WATKINS GLEN, NY – The 30th running of the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen is in the books, and yet again, Watkins Glen International has produced an exciting race weekend. The Glen solidified their spot atop the polls after announcing all reserved grandstand tickets for Sunday’s running of the Cheez-It 355 had sold out.
Watkins Glen International commented on the sell-out, stating, “A reserved grandstand sell-out shows just how dedicated and passionate Watkins Glen International fans are.”
Dedicated is one way to describe it, as WGI announced earlier in the week that they had created additional campsites to accommodate the enormous demand for camping at the facility.
Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen was as eventful as we’ve seen over recent years at Watkins Glen International. Instead of the large crashes and flared tempers, fans saw a clean race out of some of the top contenders for the championship. The race on Sunday progressed as many recent races at the 2.45-mile road course, with fuel strategy coming into play. This year was different in the sense that there was no caution within the last 20 laps.
Fast forward through the first five cautions, and you have the top 10 cars stacked up as follows: Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle and Sam Hornish Jr. Final pit stops were made over the course of the final yellow of the afternoon between laps 58 and 60, and the only car with a glimmer of hope to make the finish on fuel was the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford driven by Joey Logano.
Slowly but surely over the course of the final 20 laps, Logano, followed closely by Kyle Busch, picked their way through the field and into the top five. With seven laps remaining, Logano was shown in second, lurking behind the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick. Harvick, whose radio chatter was not mentioning anything about having enough fuel to make the finish of the race, sealed the most laps led (29), but would come up short in the end.
As the laps wound down, radios were full of talk about who could make it, who would be short, and predictions of a late race caution ran rampant. There was no late race caution, and on the final lap it looked like Harvick had done what he needed to to save fuel and stay in the lead, and when Logano overshot turn one, a win for the No. 4 team became all but inevitable.
The only caveat in the formula for a third victory this season for Harvick was the amount of fuel in his gas tank. Though he had a clear track in front of him and space between him and Logano, Harvick’s luck would run out between turns six and seven when he finally ran out of fuel. Logano made the pass on the outside in turn seven and took the checkered flag for the 10th time in his career.
Logano was ecstatic in Victory Lane following his sweep of both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR XFINITY Series races this weekend at Watkins Glen International.
“This is the coolest weekend of my life,” Logano exclaimed. “Every driver wants to add a road course victory to their resume. This is a dream come true to win at this place.”
The win marks Logano’s second victory and 16th top-10 finish in 2015. It was the first time in track history for a driver to sweep both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Watkins Glen International.
Kyle Busch, who led once for three laps, finished second in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen and moved into the top 30 in points, the stipulation for him making the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“We knew we would be (in the top 30 in points), which is probably a reason we played it safe on the fuel strategy,” Busch said. “I could have had a chance and raced the 22 (Logano), but we wanted to make sure we made it to the end.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Kevin Harvick, who barely missed the win at the end, had enough fuel to make it to the start-finish line in third.
“I thought I did a pretty good job of saving fuel,” Harvick explained, “and I was only running as fast as I needed to to stay in the lead. Once the No.22 got to me, I had to pick up the pace a little bit. We were in position for the win, two corners away, but that’s just how the middle of this season has gone for us.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves on to Michigan International Speedway next weekend for the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday, August 16.