This is the time of the year where the week-in, week-out schedule of action will wear on the teams, but at this point it is getting right down to crunch time. Five races are remaining before the Chase, and the names on the outside are plenty, and surprising.
The time is now to make a move, and the hope is all the right moves are made to get into the Chase.
Ironically enough, making the right moves are not only what those teams that are wanting to make the Chase need to do, it is what everyone must do this weekend. The only reason why, the track is built to make lefts and rights. The time has come to go road course racing once again, just this time in New York, and adding in just a little more speed to the equation as well. It's time to go clockwise, pit in reverse, and go racing at Watkins Glen.
Over the years, this track has seen intense action, surprise winners, and on occasion a few insane wrecks. It is in a way a wild card, but with as many different winners this season has produced, it has become the "x-factor" race leading into the reseeding of the Chase.
It makes it that much harder for the writers to make a choice to win, because even the most unexpected winner could change everything. Here's who they have decided will win the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen:
Misan Akuya: Jamie McMurray
Rob Blount: A.J. Allmendinger
This is where the Dinger gets in the Chase.
James Broomhead: Marcos Ambrose
Billy Fellin: Marcos Ambrose
He's pulling double-duty in northern New York for Cup and Nationwide, and why not? He owns road courses and this is his last realistic chance to make it into the Chase.
Michael Hirshbein: Marcos Ambrose
Kara Martin: Jeff Gordon
Ryan O'Hara: Jeff Gordon
Dustin Parks: Marcos Ambrose
Do not let last year's finish fool anyone. That has been his only DNF at this track in his career. Third, second, plus two wins sum up his success at this joint; how can I not pick him? Sure, I have definitely considered Gordon, but since his win in 2001, he's not done well here. Smoke was another option, but saving him for later, and I even thought of Kyle Busch who's won here twice since 2008. But still, no driver has seen a track record like Ambrose at the Glen.
It's probably his only shot to make the Chase, and I'm electing to take that gamble.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
I actually was going to go with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I mean, why not? The guy has been out performing at most tracks this season. Still reality struck and I realized its a road course and there are only two drivers to chose from. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. For Stewart this is his best chance to get a win in 2014. He needs it because points won't get him to where he needs to be now. Still, Gordon is enjoying a career resurgence and frankly has been the most consistent driver in 2014.
I am going with my trend of going with the hot hand as Gordon notches win number three of the season on Sunday and regains his title of king of the road courses.
Aaron Rosser: A.J. Allmendinger
Sal Sigala Jr: Brad Keselowski
Rob Tiongson: A.J. Allmendinger
I'll be unique and fresh here and go with a driver who's wanting to score his first ever win. I think it's time to see "The Worm" and AJ Allmendinger win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup race ever, all happening in Watkins Glen!
Standings after Pocono:
Kara Martin (742) Brad Keselowski finished 23rd - 3
Ryan O'Hara (741) Kyle Larson finished 11th - 5
Patti Rodisch (735) Jeff Gordon finished 6th - 3
Rob Tiongson (715) Jeff Gordon finished 6th - 3
Sal Sigala Jr. (712) Brad Keselowski finished 23rd - 5
Dustin Parks (672) Jeff Gordon finished 6th - 2
Billy Fellin (659) Brad Keselowski finished 23rd - 1
Rob Blount (639) Dale Earnhardt Jr. WON - 2
Michael Hirshbein (629) Kyle Busch finished 42nd - 1
Aaron Rosser (621) Brad Keselowski finished 23rd - 1
Misan Akuya (600) Tony Stewart finished 36th - 1
James Broomhead (570) Denny Hamlin finished 9th - 2
Final Remarks: Every season there are events deemed "wild cards" because either anything can happen, everything is out of one's control, or a combination of both. For a road course, the control factor is covered as the drivers have to maintain their pace on the track, and avoid missing shifts, or wheel hop entering the corners. But at the same time, outside of their control are those drivers that on what could be a "normal" weekend, where they would run mid-pack, are instead out front and are contending for victory.
Anything can happen, and in recent years it certainly will. Kyle Busch found that out in 2012 on the final lap, while Marcos Ambrose found out the harsh reality that even the fastest guy can get caught up in someone else's chaos.
What will it be this year? Find out on ESPN beginning at Noon ET.
Summary of Picks: