Hamlin clinches road course win
WATKINS GLEN (8/10/16)--Road racing at Watkins Glen International is often recognized for many things, among them is the high intensity restarts, close contact through the corners and a wild final lap. This year did not disappoint.
Denny Hamlin was able to lead for the final 10 laps Sunday to take the checkered flag in this year's Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. The race was also marked by eight cautions and two red flags as drivers struggled to find grip, negotiate the curbs and cooperate at Watkins Glen.
"The track is barely wide enough," said Hamlin after the race. "It's a one-lane racetrack. When you go to pass, you have to force somebody out of the way or they have to give you the spot. When they don't, it makes for very exciting wrecks. It just seems like really over the last five years or so, the road courses have taken a turn to be more aggressive. I think it has a lot to do with the Chase format, guys seeing this as a-win-and-you're-in type format. It's your opportunity when they really don't have cars that are competitive on the other racetracks."
Finishing in the top five were Hamlin, defending champion Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, AJ Allmendinger and Tony Stewart.
As Keselowski (running third) and Martin Truex Jr. (second) were pushing each other leading up to the final turn in the race, Truex spun after contact. Logano stayed to the inside of the corner to avoid the incident and was able to propel himself to second place on the front straight.
"Typical Watkins Glen," commented Logano. "I mean, it's just awesome, crazy racing, full contact. Just insane out there. So a lot of fun from the driver's seat and I'm sure the fans loved it as well in front of a sold-out grandstand. It was pretty cool when I pulled over for the red flag in front of the grandstands and I could hear just fans screaming and yelling and loving it. I thought, man, this is really cool to be in the driver's seat right now."
Logano was hoping to make Sunday's race his fourth win in a row at Watkins Glen. He drove to victory lane in Saturday's XFINITY Series Zippo 200 by holding off Paul Menard and Kyle Larson.
Watkins veterans, five-time winner Stewart and four-time champion Jeff Gordon (who was filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr.), had their share of problems Sunday. Stewart lost position early after an inner loop (bus stop) misstep, while Gordon contacted the car of Austin Dillon, but was able to race back to 14th.
Keselowski's third place finish moves him into first place for the Sprint Cup Series driver standings. Kevin Harvick, who was leading before Watkins Glen, is nine points behind in second.
NASCAR takes a week off before heading to Bristol Motor Speedway, Saturday, Aug. 20.
Racing action will return to WGI Sept. 2 to 4 for the IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen.