The NASCAR Cup Series returns from a two-week break with its fifth road course race of the season.
Sunday's race takes place at one of the traditional road course homes on the circuit at Watkins Glen International.
In most previous seasons, Watkins Glen would be the second and final road course stop for the Cup Series after Sonoma Raceway. In 2021, there are two more road courses on the docket after the trip to upstate New York.
As is the case for every Cup Series road race, Chase Elliott is the favorite to take the checkered flag. The No. 9 car driver is the two-time defending champion at Watkins Glen and has six wins in his last nine road course starts.
Go Bowling at The Glen Info
Date: Sunday, August 8
Start Time: 3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports app and NBCSports.com.
Chase Elliott: +200 (bet $100 to win $200)
Kyle Larson: +450
Martin Truex Jr.: +600
Kyle Busch: +750
Denny Hamlin: +1100
Joey Logano: +1200
Christopher Bell: +1500
William Byron: +2000
Kurt Busch: +2000
Ryan Blaney: +2500
Alex Bowman: +2500
Sunday's race at Watkins Glen is the first in two years at the track. The 2020 edition of the race was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since Elliott last won there in 2019, he has picked up two victories on the Charlotte Roval and one each at the Daytona road course, Circuit of the Americas and Road America. The reigning Cup Series champion won two of the past three road course races on the Cup Series circuit, and he took second in the other event during that span at Sonoma.
It is hard to pick against Elliott's recent dominance on the road courses, which is why he was assigned a rare low number on the odds board for a Cup Series race.
The road course ace should headline a majority of daily fantasy lineups. That might be the best way to use him from a fantasy or betting perspective on Sunday since he is -250 to finish inside the top three and -650 to land a top-10 finish.
Elliott's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson is the second-favorite to capture road course glory. He took eighth in NASCAR's last trip to Watkins Glen and has had one of the fastest cars this season. Larson owns a more favorable position on the starting grid than Elliott. He will go off in fourth alongside Ryan Blaney, while Elliott begins the race in 11th.
Each of the past four winners at Watkins Glen have started inside the top 10, so that could be a promising trend for all of Elliott's challengers.
Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano begin the race on the front row. Blaney, who drives the third Team Penske car, is right behind them in third. The Penske cars performed much better in upstate New York in 2019 than 2018. Two years ago, Blaney and Keselowski both finished inside the top 10. Two of the three cars were outside the top 10 in 2018.
Kevin Harvick could be the most intriguing driver to watch at the front of the grid. The No. 4 car driver picked up back-to-back top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen and is still looking for his first victory of the season.
Harvick could use a win to confirm his position in the 16-driver playoff field and, more importantly, to earn some confidence within his team to kick off the stretch run of the regular season. Harvick is not in danger of missing the playoffs. He and Denny Hamlin have significant leads in points and should get into the field without victories.
Aric Almirola's unexpected win at New Hampshire last time out took up one more playoff spot because race winners automatically qualify for the postseason. So the drama over the next four races will come between Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick, who are separated by five points.
Unless one of the two RCR drivers wins one of the next four races, they will be competing for a playoff berth, and every position on the grid will matter.
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