Race Weekend Central

The 10: NASCAR Cup Series Power Rankings After Watkins Glen

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series turned right for the second time of the season, as the series visited the Finger Lakes region of New York for the Go Bowling at the Glen at Watkins GLen International.

The last wild-card race before the playoffs gave many an opportunity to punch their ticket to the playoffs, and for many, it was possibly their last shot to win, including AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell and others.

For others, it was a chance to have some fun while also attempting to take some notes for the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Big Three made their name known again at Watkins Glen, with both Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. battling for the lead on multiple occasions. However, an empty fuel tank gave Truex a front row seat to history by race’s end.

That history was Chase Elliott‘s first career victory. After eight second-place finishes over the span of three seasons, Elliott finally broke through and earned that elusive first win.

1. Kyle Busch

There wasn’t an XFINITY Series race with Busch in it this weekend. What did the guy do on his off-day? He went to his local go-kart track and dominated against a bunch of amateurs.

OK, that’s not anywhere near true, but Busch still had some fun this weekend promoting the Bojangles Southern 500 in South Carolina after a roller coaster day in Watkins Glen.

Busch really pushed it to the limit, and had his gas can not had an issue, it could’ve been Busch vs. Truex vs. Elliott for the victory; the wheelman wheeled his car all the way from mid-pack to finish third by race’s end.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (+2)

Remember that GEICO commercial with the fisherman saying “you almost got that dollar” dangling in front of your face? I’m pretty sure that was how Truex felt this weekend. He was so close to earning that third straight road course victory, yet so far away.

I still remember seeing Elliott’s car getting smaller and smaller on the NBC onboard cam as Truex ran out of fuel. Had to be a terrible feeling for Truex just watching a win drive away.

3. Kevin Harvick (-1)

When it comes to road courses, Harvick seems to excel at Sonoma Raceway and just kind of participate in Watkins Glen. Yes, he came close to victory a few years ago at the Glen, but still… he came close, and close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

A 10th-place finish is a good way to begin or continue the momentum, and with six wins, Harvick can afford not to compete for victories.

Plus, that isn’t his number one concern — it’s those pesky batteries that are the real issue here.


4. Erik Jones (+1)

Was anyone aware Erik Jones was a road course ace? Yeah, neither was I. Jones was kicking tail on Sunday, battling up front the entire race. It seems like that victory has done so much good for everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, with the exception of Denny Hamlin, who has been missing out when it comes to racing up front.

Jones heads home this weekend to Michigan International Speedway. The next two races — Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway — were really strong for Jones last season, too. Maybe victory No. 2 is just around the corner.

5. Chase Elliott (+2)

He finally did it! Elliott got that monkey off his back and earn his first victory. It took his dad announcing he was coming out of retirement, but still, he finally got the victory in the Cup Series.

It’s good to hear the siren go off at the Pool Hall in Dawsonville again. Something tells me they are gonna need to keep it plugged in.

6. Kurt Busch (-3)

The word of the weekend for Kurt Busch was setback.

Failing post-qualifying tech was the first setback of the weekend, sending the No. 41 to the back. Then a flat tire set him back again, and he still ran well and landed the No. 41 inside the top 10.

We’re approaching a time of year where Busch was really starting to ignite last season; can that magic return?

7. Clint Bowyer (-1)

Nobody parties the way Clint Bowyer parties, but when there’s a first-time winner who’s likely to be 2018’s most popular driver of the sport, he might have met his match.

Bowyer was missing most of the afternoon at Watkins Glen, but then again, like teammate Harvick, Sonoma is a much better track to Bowyer.

8. Daniel Suarez (NR)

Where did Daniel Suarez come from? Since he was awarded the pole at Pocono Raceway, Suarez has been on a tear, and though it’s not surprising per se, he sort of came out of nowhere.

Suarez has competed up front the last two weekends and is coming to a track where he picked up his first career XFINITY Series victory. Good momentum and knowing you can run with the leaders can result in good things — just ask Elliott.

9. Kyle Larson (-1)

Some drivers have tracks where if they don’t perform, there’s cause for concern — Jimmie Johnson at Dover International Speedway, Kyle Busch at Bristol, etc.

That will be the case this weekend for Kyle Larson at Michigan should he underperform.

Granted, Larson finished sixth at Watkins Glen, but he still hasn’t picked up that victory, and that should be more concerning than anything.

10. William Byron (NR)

Much like Suarez, William Byron has really peaked in recent weeks with great finishes back to back. Is it a sign that the youth movement is about to take over, or is it just a few lucky breaks? Only time will tell.

About the author


His favorite tracks on the circuit include Barber Motorsports Park, Iowa Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, and Bristol Motor Speedway.

During the season, Christian also spends time as a photographer with multiple other outlets shooting Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Minor League & Major League Baseball, and NCAA Football.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via