2018 NASCAR Watkins Glen: Highlights, stage results from the Go Bowling at The Glen

WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 05: The #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, is seen on pit road prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GoBowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 5, 2018 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 05: The #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, is seen on pit road prior to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GoBowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 5, 2018 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images) /

The road course at Watkins Glen beckons with very different challenges for NASCAR Cup Series drivers, and we’ve got live highlights, updates and stage results.

Road course races tend to divide NASCAR drivers right down the middle. Some get anxious when Watkins Glen pops up on the schedule. Others know the Go Bowling at The Glen is a better opportunity than most to grab a win that might otherwise elude them at an oval.

Either way, Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International promised to be crucial simply because time is running out before the playoff field is set. Just four regular season races remain after The Glen, meaning drivers without wins need every chance they can get to shore up their positions before Indianapolis arrives.

For drivers like AJ Allmendinger, a mid-pack regular who almost always shines at The Glen, it was potentially a final shot at the postseason. The problem was that he started the day behind cars that are fast everywhere, like the 18 of Kyle Busch and 78 of Martin Truex Jr., who began the race second and fourth, respectively.

Would a road course specialist rise to the occasion, or was this another chance for the Big 3 to flex their muscles and solidify their dominance?

Next. Go Bowling at The Glen starting grid. dark

Stage 1

A boring start at The Glen? Perish the thought. Not only did Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch battle for the lead with the 18 prevailing, both Joey Logano and Aric Almirola had issues — the latter perhaps with some “help” from Ryan Blaney.

Almirola’s incident brought out the first caution flag of the day, but Logano’s misfortune sent his No. 22 Ford to the garage. Incredibly, word came in quickly that Logano’s day was done after just a couple laps.

More favorites were in potential trouble too: AJ Allmendinger had damage to the front of his No. 47 Chevrolet (reportedly from contact with Logano separate from his race-ending accident), and his team wanted to see if it could prevent his engine from overheating.

As the laps ran down without further incident, the big question was which cars would hit pit road a few laps short of the end of the stage. The answer? A whole bunch of them, including Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Blaney. As the leader, Kyle Busch waited until the next time around and came in as well, but Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and William Byron were among those who chose to stay out.

Stage 1 results

  1. Martin Truex Jr.: 10 points plus 1 bonus playoff point
  2. Jimmie Johnson: 9 points
  3. William Byron: 8 points
  4. Michael McDowell: 7 points
  5. Brad Keselowski: 6 points
  6. Ryan Newman: 5 points
  7. Alex Bowman: 4 points
  8. Chris Buescher: 3 points
  9. Paul Menard: 2 points
  10. Matt Kenseth: 1 point

Stage 2

Kyle Busch got back in front on the restart and stayed there for the first part of Stage 2. That was, until the most popular pass possible happened: Elliott took the lead away from the 18 in emphatic fashion.

Less drivers played pit strategy this time around, but it mattered little to Elliott, who pulled away from Kyle Busch to win Stage 2 by more than two seconds.

Stage 2 results

  1. Chase Elliott: 10 points plus 1 bonus playoff point
  2. Kyle Busch: 9 points
  3. Denny Hamlin: 8 points
  4. Erik Jones: 7 points
  5. Martin Truex Jr.: 6 points
  6. Jamie McMurray: 5 points
  7. Kevin Harvick: 4 points
  8. Kyle Larson: 3 points
  9. Ryan Blaney: 2 points
  10. Daniel Suarez: 1 point

Final stage

Would Elliott be able to keep Kyle Busch behind him on the restart? Only for one turn. A bobble by Elliott gave the lead back to the 18, but with the 9 in hot pursuit, trying to reclaim what was lost.

With 43 laps to go, Elliott attempted a move very similar to the one that put him in first in Stage 2, but to no avail this time. Unable to catch the M&M’S car, crew chief Alan Gustafson told his driver to think about trying to save fuel instead.

A caution arrived to potentially shake up the script with 37 laps to go, as Matt DiBenedetto had engine trouble in the Inner Loop. That brought the entire field to pit road for a critical pit stop in the uniquely reversed Watkins Glen orientation. Kyle Busch and Elliott came out of the pits 1-2 in the same order, but Hamlin had an incredibly adventurous stop with the gun still attached and a tire bouncing into an adjacent pit stall. And there was a close call for one of Elliott’s pit crew members, though he fortunately was fine.

But an even bigger problem loomed for Kyle Busch. Because of a problem with the fuel seal, only a few gallons got into the 18, meaning he needed to come back to the pits to gas up. That put — guess who — Elliott back in the lead.

With a few cars who didn’t take two cars right behind Elliott on the restart, he was able to pull away at the front of the field. However, this time, it was defending race winner Truex who made it to second place.

With Truex narrowing the gap to Elliott to less than a second with 15 laps to go, it appeared to be a two-man race to the checkered. At the same time, though, Kyle Busch was up to seventh, figuring to be a handful on any late race restart.

Jimmie Johnson had trouble, backing into the wall with 10 to go but able to get going and keep the race green. The battle at the front see-sawed a bit back and forth with Elliott faster on some laps and Truex on others.

Truex’s crew chief, Cole Pearn, also raised the specter of fuel mileage playing a role before the laps ran out …

On the final lap, the mistake everyone pulling for Elliott was dreading came in turn 1. But Truex also had trouble making it through the turn clean, and though he closed again to near the bumper of Elliott, he could never pass him.

With fans on their feet in the stands, Elliott became the fourth driver in NASCAR Cup Series history to get his first victory at The Glen.