Matt Slocum/Associated Press

A sense of normalcy takes the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series into Watkins Glen International for Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at The Glen. 

Kyle Busch got his first checkered flag of the season one week ago at Pocono, which based on the past few years, is quite the odd statement to hear about the sport in early August. 

Some would say better late than never, though, and fans emerge as the biggest winners not only because Busch is a must-have presence in the postseason, but because it’s yet another testament to the strength of the new stage-based format considering he’s driver No. 14 to register a win this season. 

The season isn’t done thrilling just yet, though, not with one of the summer’s top annual events at a marquee track set to chew up and spit out the drivers hoping to carry sound momentum into the postseason.

Here’s a look at everything to know about Sunday. 


Viewing Details

Where: Watkins Glen International 

When: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET

Watch: NBCSN

Live Stream: NBC Sports



NASCAR at Watkins Glen 2017

Jamie McMurray

Brad Keselowski

Austin Dillon

Kevin Harvick

Kasey Kahne

Trevor Bayne

Danica Patrick

Denny Hamlin

Ty Dillon (R)

Clint Bowyer

Reed Sorenson

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Kyle Busch

Daniel Suárez (R)

Matt Kenseth

Ryan Blaney

Joey Logano

Corey LaJoie (R)

Chase Elliott

Paul Menard

Ryan Newman

Matt DiBenedetto

Jeffrey Earnhardt

Landon Cassill

Chris Buescher

David Ragan

Kurt Busch

Kyle Larson

Aric Almirola

A. J. Allmendinger

Jimmie Johnson

Derrike Cope

Erik Jones (R)

Martin Truex Jr.

Stephen Leicht

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Michael McDowell


2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings

1. Martin Truex Jr. 823
2. Jimmie Johnson 566
3. Kyle Larson 738
4. Brad Keselowski 649
5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 468
6. Kevin Harvick 726
7. Kyle Busch 723
8. Denny Hamlin 649
9. Ryan Blaney 529
10. Kurt Busch 494
11. Ryan Newman 491
12. Kasey Kahne 414
13. Austin Dillon 395
14. Chase Elliott 616
15. Jamie McMurray 615
16. Matt Kenseth 594


Drivers to Watch

Denny Hamlin

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Denny Hamlin wouldn’t be one of the first to come to mind for most in terms of drivers to keep an eye on this weekend. 

But that’s exactly why he classifies here. 

Hamlin is exactly the sort of unassuming name who has taken fans by surprise this year at seemingly random events in large part thanks to this chaotic format. Think Ryan Newman winning in Phoenix, or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Talladega, or Kasey Kahne just a few weeks ago. 

Maybe topping that list is Hamlin reeling in a checkered flag at New Hampshire recently. He’s been on quite the roll, even if he manages to fly slightly under the radar at the same time—five top-five finishes over his last seven appearances have shot him right up the leaderboard. 

Not only is Hamlin the defending champion of this event, he has a little extra motivation going into the weekend, should he even suit up, as NASCAR explained: 

Should Hamlin miss the event, Regan Smith is quite the driver to watch as well given the storyline involved and his past flashes of major success. 

Either way, fans have quite the interesting angle to watch here as Hamlin and Smith approach The Glen. 


Joey Logano

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Each week of the season after the halfway point seems to feature a strong milk-carton candidate, meaning a guy who simply hasn’t performed as expected and continues to flirt with his postseason status for one reason or another.

Last week (and a handful of others), it was all about Busch. Now it’s all about Joey Logano. 

Logano, of course, already has one win on the year. But as fans might remember, it doesn’t count toward his postseason candidacy thanks to an L1-level penalty issued by NASCAR after the triumph at Richmond. 

Meaning Logano faces a must-win situation at The Glen and over the next handful of races because he remains on the outside of the playoff picture. Those around him are well aware of the dilemma. 

“We’ve got five race tracks we’ve been very successful at,” crew chief Todd Gordon said, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ George Diaz. “We just have to continue to do what we’ve done.”

The past few weeks have seen Logano take more risks than usual given the circumstances, and the approach offered mixed results. He wound up in fourth place at The Brickyard two weeks ago then hit a snag late at Pocono and finished 27th. 

Logano has won this event as recently as 2015, so if the aggressive style can mesh well with a fast team that has already reeled in one checkered flag this year, he could easily follow the same recent journey as Busch.


Kyle Busch

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Busch finally broke through. 

NASCAR flirted with danger here, as Busch’s struggles seemed ready to leave the sport without one of its biggest stars in the playoffs at a time when it’s trying to champion the major changes to format and rules. 

The Joe Gibbs Racing superstar put an end to the nail-biting issue for the sport at Pocono, though, leading 74 laps on his way to the checkered flag. Funnily enough, it was the smallest amount of laps led by Busch in a race over his last four, but it all falls under the “momentum” umbrella and should have the rest of the leaderboard nervous. 

Busch put on a show after getting his first-ever win at Pocono: 

“Never thought this day would happen,” Busch said, according to USA Today‘s Brant James. “We had such an awesome race car. We’ve been fighting all year but something always seemed to go wrong—just wasn’t sure why or what was next.”

Momentum and familiarity with Sunday’s event—he won it back in 2013—finally has Busch entering a weekend as a favorite from a position of strength. It’s great news for the sport moving forward, with the barrier for entry into the playoffs becoming all the more difficult. 


Stats and info courtesy of unless otherwise specified.

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