Friday, August 4, 2017

Entry List Storylines: Watkins Glen

P.J. Jones' last NASCAR attempt at The Glen, 2011
I Love New York 355 at the Glen

Just 37 drivers will take the green in Sunday’s annual trip to Watkins Glen International, the shortest field at the track since 36 took the green in 1986.  Missing this week are both Premium Motorsports’ #55 and Rick Ware Racing’s #51, which both ran the previous road course at Sonoma with Tommy Regan and Josh Bilicki.  Bilicki will instead run Saturday's XFINITY race, driving in place of B.J. McLeod in the #8 with sponsorship from Prevagen.  As at Sonoma, BK Racing didn't enter its #83 Toyota, but on Wednesday it rejoined the list, the only Open team entered.  Driving the #83 will be Brett Moffitt, who after losing his Truck Series ride at Red Horse Racing will make his first Cup start since the 2015 finale at Homestead.

Boris Said returns to Circle Sport with The Motorsports Group along with returning sponsor Genesee Brewing Company on the #33 Chevrolet.  As reported here in Sonoma, Sunday will likely be the 54th and final Cup start for the 54-year-old road ringer.  In 16 previous Cup starts at The Glen dating back to 1999, Said’s best finish was a 3rd in 2005 driving for Bob Sutton.

Making his Cup debut on Sunday will be Halton Hills, Ontario driver Gary Klutt.  Currently 14th in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series standings, Klutt won the Canadian stock car series’ race at Mosport in 2015 from the pole, the highlight of his Rookie of the Year campaign.  He also drove for Kyle Busch Motorsports in his lone Truck Series start at the same track last year, finishing 11th.  On Sunday, he will climb aboard the Chartered Premium Motorsports entry, #15.

Israeli driver Alon Day made history at Sonoma, but this week he’s not entered in BK Racing’s #23 Toyota.  When interviewed after Sonoma, Day was doubtful if he would be running The Glen, and radio transmissions revealed the driver's difficulty communicating with the crew.  Corey LaJoie, who sat out Sonoma, is slated to drive in what will be his Watkins Glen debut.  The team has acquired new sponsorship from Super Donut, which has never sponsored a car in NASCAR’s top three national touring series.

Also on standby will be Regan Smith, who will be on hand for Joe Gibbs Racing.  Denny Hamlin's girlfriend is expected to give birth on August 11, so Smith has been put on standby to drive the #11 FedEx Toyota.  Smith has six Cup starts at The Glen, most recently last year, when he finished 35th for Tommy Baldwin.  His best series finish at the track came in 2012, when he ran 9th for Furniture Row.

Erik Jones now finds himself in a "must-win" situation if he's to make the Chase.  An L1 penalty handed down on Wednesday for an improper rear suspension handed down a 25-point penalty, dropping him even further behind Matt Kenseth for the final Chase spot.  Jones finished 12th in last year's XFINITY race at The Glen, his only NASCAR start at the track.

Zippo 200 at the Glen

There’s no short field issues on the XFINITY side as 42 drivers will bid for the 40 spots in Saturday’s 82-lapper.  Among them are no less than eight Cup Series regulars pulling double-duty: Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Larson.  At the other end of the field, Jeff Green, now five finishes away from his 100th last-place run in XFINITY competition, is again the last-place favorite in RSS Racing’s #93 Chevrolet.

Welcome back P.J. Jones, who hasn’t competed in NASCAR’s top three series since 2011 and not in the XFINITY Series since a 38th-place finish in this race in 2008.  The open wheel, sports car, and stock car road ringer eyes his fourth series start at The Glen.  To make the cut, he’ll have to make the most of Jeff Spraker’s #25 Advanced Communications Group Chevrolet, a car driven earlier this year by Chris Cockrum.  This marks only the fifth entry for #25 this year and the first since Cockrum’s 26th-place finish last month at Daytona.

Also welcome back Devin Jones, who we haven't seen compete in NASCAR since he finished 24th in his lone Truck Series effort at Martinsville on April 6, 2013.  The late model driver from California has since honed his road racing skills in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and is expected to make his XFINITY debut on Saturday.  He will be the fifth different driver to race SS Green Light Racing's #07 Chevrolet this season.  The car carries sponsorship from VeriStor, the same company which backed Jones' Truck Series effort.

A new face this week is Brian Henderson, who this week takes the controls of the #90 BDL Motorsports Chevrolet.  While the car is fielded by Mario Gosselin’s team King Autosport to guarantee him a spot in the field, Henderson’s car will be maintained by Henderson’s BDL Motorsports team, which last year fielded his cars in the K&N Pro Series East.  Henderson’s best finish in that division came on the road course at Virginia International Raceway.  Making his series debut that day, Henderson finished 9th in a race won by current Truck Series racer Austin Cindric.

Tommy Joe Martins tweeted this week that he wasn’t entered at Watkins Glen, but the track remains one of his “bucket list” tracks.  Driving in his place in the #78 Chevrolet for B.J. McLeod Motorsports (alongside Josh Bilicki in the #8), is English driver Stephen Young, whose blue Wealth Recovery International Chevrolet will carry the Union Jack on the roof.  Young is the defending champion of the V8 Masters Series, a European road racing series which campaigns Ford Mustangs with similar specs to Trans-Am.

Also returning to the entry list is Biagi-DenBeste Racing, which we last saw withdraw from Indianapolis two weeks ago.  This week, Casey Mears is again the driver of the #98 GEICO Military Ford.  In 13 Cup starts at The Glen, Mears’ best finish was a 4th in 2004.  He also finished 8th in his lone XFINITY effort at the track in 2007, back when he drove for Hendrick Motorsports.

For the first time since Charlotte, Mike Harmon is handing over the controls of his #74 Veterans Motorsports, Inc. Dodge to another driver.  This week, it’s Cody Ware, who seeks to make his first XFINITY start of the season.  His most recent series start came in this race last year, when he drove his father’s #25 Chevrolet to a 21st-place finish.  Time will tell if Ware’s back injury, which sidelined him at Pocono, will affect his performance on the demanding road course.  Qualifying will prove critical, as it was during the same Charlotte race where Jordan Anderson drove the car that the #74 scored its fifth and most recent DNQ.

Next Race: LTI Printing 200 at Michigan
Saturday, August 12, 2017

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