Perhaps it's because I have expanded my horizons to other circuits around the world this year, but I have found the road courses on the NASCAR schedule this season quite enjoyable. Watkins Glen was another road course this season that did not disappoint!
William Byron put up a "Good-Ole-Fashioned-Ass-Whoopin" in upstate New York, leading 66 of 90 total laps and winning by 2.63 seconds, giving him his fifth win and first win at a road course this season. The rest of Team Hendrick was nowhere in sight to finish the race. Larson finished in 26th, and Bowman finished in 23rd.
Of course, the big story of Watkins Glen is Chase Elliott running out of gas in arguably the most important race of his career up to this point. For the casual fans that don't know what happened, Elliott's car was running low on gas, and his crew chief had told him to flip the switch to activate the reserve gas tank and go three more laps around the nearly 2.5-mile track. A reserve tank can barely get a car around a 1.5-mile track like Charlotte.
I don't know how a team like the #9 team makes a mistake that bad in a race so important. The crew chief, the driver, the war room, nobody thought for just a second, "The reserve tank can't make it around this track." It's the type of mistake I might make in a video game, but not in real life when I'm being paid handsomely to make those calls and am competing in a must-win race.
Moving on from Hendrick, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski secured their spots in the playoffs off points alone. Bubba Wallace is currently the last driver in the playoff bubble unless he has an awful day and Ty Gibbs has a fantastic day, or somebody who has yet to win a race this season wins this Saturday in Daytona.
Daytona is a wildcard track where anybody can win. It's just a matter of making it to the end of the race, making the right moves at the end to put yourself in a winning position, having a few buddies on the track that can push you to win, and a little bit of luck. That's how Stenhouse ended up winning the Daytona 500.
Stenhouse and the #47 team are not the fastest or the most skilled team in NASCAR, so they have had to outsmart teams that may be faster and/or more skilled to have a season as successful as the season they have had. Daytona is one of those tracks where you have to be smart about every move you make. There are 35+ other drivers on the track, all of whom you have to make predictions on what their next actions are going to be. It's tricky business.
With one spot open in playoffs, expect a lot of chaos, especially towards the end of the race. Nearly 20 drivers who desperately want to make the playoffs are racing this weekend, and the last race of the regular season is a free-for-all with no holding back.
If you're not a fan of NASCAR, but have some interest, this is a fantastic race to tune into for the reason stated in the previous paragraph. Pick yourself a driver who has yet to lock their spot in the playoffs this season, and root for them. I'll leave a list of a few drivers below. Or, do what I do, root for Ricky Stenhouse and base your entire personality around being a fan. Things are just starting to heat up!
Drivers to Root For
#23 Bubba Wallace
#38 Todd Gilliland
#10 Aric Almirola
#99 Daniel Suarez
#14 Chase Briscoe