Watkins Glen International: The true title indicator?
In the week leading up to the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, reporters and analysts stated multiple times that the prestigious event at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the ultimate title decider. But based on wins and the average result by the eventual champion, Watkins Glen International is in fact the most consistent in providing a glimpse at the champion-to-be.
Since first hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events at Watkins Glen in 1986, the Finger Lakes-based facility has seen six victors who would continue their momentum through the remainder of the season and capture the series championship.
The first driver to accomplish the feat was Rusty Wallace in 1989.
Two years after his dramatic 1987 victory at Watkins Glen, Wallace would capture his second and final Glen victory en route to his first and only series championship over rival Dale Earnhardt.
It wasn’t until 1997 and 1998 when Jeff Gordon accomplished the same, scoring back-to-back victories and championships for car owner Rick Hendrick.
Gordon would have a third double dip in 2001, picking up this fourth career Glen victory and fourth career series championship.
The following year saw the same results, but with a different driver taking the spoils, as Tony Stewart scored his first Watkins Glen victory then backed it up with his first series championship.
Three years later, a red-hot Stewart entered Watkins Glen as the defending race winner and riding a blistering summer hot streak that saw him score his third Glen victory in four years and eventually his second series crown in the same span.
With six victories by eventual series champions, Watkins Glen Internationl outperforms all but one track that has hosted at least 18 late season races (August-November) since 1986. Darlington’s traditional Labor Day Southern 500 recorded seven victories until its race date was moved to mid-May in 2005.
While winning is essential to securing championships, consistent finishes are what many argue is the most important part of a championship season.
As a result, the average Watkins Glen finish by the eventual champion of 5.5 slightly edges that of Darlington, which averaged a solid sixth place finish. The Glen also leads all tracks with 14 top five finishes and 19 top ten finishes with a worse finish of 18th by Earnhardt in 1993.
Will the 2008 Centurion Boats at The Glen victor also become the 2008 Sprint Cup Champion?
Time will tell, but it looks like the road may lead in that direction for one driver.
To see chart comparing wins at Watkins Glen with those of other late season tracks and the eventual champion's performance, click here.