The Sprint Cup boys head to upstate New York this week for the second road course of the season. Watkins Glen is an 11-turn, 2.45-mile roadie that will again have very little passing and generally boring racing. That begs the question: If NASCAR is trying to draw in fans, why would they go to a road course at all? You often see the top drivers struggle, and some of the midlevel drivers are pulled from the car entirely. There are fans who will refuse to watch the two races at Sonoma and the Glen because they find it offensive or at the very least not worth their racing time.
Road-course racing presents an interesting challenge. Instead of roaring at high speeds into the corners, it often allows the drivers who are truly gifted at knowing how to set up a turn to their advantage. You think it's coincidence that Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart each have four victories at the Glen? They are two of the most skilled drivers that NASCAR will ever see. They get to show off their true talents at a course like the Glen. Robby Gordon has become known predominantly because of the road courses. He never seems to have the cars to be competitive anymore, so it's good to have a reason to cheer and see success for a driver like Robby Gordon.
I'm not saying that road courses are necessary. I'm on board with Tony Stewart, who noted a couple years back that for the Chase to be a true test of the best drivers, there should be one of every type of course NASCAR runs on, including a road course. Road courses have their value and it shouldn't be dismissed as a lost weekend. Of course, in fantasy, there are no lost weekends. We need to be entirely focused on what could happen this week just as much as for the lead up to the Daytona 500. Maybe that's why fantasy can make sports a little more fun.
Of course, projecting a road-course race before qualifying can be a little tricky. You want to pay attention to the drivers who qualify toward the front, since passing will be at a premium, although Kyle Busch won at Sonoma despite qualifying 30th.
Tony Stewart (Market value: 22.1) has won this race three of the past four years, and in the fourth year he finished second. That's what is called owning a track. Of course, he generally goes into these races on a much hotter streak than he is on right now, but that doesn't deter me from picking him as the top dog. He's a must own for this track.
The next tier
Carl Edwards (24.3) is now the most expensive driver in the game after winning at Pocono. He has been first or second in three of the past four races. He's been on a great run, and he is coming off back-to-back top-10s at the Glen. He should be a strong pick this week.
Jeff Gordon (22.7) also owns four wins at this track and is widely praised for his road-course racing ability. He's not coming into this race as the hottest driver, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been good, with top-11s in five of the past six races. He hasn't looked like he could compete for a win, but he's been a pretty steady top-10 car lately.
Juan Pablo Montoya (17.0) won his first NASCAR race in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series on road courses. His finish last year at the Glen was not good (39th), but he's a great driver for the lefts and rights of road courses.
Robby Gordon (14.1) is not the strongest option on most weeks in fantasy, but this is a great week to get him. He has an average finish of 8.8 at the Glen and is cheaper than the two best road-course ringers.
Ron Fellows (14.9) is one of said ringers and has had mixed results at the Glen. For now, let's focus on the fact that he has finished in the top four in two of the past four years, including a fourth-place finish last year.
David Gilliland (16.3) finished second at Sonoma, and that's really the only endorsement for him, but he was strong that day and this could be start of him displaying a strong road course prowess.
Greg Biffle (21.8) has a pretty horrible track record at Watkins Glen. In five races, he has finished 30th or worse four times. And only one of those was better than 35th. Without the high-banked, high-speed tracks, Biffle is generally pretty lost.
Jimmie Johnson (24.0): Threes are wild for the 48 car this week. He has three top-5s at the Glen, including a third last year. He also has three straight top-3s on the season.
Tony Stewart: You got to have your pick to win on your squad. Especially when he's not the most expensive driver.
Jeff Gordon: The other four-time winner should compete for a win this weekend. If not a win, then he should be good for a top five.
Juan Pablo Montoya: This squad is actually pretty easy to put together with how the prices are working.
Ron Fellows: Of the ringers, he should have the best finish. Boris Said is also a consideration.
Other notable track histories or trends
Denny Hamlin (22.2) has an average finish here of 6.0 with a 10th and a second in two races. ... Kyle Busch (24.1) has two straight top-10s at the Glen. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. (23.3) had four straight 18ths or better before blowing an engine last year. ... Jamie McMurray has finished 13th or better in three Glen races and was third two years ago.
Kevin Rounce is an editor for ESPN Fantasy Games.