NASCAR Props Challenge Picks for Sunday’s GoBowling at The Glen
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott
- NASCAR's Props Challenge game asks fans to answer 10 prop-betting questions each week, with weekly winners eligible for prizes.
- PJ Walsh offers his Props Challenge picks and analysis for Sunday's GoBowling at The Glen (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
For the second time this season, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) will go road course racing — this time at Watkins Glen International.
Road courses always provide exciting side-by-side racing, while the additional intrigue of how teams will approach strategy — based on differing agendas like racing for stage points as opposed to winning the race — will make this event unique.
To make this weekend’s NASCAR Props Challenge picks, we’ll lean on historic results from Watkins Glen, as well as how teams with different agendas will likely approach this race.
1. Will the pole sitter lead the first 7 laps? Yes or No?
Denny Hamlin won the Watkins Glen pole in 2018 but finished with just two laps led in the race. Green flags/restarts can get dicey at road courses, so I expect that at least one driver can snag the lead from the pole sitter by lap eight.
2. The Stage 1 winner will lead O/U 5.5 laps in the first stage?
Stage 1 will be 20 laps on Sunday. In last year’s race, Martin Truex Jr. won Stage 1 but led a total of four laps throughout the entire race.
3. Will the Stage 1 winner score stage points in Stage 2? Yes or No?
In two MENCS races at Watkins Glen since stage racing was introduced, the Stage 1 winner did score points in Stage 2.
4. All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers will be running in the top 10 at the end of Stage 2? Yes or No?
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones are all really fast at Watkins Glen. However, predicting all four to be in the top 10 at the end of Stage 2 is difficult, especially with differing race strategies team’s will employ on Sunday.
5. A Chevrolet driver wins Stage 2: Yes or No?
This is a tricky question because I expect drivers fighting for playoff berths to stay out for stage points, while those with wins should pit early before the stage to maximize track position following the break.
Looking at the points, Jimmie Johnson is the only Chevy driver fighting for that 16th spot in the standings, so I’m going no.
6. Daniel Suarez has a 3.5 average finish at Watkins Glen. Will he finish in the top five? Yes or No?
I love Suarez in driver matchups and props this week, but despite the sparkling average finish, there are still 10 drivers with better odds to win this race.
Expecting a top-five finish is simply too rich for my blood.
7. O/U 8.5 lead changes?
Each of the past three MENCS races at Watkins Glen finished with nine lead changes. And with the points battle heating up heading into the playoffs, we should see plenty of opportunities for the lead to swap hands as some drivers pit before stage breaks and others stay out for points.
8. Which driver will finish higher: Brad Keselowski or Denny Hamlin?
While Hamlin has a better average finish than Keselowski over the last three races at the Glen, Keselowski has a clear advantage in fast laps and laps led, indicating Kez has actually been the faster driver over that span.
In addition, I think a lot of Props Challenge entries will take Hamlin this week considering his current hot streak, so this gives us a good chance to go contrarian and differentiate ourselves from the masses.
9. Chase Elliott is the defending race winner at Watkins Glen but has not finished in the top 10 since June. Does that trend change on Sunday? Yes or No?
Only Kyle Busch (+250) and Martin Truex Jr. (+350) have better odds to win the race than Elliott (+1000).
In addition, Chase has been very strong at the Glen in recent years, posting the seventh-best average finish (9.0) and tying for the fifth-best average running position (9.7), while leading the most laps (61) and running the third-most fast laps (34) since 2016.
10. Which driver finishes higher: Paul Menard or Ryan Newman?
Not only are both drivers 100-1 to win the race, but their stats over the past three Watkins Glen races are eerily similar.
But with Newman tied with Clint Bowyer for the final playoff position, it won’t surprise me to see the No. 6 team keep Ryan out to score stage points, which would put him at a disadvantage in terms of track position for the second half of the race.
Menard, on the other hand, needs to win, so there’s no reason for him to worry about stage points, so that team should forgo stage points in order to do everything it can to win the race.