NASCAR returns this weekend
WATKINS GLEN--As the regular NASCAR season comes to an end and the playoffs are set to begin in September, the top racing series in America will visit Watkins Glen International this weekend. The Go Bowling at The Glen will feature 90 laps of the historic road course in Schuyler County with a 3 p.m. start time on Sunday, Aug. 21.
Coming into Watkins Glen, Kevin Harvick has seen back-to-back wins at Richmond Raceway last weekend and Michigan International Speedway the weekend before. However, fan favorite and 2018 and 2019 Watkins Glen winner Chase Elliott leads the series playoff rank followed by Ross Chastain and repeat WGI winner Joey Logano. Last year's champion and checkered flag recipient at The Glen, Kyle Larson, is ranked fourth.
"It's nice to be able to get to victory lane, and to do that two weeks in a row, I think today was just a total team effort," said Harvick after winning at Richmond. "They were great on pit road, they made huge adjustments and made the car better from where we started the race. Everybody is just communicating well, and I think that's really the key to evolving and progressing and doing the things that we've done."
Harvick, who is now 46, also reflected on a career that has now seen him reach the 60 victory milestone, something only 10 other drivers have been able to accomplish.
"It feels pretty neat," said Harvick. "I think for me, I have a hard time putting things into perspective because I've just done this for so long...I think it's kind of fun to see guys that are young enough to be your kids starting to drive the cars. They're young. Like Ty Gibbs is what, 19?"
NASCAR has seen a number of new drivers in the top series in recent years. Finishing second last week was Christopher Bell, 27, who won earlier this year at New Hampshire. Austin Cindric is 23 years old competing with Team Penske, William Byron is 24 running for Hendrick Motorsports as is Cole Custer with Stewart-Haas Racing.
This year will be the first for the new "Next Gen" car to take on the twists and turns at Watkins Glen. Casual fans will notice the difference in the graphic package, specifically, the number location moved more forward by the tire. The traditional lug nut wheel design has also been replaced by a single center-lock wheel that more closely resembles a sports car. Underneath the car, upgrades include independent rear suspension, rack and pinion steering and larger brakes. A new transaxle also combines the transmission and rear gears into one package with an eye on the future - the ability to incorporate electrification. The cars come in at around 3,500 pounds and produce up to 670 horsepower.
Although teams previously would bring in "road course ringers," to replace regular drivers for tracks like Watkins Glen, those days are largely a thing of the past. Two of the most notable ringers were Ron Fellows and Boris Said. That being said, former Formula 1 world champion driver Kimi Raikkonen will be piloting the Next Gen car at Watkins for Trackhouse Racing this weekend.
In the past, NASCAR only had two races on road courses, Sonoma and Watkins Glen. In 2022, there were six on the schedule, four of which have already been completed. Circuit of the Americas was the first road course of the year with Ross Chastain winning the first Cup race of his career. Sonoma was the second road course this year. Daniel Suárez, teammate of Chastain, took the number one spot. In the third race, Tyler Reddick came home number one over Chase Elliott at Road America. Reddick then won his second road course of 2022 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The king of NASCAR road courses is still Jeff Gordon with nine wins, four of which were at Watkins. Tony Stewart came in second with seven wins, five at WGI.
The weekend will include racing from the ARCA, Xfinity and Cup series cars. The action begins on Friday with ARCA practice at 3:15 p.m., qualifying at 4:25 p.m. and the race at 6 p.m.
Saturday will have the Xfinity practice starting at 10:05 a.m., qualifying at 10:35 a.m. and the race at 3 p.m. The Cup cars will also be on the track with practice beginning at 12:05 p.m. and qualifying at 1:05 p.m.
On Sunday, the Go Bowling at The Glen will go green at 3 p.m. TV coverage will be on the USA network this year.
Tickets are still available at www.theglen.com. Weekend options start at $160.