Watkins Glen Weekend Preview: Allmendinger attempts to capture Chase berth

AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger

It’s now or, quite possibly, never for JTG Daugherty Racing’s AJ Allmendinger.

The road-course ace gets his best shot to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International (2:30 p.m. ET on USA).

“It’s no secret, I love this racetrack,” said Allmendinger, who made the 2014 Chase with the first, and only, win of his career at Watkins Glen. “I love road course racing.”

In seven career starts at the Central New York race track, Allmendinger owns one win, two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 10.1.

“This is a place – Watkins Glen and Sonoma, just road course racing in general – where I think a driver can make more of a difference, but you’ve still got to have the right package,” Allmendinger said.

Allmendinger also noted the new racing surface installed after last year’s contest will affect the competition on Sunday.

“Fuel mileage always plays a key factor in that race,” he said. “Now, with the repave, I think strategy is going to be even more important. … It’s going to be an interesting race for sure.”

The Californian understands how vital a Sunday win is to his Chase hopes.

“Obviously, for a win you’re going to take whatever risk you have to,” Allmendinger said. “We just have to go out there and do our jobs.”

Jones readies to carry road-course success into XFINITY Series

Erik Jones has been no stranger to success early in his NASCAR career.

Jones’ resume includes a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins, as well as five NASCAR XFINITY Series wins. And he just turned 20 in May.

Erik Jones. (Getty Images)

Erik Jones. (Getty Images)

The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing driver will make his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series road-course start in Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International (2 p.m. ET on CNBC) – the first of three upcoming tracks where series drivers will turn left and right.

Despite growing up racing on ovals, Jones excelled in his two career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series road course races with a win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last year and a third-place showing there in 2014.

“This will be my first time at Watkins Glen, and my first time at any of the XFINITY Series road courses,” Jones said. “With the new track pavement and the extra practice time on Thursday, we’ll spend time figuring out the track and getting comfortable with another new track for me.”

Jones, who leads the XFINITY Series with three wins and 11 top-five finishes this season does not lack confidence entering Saturday’s race.

“The few starts I have at road courses in the Truck Series resulted in a win and a third-place finish,” he said. “So hopefully we can have similar results this weekend when we take on Watkins Glen.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Cheez-It 355 at The Glen

Place: Watkins Glen International

Date and Time: Sunday, Aug.  7 at 2:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 220.5 miles (90 laps)

What to Watch For: Joey Logano, who swept the Watkins Glen races last year, goes for his second win of the season. … Jeff Gordon will become the ninth driver to make 800 starts when he takes the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the third consecutive week. … Pocono winner Chris Buescher tries to get into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by making his way into the top 30 in points. Right now he is 31st, six points behind 30th-place David Ragan. … Tony Stewart – the Watkins Glen track-record holder with five victories – goes for his sixth career win at the Central New York road course. … Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth will make his 600th career start. … Michael McDowell will make his 200th career start.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Race: Zippo 200

Place: Watkins Glen International

Date and Time: Saturday, Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. ET

Tune-in: CNBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200.9 miles (82 laps)

What to Watch For: Elliott Sadler attempts to increase his 19-point standings lead over Daniel Suárez. … Roush Fenway Racing enters the famed No. 60 car – that has a series-record 94 wins to its credit – for the first time this season. Trevor Bayne will pilot the No. 60. … Ty Dillon looks for a win after his second runner-up of the season at Iowa. … NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Kyle Larson, and Trevor Bayne will compete in the Zippo 200.

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