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Cheez-it 355 Betting News and Notes

Cheez-it 355 Betting News and Notes

Watkins Glen International Data

Season Race #: 22 of 36 (08-10-14)
Track Size: 2.45-miles
Number of Turns: 7
Race Length: 90 laps / 220.5 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Watkins Glen

Tony Stewart 120.4
Marcos Ambrose 120.1
Kyle Busch 113.3
Juan Pablo Montoya 10.5
Brad Keselowski 102.8
Jimmie Johnson 100.6
AJ Allmendinger 94.7
Carl Edwards 94.6
Martin Truex Jr. 92.8
Kurt Busch 91.8

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Watkins Glen International.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner:
Marcos Ambrose, Ford
128.241 mph, 68.777 secs. 08-09-13

2013 race winner:
Kyle Busch, Toyota
87.001 mph, (02:32:04), 08-11-13

Track qualifying record:
Marcos Ambrose, Ford
128.241 mph, 68.777 secs. 08-09-13

Track race record:
Mark Martin, Ford
103.030 mph, (02:11:54), 08-13-95

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Re: Cheez-it 355 Betting News and Notes

Watkins Glen Driver Tale of the Tape

AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Scott Products Chevrolet)

· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 9.2
· Average Running Position of 13.5, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.7, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.842 mph, seventh-fastest

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 STANLEY Ford)

· Two wins, five top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 6.8
· Average Running Position of 8.6, second-best
· Driver Rating of 120.1, second-best
· Series-high 125 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 120.616 mph
· 425 Laps in the Top 15 (78.4%), 10th-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)

· One top five, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 19.8
· Driver Rating of 91.8, 10th-best
· 47 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· 364 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.901 mph, sixth-fastest
· 475 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4%), eighth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota)

· Two wins, four top fives, eight top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.1
· Average Running Position of 10.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 113.3, third-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 120.107 mph, fourth-fastest
· 616 Laps in the Top 15 (75.7%), third-most
· 175 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Kelloggs/Cheez-it Ford)

· Four top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.8
· Average Running Position of 12.6, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.6, eighth-best
· 15 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 405 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.630 mph, ninth-fastest
· 588 Laps in the Top 15 (72.2%), fourth-most
· 178 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota)

· One top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.0, 12th-best
· 11 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 374 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.598 mph, 10th-fastest
· 416 Laps in the Top 15 (57.6%), 11th-most
· 158 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)

· One win, two top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 15.7, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 88.3, 11th-best
· 10 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 390 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.442 mph, 11th-fastest
· 480 Laps in the Top 15 (59.0%), seventh-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

· Four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.8
· Average Running Position of 10.2, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 100.6, sixth-best
· 27 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.971 mph, fifth-fastest
· 637 Laps in the Top 15 (78.3%), second-most
· 188 Quality Passes, second-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)

· Three top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 6.5
· Average Running Position of 12.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 102.8, fifth-best
· 29 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.842 mph, eighth-fastest

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Code 3/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)

· Five wins, seven top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 7.9
· Series-best Average Running Position of 5.7
· Series-best Driver Rating of 120.4
· 106 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 120.465 mph, second-fastest
· Series-high 678 Laps in the Top 15 (93.6%)
· Series-high 195 Quality Passes

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)

· Three top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 12.4
· Average Running Position of 12.0, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.8, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 119.400 mph, 12th-fastest
· 519 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), sixth-most
· 179 Quality Passes, third-most

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Cheez-It 355 at The Glen
By Micah Roberts

Check out Dale Earnhardt Jr. who just won his third race of the season to tie him for the most in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. His win at Pocono last Sunday gave him a season sweep there -- the only two wins of his career there -- which was also his first sweep since winning both Talladega races in 2002. It also gave him his series leading 10th top-5 finish on the season.

Yes, this is definitely a new Dale Jr., probably better and more consistent than we have ever seen out of him, including his days driving the No. 8 Budweiser car for DEI. After his win Sunday the LVH Super Book dropped his odds to win the Sprint Cup Chase from 8/1 (Bet $100 to win $800) down to 6/1 showing that they believe a little bit in the crazy numbers Junior is spitting out.

Remember, last season, even though he didn’t win a Chase race, he would have won the Championship under the new format that will be employed this season which is kind of a bracket where Homestead will be the championship game for the final four drivers.

Junior has never won on a road course before and this week he’ll try and tackle the course at Watkins Glen International where his best finish was third-place in 2003, one of two top-5 finishes he has on the course. Between the two road courses run on each season -- Sonoma being the other -- Junior‘s best chance at winning on one is at The Glen just because it‘s less technical and runs much faster. He’ll have 40/1 odds this week, but I’m not ready to jump on board the Junior train here yet. I’ll stick with the meat and potatoes.

You have to start with Marcos Ambrose, who has his only two career Cup wins at Watkins Glen and has an average finish of 6.8 in six starts. He’s finished third or better in five of those starts. He is the driver to beat and has run well in every car he's been given at the track. There's no reason to believe he won't be fast here and possible get the win which should be an automatic ticket into the Chase.

Then you have Brad Keselowski, who has finished second the past three seasons, twice behind Ambrose and then also last year to Kyle Busch. That type of consistency is attractive from a wagering standpoint because you're getting great odds on him and he's still hungry enough to do all he can to race his heart out for his first win on the track. He is the best value play of the bunch and he's be one of two early plays I made prior to Friday and Saturday's practices and qualifying.

Busch is at two-time winner at The Glen, Tony Stewart is a five-time winner and Jeff Gordon is a four-time winner. Stewart last won in 2009 and Gordon last won in 2001, which surprisingly is his last top-5 on the course. That’s right, Gordon, one of the best road course racers in NASCAR history has gone 12 straight races at Watkins Glen without a top-5 finish.

The odd part about Gordon is that at Sonoma, he's been amazing with nine straight top-10 finishes including runner-up in three of the past four events. What the hell happened to him at Watkins Glen? The one strong point with Gordon this week that may buck the trends is that he hasn't been as consistent every like he is this season since his last championship in 2001, which is also the last time he won at The Glen.

Carl Edwards won at Sonoma in June and should be considered a live candidate to win this week because of his 8.8 career average finish at The Glen. He was fourth last season and should get another top-5 on Sunday. Edwards will be my other early wager and can be found at nice 25/1 odds.

Be sure to check out qualifying and the practices before finalizing your plays. Qualifying might be more important here than at any other track. Of the 31 races run on the course, 21 of the winners have started from within the top-5. That's 67 percent and about as telling a stat as you'll find in NASCAR.

Top-5 Finish Prediction

1) #2 Brad Keselowski (8/1)
2) #9 Marcos Ambrose (5/1)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (7/1)
4) #99 Carl Edwards (25/1)
5) #15 Clint Bowyer (12/1)

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Road course master heads Watkins Glen oddsboard
By: Micah Roberts

LAS VEGAS -- Marcos Ambrose has only two career NASCAR Sprint Cup wins, and they have both come on the 2.45-mile road course at Watkins Glen International. Because of his documented skills in just about any type of car he’s driven on the track, the LVH SuperBook has made him the 5-to-1 favorite in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355.

Ambrose won at Watkins Glen in back-to-back seasons, 2011 and 2012, and prior to that, he finished third or better in his first three starts on the track. He stumbled to a 31st-place finish last season, but in actuality, he dominated the race. He led 51 of the first 61 laps, until being shuffled back during an inopportune caution, where he started 12th and then got caught up in a wreck with five laps remaining. So don't for a second believe he's trending downward. In six Cup starts, even with last season’s poor finish, he has an amazing 6.8 average finish at the Glen, second best in the series.

The top average finish goes to Brad Keselowski, who, in four starts, has a 6.5 average. Since finishing 20th at the Glen in 2010, his first start at the track, he’s posted three straight seconds – twice to Ambrose and last season to Kyle Busch. The LVH has Keselowski listed as co-second choice to win Sunday, along with Busch, at 7-to-1. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Keselowski and Ambrose finish 1-2 again, in no particular order, making it a good quinella bet (if it was offered).

Kevin Harvick, with his 13.1 career average finish at the Glen, is listed next at 8-to-1. Harvick won this race in 2006, but hasn’t had a top-five there since.

The next tier of candidates come in at 10-to-1, and for one of them – Jeff Gordon – those odds might be the highest offered on him on a road course since his rookie season. Even though Gordon’s nine road course wins between Watkins Glen and Sonoma are the most in NASCAR history, he’s been very average over his last 12 races at the Glen since his last win there in 2001. Over those last 12 races, he doesn’t have a single top-five finish, which is kind of shock since he’s been stellar during the same time frame at Sonoma.

Of course, Sonoma and Watkins Glen are completely different tracks – Sonoma is the more technical of the two, and Watkins Glen is much faster. Jamie McMurray won the pole at Sonoma in June with a record speed of 96 mph. Last season, Ambrose won the Glen pole at 128 mph.

During Gordon’s years of road course mastery from 1997-2006, you’d be lucky to find odds on him higher than 3-to-1. In today’s NASCAR world, there are several drivers capable of winning on the roads, and while a few still don’t like making right turns, there are plenty more who see this as an opportunity to use their skills as an advantage over big horsepower teams against whom they have virtually no chance on the 1.5-mile tracks. Ambrose fits that profile, as well as A.J. Allmendinger, Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr and Aric Almirola.

Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer are also listed at 10-to-1. This is one of four tracks Johnson has yet to win at, but he has a very respectable 12.8 average finish, coming in third-place twice. Bowyer has been much better over his career at Sonoma, but finished a career-best fourth at the Glen in 2012 and was sixth there last season.

The one driver who gave Gordon some trouble on the road courses over his incredible reign was Tony Stewart. They had some epic battles on the roads, as a young and brash Stewart wasn’t about to bullied. Smoke slowly became better and more consistent than Gordon at Watkins Glen, winning at this track a record five times, most recently in 2009. An injured Stewart missed the race last season and was 27th and 19th in the two previous years, which is why he’s getting 12-to-1 odds this week, probably the highest number for Stewart on a road course since his rookie season.

While Ambrose and Keselowski are both going to be tough to beat, the best value on the board might be Carl Edwards at 25-to-1. He’s never won at Watkins Glen, but did grab the first road course win of his career in June at Sonoma. In nine Watkins Glen starts, he has an 8.8 average finish, including fourth-place last season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr comes in at 60-to-1 odds, which may look attractive for a driver who is running at the highest level of his entire career, but there’s a good reason for the high odds. He’s just not very good when having to turn right. His best finish was third-place in 2003, and the following year he was fifth, but he hasn’t finished better than 10th in any race since then and his overall average finish is 23.2. But hey, who knows – he never won at Pocono before this season and now he’s won there twice.

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Chassis Selections

#1-Jamie McMurray: chassis not reported on race preview.
#2-Brad Keselowski: Primary Chassis: PRS-914. Last Raced: Dover (finished 2nd). Backup Chassis: PRS-853. Last Raced: Loudon backup (not raced)
#3-Austin Dillon: will pilot Chassis No. 469 in the NASCAR 355 at the Glen. This is the same Chevrolet SS Dillon raced to a 17th-place finish at Sonoma Raceway in June.
#5-Kasey Kahne: Crew chief Kenny Francis has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-876 for Sunday's race at Watkins Glen. Kahne drove this chassis to a sixth-place finish at Sonoma Raceway in June.
#7-Michael Annett: chassis not reported on race preview.
#9-Marcos Ambrose: chassis not reported on race preview.
#10-Danica Patrick: Chassis No. 10-759: Chassis No. 10-759 was first used by Patrick in June 2013 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, where she started 31st and finished 29th. It was then used in August at Watkins Glen (N.Y) International, where she started 35th and finished 20th. Patrick drove it in June 2014 at Sonoma and started 11th and finished 18th.
#15-Clint Bowyer: Chassis No. 767 serves as the primary chassis for Bowyer at Watkins Glen. This chassis raced at Sonoma in June where Bowyer finished 10th. He raced it to a fifth-place finish at Sonoma and a sixth-place finish at Watkins Glen in 2013. Chassis No. 770 serves as the back-up chassis and has never been raced.
#16-Greg Biffle: Chassis RK-764 has been around for a few years, but last hit the track one year ago at Watkins Glen. Backup Chassis: RK-916 Last ran Sonoma - finished
#17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Chassis RK-758 is the same chassis that the #99 team used in 2012 as a backup for all road course races. Backup Chassis: RK- 919 - Last raced at Sonoma - finished 31st
#18-Kyle Busch: chassis not reported on race preview.
#20-Matt Kenseth: chassis not reported on race preview.
#22-Joey Logano: Primary Chassis: PRS-913. Last Raced Dover (finished 8th) Backup Chassis: PRS-844 Last Raced: Kentucky backup (not raced)
#24-Jeff Gordon: Alan Gustafson has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 24-878 for this Sunday's race. This chassis has been raced once with Gordon finishing second at Sonoma Raceway in June.
#27-Paul Menard: will race chassis No. 470. This Chevrolet SS was previously raced at Sonoma Raceway where Menard secured his second-consecutive, top-five finish of the 2014 season.
#31-Ryan Newman: will drive chassis No. 471 in Sunday's NASCAR 355 at The Glen. This chassis was utilized earlier this season in NASCAR's first road-course event at Sonoma Raceway where Newman qualified 11th and finished seventh.
#34-David Regan: chassis not reported on race preview.
#38-David Gilliland: chassis not reported on race preview.
#41-Kurt Busch: will pilot Chassis No. 661 in Sunday's Cheez-It 355k at The Glen. Chassis No. 661 was most recently raced at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June, where Busch started fifth and finished 12th.
#42-Kyle Larson: chassis not reported on race preview.
#43-Aric Almirola: chassis not reported on race preview.
#47-A.J. Allmendinger: chassis not reported on race preview.
#48-Jimmie Johnson: Crew chief Knaus has selected Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 48-875 for this weekend's event. This chassis is the same Chevy SS with which Johnson finished seventh at Sonoma. The backup car is Chassis No. 48-801, which last saw on-track action at Watkins Glen last season, where Johnson finished eighth.
#51-Justin Allgaier: chassis not reported on race preview.
#55-Brian Vickers: Primary: 772 finished 14th at Sonoma. Backup: 771 has not raced.
#78-Martin Truex Jr.: chassis not reported on race preview.
#88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.: This weekend, crew chief Steve Letarte and the #88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-747. Earnhardt first raced this chassis at Watkins Glen in 2012. Most recently, he drove this car to record a third-place finish at Sonoma Raceway in June.
#99-Carl Edwards: Primary chassis RK-917 was last run in 2014 at Sonoma, starting in the 4th spot and winning the race. Backup chassis RK-853 was last brought to Sonoma in 2014 as the back-up car.

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Driver Handicaps: Watkins Glen
By: Pete Pistone

To assist in making your fantasy racing picks,'s Pete Pistone helps steer you toward Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.

Who's HOT at "The Glen"

Jeff Gordon: At one time, he was considered NASCAR's "King of the Road," although things have tailed off some in recent years.  Still, Gordon's riding a red-hot season into Watkins Glen this weekend and despite not having a top-10 finish at the track since 2010, don't count him out.

Jimmie Johnson: His season has gone the opposite of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon in recent weeks and the six-time Sprint Cup champ has struggled.  But he's more than capable of snapping that string with a good day at "The Glen."  Johnson has two straight top 10s at the track.

Marcos Ambrose: The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has five total wins at Watkins Glen including three Nationwide Series victories and two in the Sprint Cup Series.  There's a lot riding on potential Cup win No. 3 on Sunday, including a spot in the post-season Chase.  Ambrose might be facing the biggest race of his NASCAR career come Sunday afternoon.

Tony Stewart: If anyone needs to return to form at Watkins Glen, it's Stewart - who, like Ambrose, needs a win in the final five races of the regular season to make the Chase field.  He missed last year's race due to his leg injury, but Stewart should be in the picture as an impact player on Sunday.

Kyle Busch: Since finishing 33rd in his Watkins Glen Cup debut in 2005, Busch has not finished outside the top 10 including wins in 2008 and again last season.

Who's NOT

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The good news is that Earnhardt also isn't historically very good at Sonoma but turned in a solid finish at the other road race of the season back in June.  But he'll have to overcome a tough Watkins Glen record that shows a 23.5 average finish over the last decade.

Greg Biffle: The Roush Fenway Racing driver has never been synonymous with road racing success during his NASCAR career and Biffle's 22.4 average finish over his last 10 starts at "The Glen" bears that out.

Paul Menard: His best Watkins Glen finish is 12th in 2012.  He placed 17th in last year's edition of the Cheez-It 355.

Kasey Kahne: The clock is ticking on Kahne's chances to get a win and make the Chase, but the odds are stacked against him at Watkins Glen.  A pair of 14th-place performances in his last 10 starts at the track are the best Kahne's been able to muster.

Denny Hamlin: His second week with interim crew chief Mike Wheeler in for the suspended Darian Grubb will be a challenge to improve Hamlin's Watkins Glen average finish from 19.5.

Who to Keep an Eye On at "The Glen"

Carl Edwards: He claimed his first career road racing victory at Sonoma in June and has six top-10 finishes in nine career starts at "The Glen."

AJ Allmendinger: His best shot to steal a win and a spot in the Chase comes Sunday at Watkins Glen, where he was 10th last year.  Allmendinger also was impressive for JTG/Daugherty Racing earlier this year at Sonoma.

Martin Truex Jr.: His first year at Furniture Row Racing would receive a huge shot in the arm if Truex could somehow win, which isn't out of the question based on his string of two top fives in his last three Watkins Glen starts.

Clint Bowyer: He and crew chief Brian Pattie can't explain why Bowyer is such a good road racer.  But the fact is he's pretty slick and has two straight top-10 performances at Watkins Glen heading into this weekend.

Kevin Harvick: The 2006 Watkins Glen winner is usually fast every week and there's no reason to think that won't be the case again come Sunday. Staff Picks

Pete Pistone: Kyle Busch
Dustin Long: Kyle Busch
John Singler: Carl Edwards
Jeff Wackerlin: Marcos Ambrose

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Watkins Glen Lineup Breakdown for Sprint Cup Cheez-It 355
By Bob Pockrass

Here’s a look at the lineup for the 90-lap event:

1. Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet — Has four wins at Watkins Glen but none since 2001. He has had an incredible. He won the pole. It was announced that Drive To End Hunger is back for 13 races next year (albeit 10 fewer). And he dined at The White House to talk with African leaders about his fund-raising work for a Rwanda hospital that treats cancer victims. He’s winning — he now has 75 career poles and at least one for 22 consecutive years — and impacting people on and off the track.

2. Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 Ford — The make-or-break race for Ambrose in what could be his last year as a full-time Cup driver. But something tells us that he will be in this race next year if it fits into the Australian V8 Supercar schedule that he might be running in 2015.

3. Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet — He’s been fast this weekend, but if he struggles again Sunday, don’t start the Johnson slump talk until next week when the circuit heads to Michigan, where he won in June.

4. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet — He was fast at Sonoma before the team got mired in the field and then wrecked. Or as Harvick put it at the time, “(we) kind of flubbed it up again.” This would be a perfect day for no flubbing.

5. Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet — Best finish at Watkins Glen was second in 2010. That means there’s promise. His average finish at Watkins Glen is 19.8 thanks to three DNFs. Possible feast-or-famine weekend for Busch.

6. AJ Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet — Led 35 laps at Sonoma and has the same car (after repairs from wreck with Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Don’t forget, he won two road-course races in Nationwide last year driving for Penske.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet — Been a crazy week for Earnhardt. The big win at Pocono. The announcement that National Guard is leaving next year. Could all of that mean that it’s destiny that Earnhardt will win at Watkins Glen? C’mon, dude, it’s a road course. He has one top-20 in his last seven starts at The Glen.

8. Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota — Who would have thought that Kenseth would be winless after 21 races the year after he won seven times? Probably few. Who would have thought that Kenseth will be winless after 22 races this year after failing to win the first 21? Probably most. This is a road course, after all.

9. Brad Keselowski, Team Penske No. 2 Ford —It has been Keselowski, Ambrose and Kyle Busch who have dominated the last three races at Watkins Glen. But of those three, only Ambrose has appeared really stout this weekend.

10. Ryan Newman, Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet — He’s fifth in the standings. Who says the grass isn’t greener even if you’re thrown out the door and forced to go somewhere else?

11. Joey Logano, Team Penske No. 22 Ford — He has two top-10s at The Glen in his last three races. He has nothing to lose as he looks to tie the top drivers in the sport with three wins this year.

12. Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota — Will he see the checkered flag? He was out early in each of the last two races at The Glen.

13. Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet — Stewart has won a Cup-record five races at Watkins Glen. Few of those wins came, though, under the pressure of Stewart trying to make the postseason. But here’s a feel-good stat for Smoke fans: His win in 2009 came from 13th starting spot.

14. Jamie McMurray, Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet — McMurray’s owner Chip Ganassi was honored for outstanding contributions to motorsports at the International Motor Racing Research Center awards dinner Thursday. A McMurray win would certainly be an outstanding day for this team.

15. Justin Allgaier, HScott Motorsports No. 51 Chevrolet — He was 33rd at Sonoma but his starting spot at Watkins Glen shows this road course could be better for him thanks to higher speed and ability to choose racing groove.

16. Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing No. 99 Ford — Some made a big deal out of Edwards saying that his team was not running competitive enough to win the championship last week. Don’t know why he was criticized. It’s as evident that this team is not running well enough as much as it’s evident that Edwards will be at Joe Gibbs Racing next year.

17. Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota — Team opted not to appeal Indianapolis penalty. There’s only one reason not to appeal: You’re so guilty that even going through the motions of an appeal to appease your sponsor isn’t even worth it.

18. Cole Whitt, BK Racing No. 26 Toyota — Has sponsorship from the local Bully Hill Vineyards for this race. Expect Whitt to be more bold than bully on the track.

19. Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota — Busch won this race last year and has a good chance to repeat. Bet there are no experimental parts in his Toyota this week after an early engine failure last week at Pocono.

20. Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet — Last week, he ended up having Tony Stewart’s car sitting on top of him. Hoping for not a view of race-car undercarriage this week.

21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford — Even as bad as this team was at Michigan in June, he probably can’t wait to get there next week as road courses tend to own him. But his decent starting spot shows he is getting a little bit more of the hang of these things.

22. Casey Mears, Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet — Had an awesome finish at Pocono last week when he finished 12th. That’s a huge boost for this team as he went from 26th to 24th in the standings.

23. Kyle Larson, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 42 Chevrolet — Has appeared out to lunch during practice. Would be no surprise to see him make a rookie mistake and be part of a yellow Sunday.

24. Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing No. 15 Toyota — Bowyer has a sixth and fourth in last two races at The Glen. Got to think his attitude helps. He doesn’t get mad. He just gets even by slinging the car the best he can.

25. Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Chevrolet — Truex is a good road-course racer, but this team doesn’t have any momentum. Considering his season, would be hard to blame him if he isn’t the most gentlemanly of racers Sunday.

26. David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford — Still looking for first top-20 Cup finish at Watkins Glen.

27. Aric Almirola, Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford — Can learn some from teammate Marcos Ambrose. But he can’t hustle a car on a road course like Ambrose can, so just trying to do what Ambrose does is out of the question.

28. Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing No. 16 Ford — A gamble paid off last week with a fifth-place finish. Expect more gambling Sunday.

29. Michael McDowell, Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Ford — A road-course racer by trade, McDowell finishing in the top-10 wouldn’t be a surprise. For those at the track looking for someone to watch early, watch him in passing zones.

30. Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Chevrolet — Kahne, like some of his Cup cohorts, probably wishes he was racing a Sprint car at Knoxville Nationals this weekend. It would be a lot more fun than struggling at the Glen.

31. Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet —  It’s his first time in a Cup car at a track where he didn’t even have a top-10 in Nationwide. Could be the longest 90 laps ever for Dillon.

32. Nelson Piquet Jr., Randy Humphrey Racing No. 77 Toyota — Piquet, whose racing in Global Rallycross this year, makes his Sprint Cup debut. Former Ganassi and Swan Racing crew chief Steve Lane now the crew chief of this team, which will run a partial schedule the rest of the year.

33. David Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford — He’s the better road-course racer on this team. He had a 21st at Sonoma and could very well have a top-20 finish Sunday.

34. Boris Said, Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford — He’s racing with broken ribs from a sports-car accident a few weeks ago. That’s going to hurt but his chances to compete in a Cup car are few and far between.

35. Ryan Truex, BK Racing No. 83 Toyota — He has one start at The Glen, in a Nationwide car in 2012. Keep it on the course, bud.

36. Alex Bowman, BK Racing No. 23 Toyota — Finished on the lead lap at Sonoma. If he can do that at Watkins Glen, it would be a good day.

37. Josh Wise, Phil Parsons Racing No. 98 Chevrolet —Like many of those with limited road-course experience, it’s just finish and hope you can use the car at a short track or the road courses next year.

38. Alex Kennedy, Circle Sport Racing No. 33 Chevrolet — Road-course racer making his fourth start (both Poconos and Sonoma the others) of 2014.

39. Reed Sorenson, Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36 Chevrolet — He was 32nd at Sonoma and anything in the top-30 would be a good day.

40. Joe Nemechek, Jay Robinson Racing No. 66 Toyota — He’s good enough on road courses to get a decent finish while others overdrive their cars.

41. Landon Cassill, Hillman Racing No. 40 Chevrolet — Hit a tire barrier in practice. Will hope to avoid that during the race.

42. Michael Annett, Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7 Chevrolet — Hopes he doesn’t hit as much dirt as he did when he raced a truck at Eldora (which is a dirt track).

43. Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Chevrolet — Was going start at the rear of the field because of an engine change so qualifying didn’t matter as she just took laps in her backup car thanks to a wreck at end of practice. Would be best for her to be patient, take time to make passes and get to the finish.

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Re: Cheez-it 355 Betting News and Notes

Cheez-It 355 Post-Practice Betting Notes
By: Micah Roberts

LAS VEGAS -- Marcos Ambrose was every bit as good as expected during Friday's two practice sessions and Saturday's qualifying at Watkins Glen International, which enhances his chances of winning Sunday's Cheez-It 355. It also means his odds will drop a bit with little chance of getting 5-to-1 or better to win his third career race on the 2.45-mile road course.

There was no doubt that Ambrose was the driver to beat before coming in, but practices and qualifying kind of give that stamp of approval validating he's still the 'King of the course'. In his first five starts on the track, he finished third or better with two wins (2011, 2012). Last season he finished 31st, but led 51 of the first 61 laps.

He's good to go, and even more so that he's starting from a top-five start position where 21 of the 31 past Watkins Glen winners (67 percent) have come from. That has to be the most remarkable qualifying stat relevant to race day among all tracks.

Ambrose has taken over the crown as being 'King of the course' because of his recent prowess, but a former 'King', who has been irrelevant at Watkins Glen for the past decade, made a big splash on Saturday. Jeff Gordon won his third Watkins Glen pole and because of his recent surge this season, he might be ready to take back his throne.

Gordon won three consecutive races there from 1997-99, and has won four times overall, but none since 2001, which also marked the final of four championship seasons. Mix in his five other wins at Sonoma and it's a status mark in the Sprint Cup series that even Ambrose will have a difficult time coming close to matching.

The difference between now and when Gordon ruled was there weren't as many adept drivers on the roads. Gordon had maybe five or six drivers to beat, as well as a bunch of skilled road-course ringers in underfunded cars that held their own. Nowadays, Ambrose has up to 15 drivers to battle against and the ringers aren't even a factor anymore because the regulars have become so good on the courses.

Gordon is now one of those 15 drivers chasing Ambrose and trying to break through for his first top-five on the track since his 2001 win. Because of how consistently good he has been everywhere this season, he should be able to get at least a top-five on Sunday and maybe even join the three-timers club with Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with his third win of the season.

Earnhardt Jr. is an interesting look this week because he's kind of in the same boat as Gordon in terms of consistency. He sits 17-points behind Gordon in points, but leads the series with 10 top-five finishes. He's historically had a tough time with road courses, but he finished a career-best third-place at Sonoma in June in what was his only top-10 finish there in 15 starts.

If you just saw the practice times and start position without his name attached, you would say Junior is a contender to win Sunday. Prior to this season, he had never won at Pocono and now he's won there twice, so anything is possible. This isn't the same Junior we have been accustomed to seeing over the years. Top to bottom, the No. 88 team has upgraded every facet of every type of program they have, including their road course program.

In the end, the winner is going to have to go through, or pass, Ambrose to get the win. Gordon and Junior will both be sentimental choices, but don't discount three other drivers starting in the top-five -- Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, or two-time winner Kyle Busch, who starts 19th. Brad Keselowski didn't practice great, but he's finished second three straight seasons at the Glen, loves this track, and has a decent start position (9th).

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Re: Cheez-it 355 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR tackles The Glen road course Sunday
By: Brian Graham

The NASCAR circuit moves to upstate New York this Sunday to battle the tricky road course in Watkins Glen, NY for the Cheez-It 355. The 2.45-mile course was completed in 1948 and is comprised of 11 turns. These include the inner loop, outer loop, and the tough-to-navigate boot, which consists of the chute, toe and heel. The surface of the track is both asphalt and concrete. Tony Stewart has five wins in his past 11 races at this track, but due to a broken leg, he missed last year's race, which was won by Kyle Busch.

Drivers to Watch

Brad Keselowski (7/1) -
Although he has yet to win at Watkins Glen, Keselowski has been the runner-up at this event in each of the past three years. Losing to Kyle Busch in 2013 still marked Keselowski's fourth top-10 finish in nine career starts on road courses. He is also catching fire for this season, moving up the standings from 11th to 3rd over the past 10 races thanks to five top-3 finishes (2 wins, 2 runner-ups, 1 third). The 7-to-1 odds aren't great, but Keselowski is our pick to take home the checkered flag on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson (12/1) - Road courses aren't Johnson's specialty, but top-5 finishes in eight of his 25 road races (32%) isn't too shabby. Four of those strong results have come at Watkins Glen, which includes a 3rd-place showing in 2012. Last year Johnson placed 8th in this race, which was a solid outcome from a mediocre starting position at No. 18. And even with Johnson's horrible luck recently where he's crashed in three of the past four races, he's still sitting in sixth place in the points standings because of seven straight top-10's leading up to the Daytona crash. With rare double-digit odds, place a sizable wager on Johnson for Sunday.

Tony Stewart (12/1) - Stewart loves this venue, cranking out top-7 finishes in 10 of his 14 career starts in upstate New York. This includes five victories (2002, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009) and a pair of runner-ups (2006 and 2008). He hasn't had quite the summer that NASCAR fans are used to, but Stewart has placed 11th or higher in four of his past nine starts. With seven road-course wins to his name, Stewart is worthy of a small wager on Sunday.

Jeff Gordon (10/1) - From 1997 to 2001, Gordon won four of the five races at WGI, but hasn’t fared any better than ninth place in his past 12 starts at The Glen. But the reason he’s on this list is because of the roll he’s been on lately. Gordon has tallied top-8 finishes in eight of his past 11 starts of 2014, which includes victories at both Kansas and Indianapolis. The odds aren’t great for Sunday, but with nine wins and 20 top-5’s in his road course career (43 races), you should drop a unit bet on Gordon to cover yourself.

Matt Kenseth (75/1) - Kenseth is the best longshot pick of the weekend, especially since his odds are much more favorable than the 50-to-1 price he commanded last year. His best finish at The Glen was 8th (2003 and 2012), but his 15.6 average finish over 14 starts in upstate New York isn't too shabby. Kenseth has also been consistently great this entire 2014 season with eight top-5's including 4th-place showings in three of the past five starts. At 75-to-1 on Sunday, Kenseth is worth a look.

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