Three things to watch
1 . Jimmie Johnson can clinch a spot in the Chase if he leaves Watkins Glen with at least a 193-point lead over the 11th place driver. Currently, he holds a 178-point lead over 11th.
2. Marcos Ambrose can become just the third driver to win three consecutive Cup series races at the Glen with a victory on Sunday.
3 . Brad Keselowski has finished second at the Glen the past two seasons. Can he finally break through and into Victory Lane?
• There are only two groups which have any say over whether Tony Stewart will have to curtail his extracurricular racing in the future – his sponsors and his employees at Stewart-Haas Racing. Unless or until one or the other – or both – of those groups voice considerable concerns over Stewart’s racing outside of NASCAR, there is little anyone else can say that will alter his position. The safety aspect would seem plausible to sway his opinion but the fact he is still here after a long career of running sprint car races tends to make that argument moot.
• There is one thing repeated this weekend at Watkins Glen and not heard at perhaps any other track this season. Track officials claim ticket sales are on track to set an attendance record at the road course on Sunday. Whether that actually takes place, the mere fact a track can make such a claim this season is a hopeful sign of things to come. And unlike many tracks, the Glen hasn’t reduced its seating capacity in recent years.
• Jimmie Johnson led 43 laps last weekend at Pocono Raceway, which left him eight laps short of 15,000 career laps led. When he hits the milestone, he’ll become just the ninth driver in NASCAR history to reach accomplish the feat.
Three picks for your fantasy team:
Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, Juan Pablo Montoya
Ambrose wins the pole: Marcos Ambrose has won the last Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen International but what he hasn’t done is won from the pole. He’ll get that chance on Sunday.
Ambrose set a track-qualifying record with a lap at 128.241 mph to earn his first pole of the season and just the third of his career. His previous poles both came last season at Michigan and Sonoma, Calif.
“It feels great to be here. These days don’t come around that often,” Ambrose said. “It was a great lap. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the cleanest lap I could have done, but it certainly carried a lot of momentum and it was enough to get the job done.
“These new Gen-6 race cars are a lot faster around here and the speeds are record speeds.”
The previous record lap of 127.020 mph was set in Juan Pablo Montoya last season.
Clint Bowyer will start second, Martin Truex Jr. third, A.J. Allmendinger fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson will line up 18th.
Bridgeport Speedway to honor Leffler: The "Night of Wings" at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey on June 12 was suspended after NASCAR driver Jason Leffler died following an accident in a sprint car during the night's racing activities.
The speedway has decided to reschedule the event for Sunday, Sept. 8, and with a much greater purpose - to honor Leffler's memory and raise money to support Leffler's son, Charlie Dean.
Most of the original 410 Sprint Car drivers who were in attendance in June night have agreed to return for the race. They will be joined on the card by the TSRS Sprints. Admission is free but it is suggested fans donate at least the regular admission price of $13.
All admission donations will go to a fund set up to help care for Leffler's son. For more information, call the speedway at (856) 467-4407.
New dirty exhibit at NASCAR Hall: Austin Dillon’s No. 39 Chevrolet used to win last month’s inaugural Truck series race at Eldora Speedway, a dirt track in Ohio, will be the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
Dillon and his team will participate in a reveal ceremony at the Hall on Tuesday. The exhibit will include his truck, the winner’s trophy and a jar of dirt scooped up from the track surface.
Where: Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International
Track type: A 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course.
Race distance: 90 laps or 220.5 miles
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high near 70.
TV: Coverage begins at noon on ESPN. Green flag is 1:19 p.m. ET
Radio: Motor Racing Network