NASCAR Cheez-it 355 preview

This is the last road-course race of Jeff Gordon’s last full-time season on the Sprint Cup circuit.
This is the last road-course race of Jeff Gordon’s last full-time season on the Sprint Cup circuit. AP

Everything you need to know about Sunday’s Cheez-it 355 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International:

Three things to watch

1. Road racing is no longer such a foreign concept on the Sprint Cup circuit. There once was a time when a handful of drivers, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart, along with specialists dominated Watkins Glen and Sonoma, Calif.

2. Gordon is running out of races to clinch a Chase berth. He said after a third-place finish at Pocono last week that he needs to be somewhat conservative in his driving to avoid another disaster like his 42nd-place finish at Indianapolis on July 26.

3. How might the wrongful-death lawsuit filed against Tony Stewart Friday affect his focus Sunday?


▪ The Watkins Glen track layout is a little less extreme than the one at Sonoma. The turns are generally less sharp, which allows drivers to maneuver their cars more smoothly in the transition from oval tracks.

▪  Last week’s race at Pocono was decided on fuel mileage, with leaders Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. all running out of gas. Watkins could also be decided on fuel conservation; experienced drivers have an edge coasting through the variety of turns.

▪  AJ Allmendinger won qualifying Saturday, with Martin Truex Jr. finishing second and Stewart third. Track position can count for a lot at Watkins Glen, because it’s so difficult to pass.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Tony Stewart: He needs a victory and is as experienced a road racer as just about any Sprint Cup regular.

Jeff Gordon: He is still doing what he can to make up for that awful finish in Indianapolis two weeks ago.

AJ Allmendinger: He won his first Sprint Cup race in Watkins Glen last year, boosting his team into the Chase. He also won the pole Saturday.

He said it

“I’m actually praying for rain Sunday. I’d love to race in the rain.” Stewart on cars being equipped with windshield wipers and brake lights in the event of precipitation.


Getting there

Race facts

Cheez-it 355

Where: Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Track type: 3.4-mile road course.

Race distance: 220.5 miles, or 90 laps.

Green flag: 2 p.m.

Weather: Partly sunny skies with highs in the low 80s.


Radio: MRN.