’s a very cool achievement, it’s not at the forefront of my focus.”
Ty Gibbs captures Xfinity Series win
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Ty Gibbs passed road race ace AJ Allmendinger after a restart with four laps to go and won the Xfinity race at Watkins Glen on Saturday.
It was the third win in 10 Xfinity races this season for the 18-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs. Points leader Austin Cindric was third.
Gibbs is a part-time rookie driver in the series this season, concentrating on the ARCA Series. It’s just a matter of time before he makes a big jump.
“My guys worked so hard,” Gibbs said. “I’m just at a loss for words. I just feel like being in these situations helps you.”
Allmendinger passed Gibbs going out of the first turn on the final restart, swinging wide left in the runoff area of the hard, 90-degree downhill right-hander and headed up through the esses. Gibbs gradually closed back in and drove his No. 54 Toyota past Allmendinger coming to the front straightaway with two laps to go on the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen layout and pulled away ever-so-slightly to the victory.
In the previous five races at The Glen, four finishes had a margin of victory under 1.6 seconds and this one added another. The margin of victory was just over a half-second. The series did not race last year at Watkins Glen because of the pandemic.
“Ty did a fantastic job. He raced me clean,” Allmendinger said.
Pole-sitter Hill takes Truck Series race
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Pole-sitter Austin Hill won the NASCAR Truck Series race at Watkins Glen International, taking the victory when lightning struck nearby and rain halted the race with 11 laps to go.
Hill held off John Hunter Nemechek on a restart with 15 laps left as thunderstorms neared, with Sheldon Creed, Todd Gilliland and Parker Kligerman in close pursuit. The race was red-flagged because of a lightning strike and with an Xfinity race on deck.
It was Hill’s second win of the season and eighth of his career. Nemechek was second, followed by Creed, Gilliland and Kligerman.
It was the final event of the regular season for the Truck Series and the 10-driver field was set for the playoffs. It is, in order of seeding, Nemechek, Hill, Ben Rhodes, Gilliland, Creed, Zane Smith, Matt Crafton, Carson Hocevar, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.
Nemechek had already clinched the regular-season championship in his first season driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He has five victories among his nine top-five finishes and 12 top-10s and entered the race with 49 playoff points, more than double that of any other driver.
The playoffs start Aug. 20 at Gateway in St. Louis.