Watkins Glen: Toyota Motorsports preview

HISTORY AT THE GLEN: This weekend, the Toyota Camry will make its second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) start at Watkins Glen International. In 2007, P.J. Jones was the highest-finishing Camry driver on the 2.45-mile road course in upstate N.Y.

HISTORY AT THE GLEN: This weekend, the Toyota Camry will make its second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) start at Watkins Glen International. In 2007, P.J. Jones was the highest-finishing Camry driver on the 2.45-mile road course in upstate N.Y. with a 25th-place result driving for Michael Waltrip Racing. Camry drivers Jeremy Mayfield (27th), Dale Jarrett (29th), Terry Labonte (30th), Dave Blaney (35th) and Brian Vickers (41st) were also in the field. Current Toyota driver Tony Stewart led 20 laps en route to the Watkins Glen checkered flag in 2007 -- Stewart's last NSCS victory.

TONY TIES BEST: Stewart equaled his best finish of the season Sunday in Joe Gibbs Racing's (JGR) No. 20 Home Depot Camry with a runner-up result at Pocono Raceway. A 41-minute red flag for rain with 69 laps remaining propelled many teams to gamble on their fuel strategy, but Stewart and crew chief Greg Zipadelli chose to pit for gas and tires before the delay. Once the skies cleared, the No. 20 Camry needed to make just one more pit stop, and finished second to race-winner Carl Edwards.

TONY TALKS: "We were on the same strategy as a lot of other guys," said Stewart, following the Pocono race. "We didn't get second today because of some trick. We were on the same plan as the 99 (Carl Edwards), the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.), and all those guys up front. We haven't had very many days like this one this year. I ran out of fuel before -- and it was nice to make it to the end there. Considering what our luck has been this year, this is as good as a win."

RACE RECAP: Stewart's second-place finish at Pocono was the highlight for the Camry contingent at the rain-interrupted Pocono race. AJ Allmendinger also used strategy to his advantage and finished 19th in the No. 84 Red Bull Camry. Other Toyota drivers in the field included Denny Hamlin (23rd), Michael McDowell (24th), Vickers (28th), David Reutimann (30th), Blaney (31st), Kyle Busch (36th), J.J. Yeley (39th) and Michael Waltrip (43rd).

GEARING UP FOR THE GLEN: Fresh off his second-place showing at Pocono, Stewart has some momentum heading into Watkins Glen, a track where he has enjoyed considerable success over the years. The 37-year-old Columbus, Ind.-native has four wins in the last six races at 'The Glen,' including 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2007. In nine career starts, Stewart has recorded seven top-10 finishes, and started on the pole in 2005. "I'm excited to go back to the Glen," says Stewart. "I love the road courses -- they're a lot of fun. We've historically had pretty good luck at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen. We're leaving (Pocono) with a smile on our face and looking forward to (this) weekend." POINTS PACE: Despite a 36th-place finish at Pocono, Busch heads to Watkins Glen as the current NSCS points-leader, holding a 176-point advantage over second-place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Camry drivers Stewart (ninth), Hamlin (10th) and Vickers (16th) are also in the top-20 in points after 21 of 36 races.

BACK-TO-BACK FOR BUSCH?: Busch won the season's first road course event at California's Infineon Raceway (June 22), leading a race-high 78 laps for his first-career NSCS win on a road course, but he doesn't think it gives him any more confidence heading into Watkins Glen. "It gave you a good sense that you were able to come out there and win on a road course race and be competitive," says Busch. "But, it doesn't give you the sense that you are going to be able to go out there and beat anybody on any particular week anymore than what you can, so you just try to keep going."

HAMLIN'S HOPES: Hamlin, driver of JGR's No. 11 FedEx Camry, finished second to Stewart in 2007 at Watkins Glen. Heading back to the circuit for the season's second and final road course event, the Chesterfield, Va.-native has seen his confidence climb on the road circuits. "I'm definitely more confident," says Hamlin. "We've really been successful at road course racing for some reason. For me, it's a lot like short track racing because the cars are set up very similar to that and that's where we tend to excel." Hamlin finished 10th at Watkins Glen during his rookie season in 2006.

RIGHT THINGS AT ROAD COURSE: Vickers, driver of the Red Bull Racing Team's No. 83 Camry, has one top-10 finish in four career starts at Watkins Glen -- an eighth-place run in 2005. "I like Watkins Glen," says Vickers. "I think it is by far my favorite of the two road courses that we go to. It's fast, it's fun, and it's a proper road course because it has sweeping turns, short turns and a lot of good passing zones. I've always enjoyed racing there and I definitely look forward to going back."

McDOWELL IN COOPERSTOWN: Before making his first NSCS start at Watkins Glen this weekend, McDowell will travel to Cooperstown, N.Y., on Aug. 7 to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Hall of Fame inducted its first class -- one that included Babe Ruth -- in 1939, less than 10 years before the inaugural sports car race in the streets of Watkins Glen. McDowell has competed at 'The Glen' in the Grand-Am Series, finishing fourth at the track in 2004 and 2005.

EIGHT IS GREAT: Camry drivers have earned eight NSCS wins in the first 20 races of 2008. Busch has won seven races in his JGR No. 18 Camry -- including his first career NSCS road course victory at California's Infineon Raceway (June 22). Busch has also finished first at Atlanta (March 9), Talladega (April 27), Darlington, S.C. (May 10), Delaware's Dover International Speedway (June 1), Daytona (July 5) and Chicagoland (July 12). Toyota's inaugural NSCS victory at Atlanta came in the 40th race for the Camry since Toyota joined the series at the start of 2007. Hamlin made his way to victory lane at Virginia's Martinsville Speedway (March 30) to record Toyota's second NSCS win.

-credit: toyota motorsports

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Jarrett , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Jimmie Johnson , Michael McDowell , J.J. Yeley , P.J. Jones , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin , Dave Blaney , Kyle Busch
Teams Red Bull Racing , Michael Waltrip Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing