Watkins Glen Weekend Preview: Allmendinger attempts to clinch playoff spot

WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 10 2014: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane with champagne after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 10, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Win and you’re in is the name of the game in NASCAR these days. A visit to Victory Lane earns a driver a spot in the sport’s playoffs.

With five races left in the regular season, only three playoff berths remain.

Road course ace AJ Allmendinger –  who at 27th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings cannot get into the playoffs on points – will attempt to clinch a postseason bid in Sunday’s I LOVE NEW YORK 335 at Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The feat wouldn’t be unprecedented for Allmendinger, who captured his first career victory and playoff berth at Watkins Glen in 2014.

“Obviously, getting my first [Monster Energy] Cup win there is very special,” Allmendinger said about the Central New York road course. “It will be a place that no matter what I do the rest of my career will always be right at the top. Just a fun road course, very fast, I call it kind of the 1.5-mile of road courses. A lot of speed around there, especially since they repaved it last year.”

Allmendinger’s 2014 win was no fluke. In eight career starts at Watkins Glen, he has one victory, three top fives, five top 10s and a 9.4 average finish in eight starts. The No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing driver finished fourth in last year’s race.

“(Watkins Glen is) a place that I really enjoy, but more than anything, every time I pull through under the tunnel there into the race track I go back to 2014, getting my first [Monster Energy] Cup win, our team’s first [Monster Energy] Cup win and just what that meant,” Allmendinger said. “That always pushes me a little bit harder knowing that feeling in Victory Lane and wanting to experience that again. We will go there, put on a show, get back into Victory Lane and have another giant party.”

Custer hopes to continue recent success at The Glen

Youth hasn’t been a hindrance for 19-year-old Cole Custer this season.

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 18: Cole Custer (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

The youngest NASCAR Xfinity Series regular – and the only full-time driver born in 1998 – ranks sixth in the series standings on the strength of four top-five and nine top-10 finishes. He is currently riding a streak of four straight top-11 finishes.

Custer hopes to continue his recent success in Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) – the series’ first of three road course races this month.

The No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing driver has never competed at Watkins Glen in the Xfinity Series, but finished third there last year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East contest. Custer placed runner-up in his most-recent road course race – a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last September.

“I’ve been trying to get back into road-course racing a bit,” Custer said. “We tested some sports cars at Mid-Ohio, so that helped me get used to the sharp corners and get back in the flow of road courses. Our Haas Automation team has never raced before at a road course, but we definitely have a lot of smart guys that know how to set up a car, so we should be pretty strong this weekend.”

Watkins Glen Race Weekend Preview

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Race: I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at The Glen

Place: Watkins Glen International

Date and Time: Sunday, August 6 at 3 p.m. ET

Tune-In: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 220.6 miles (90 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 20), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on lap 90)

What To Watch For: Kevin Harvick tries to become the first driver since Kyle Busch in 2008 to sweep the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series road courses. … Pocono winner Kyle Busch goes for his second straight win. … Ten different drivers have won the last 10 races. … 2015 Watkins Glen winner Joey Logano attempts to clinch a playoff spot by visiting Victory Lane on Sunday. … Martin Truex Jr. readies to extend his points and playoff points leads in the I LOVE NEW YORK 335.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Race: Zippo 200 at The Glen

Place: Watkins Glen International

Date and Time: Saturday, August 5 at 2 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200.9 miles (82 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 20), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on lap 82)

What To Watch For: Joey Logano will attempt to become the first driver to win three consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series Watkins Glen races from the pole. … Five NASCAR Next alumni are competing in Saturday’s race: Cole Custer, Erik Jones, Matt Tifft, William Byron and Kyle Larson. … Elliott Sadler tries to extend his 54-point lead in the series standings over second-place William Byron. Byron leads the series with 17 playoff points, followed by Justin Allgaier (eight) and Sadler (five).

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