Joey Logano's No. 22 Ford leads the pack into Turn 1 at Watkins Glen
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Drivers chime in on Turn 1 turmoil, expectations for The Glen

Last time out for the NASCAR Cup Series on a road course, chaos convened with regularity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway layout’s first corner, a hard, 90-degree right-hander. Sunday’s next round, on the twists of New York’s Watkins Glen International has some on-paper similarities but also some key nuances that may stem some of the scrambling.

When Sunday’s Go Bowling at The Glen gets the green flag (3 p.m. ET, USA, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the field will sort itself into another right-hand bend, this one nicknamed “The 90.” But instead of a super-wide frontstretch narrowing into a snug turn, Watkins Glen has slightly less running room, which will likely curb any widespread fanning out.

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“Not as much, but I mean Watkins Glen definitely has the opportunity for that,” said Joey Logano, a winner at the Glen in a weekend sweep in 2015. “I think what happens in Indy is you have six lanes of racing room that funnels down into like two, maybe three. And so you’re forced to do something. It kind of puts everyone in a bad spot because if you don’t do something, someone’s going to do it to you. So you either take it or someone’s gonna take it from me. So that just kind of makes a recipe for disaster in a way and cars are pretty durable, so everyone’s OK with bumping and banging now. So it just becomes kind of messy.

“The same thing could happen at Road America but it doesn’t. Why? Because the track’s only three lanes wide, and you can’t go four-wide. There’s no room – like, you’re in the grass. So that’s what prevents that. Watkins Glen’s similar. Three-wide is … you can get four, but that’s gonna be a little tight, right? Probably not many people do that. But three will definitely happen down there. There’s more room for that.”

A late-race restart in last month’s Indianapolis race was the boiling point for several drivers. Tyler Reddick steered clear of the Turn 1 disorder on the way to his second Cup Series win of the season, but several other contenders with road-race pedigrees did not.

The pace of Watkins Glen’s first turn, where drivers carry more speed through the corner, may also help with some of those concerns. The New York course transitions into a slight right in Turn 2, then carries momentum up the hill through the esses; at Indy, that first close-quarters right proceeds to another sharp, 90-degree left in the more technical infield section.

“I mean, I guess it is a 90-degree Turn 1, but just much different, a faster-pace turn,” says points leader Chase Elliott, a two-time Watkins Glen winner whose day at Indy was torpedoed by the late restart ruckus. “The lead-up to how you restart at Watkins Glen is just much, much different. That approach into Turn 1 doesn’t ask everyone to be dumb, so I don’t think it’ll be quite that bad. And like I said, I think the pace of the track is going to fix the majority of what you saw there at Indy.”

“I feel like when you talk about road-course aggression, we’ve had two race tracks with very inviting Turn 1s, you know,” said rookie Austin Cindric, a former Glen winner in the Xfinity Series. “That’s COTA and Indy. I don’t remember having really any much of a driver standards conversation after Sonoma, and I’m sure the Roval will be the same way, and I expect Watkins Glen to be somewhat similar to those race tracks. Even Road America, a pretty narrow race track, so you can’t really pull off the seven-wide into a corner.”

Watkins Glen hosts the next-to-last race of the regular season as the hunt for Cup Series playoff positioning winds to its conclusion. 15 drivers have virtually clinched postseason berths with victories so far, and Ryan Blaney is 26 points up on Martin Truex Jr. as the battle currently stands for the final spot in the field of 16.

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The four road-course events so far this year have all been won by Chevrolet drivers – the first two split by Trackhouse Racing teammates Ross Chastain (Circuit of The Americas) and Daniel Suárez (Sonoma), and the most recent two swept by Richard Childress Racing’s Reddick (Road America, Indy).

Truex – another victim to the Turn 1 turmoil at Indianapolis – has a solid recent history that ranks as promising for a Watkins Glen rebound, with four consecutive top-three finishes there. But the driver of the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing indicated after last weekend’s race at Richmond that the Chevy camp’s run of road-course success with the Next Gen car model would present a hurdle.

“Any other year, I’d be ecstatic to go there,” Truex said. “But with this car, our worst tracks have been road courses this year, Toyota in general. So none of us have been good. We haven’t been able to figure out how to get the braking, how to get the car to brake and then still drive off the corner and vice versa. We can only get one or the other. We can’t get both. The Chevys are destroying us.”