Hello from NASCAR weekend at Watkins Glen International.
Today the big stuff going around the 11-turn track is Sprint Cup qualifying for Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen (11:40 a.m. scheduled start) and the Nationwide race (2 p.m.). The Grand-Am Series also races this evening at 6.
I'll have updates throughout the day.
It was a smooth drive here. After many years of coming to the Glen, I've settled that the Thruway to Route 14 directly south along Seneca Lake is the best way. I have a alternate route that I take to get to the track, but it is a semi off-roading route that I'll keep to myself, thank you very much.
To complete our traffic & weather report, there is a lot of muttering about what tomorrow's weather will bring. The weather.com forecast is calling for 80 percent chance of rain. Yikes. That's not good news for the auto racing/high school reporter with high school football practice opening Monday.
Here's Larry Ott's report from the track on Friday.
11:51 a.m. Powered up and ready to go here in the media center as qualifying laps have started for the Sprint Cup.
During yesterday's practice sessions, the top laps were posted by Kyle Busch (first practice) and Marcos Ambrose (second).
Nationwide qualifying was held earlier, with Kurt Busch taking the top spot ahead of brother Kyle. That race is usually a blast to watch here.
Kurt Busch has been in the middle of a lot of talk here so far as Jimmie Johnson carried over their feud from last week in Pocono with lengthy comments about Busch during his media session on Friday, including sound bites which were in heavy rotation on Sportscenter.
Busch had his regular weekend media session early Saturday morning. He was asked about Johnson's comments and -- as he usually does -- he had some good quotes. The one that jumped out to me: "I means that I'm in his head and if I'm in his head, he's got to worry about us running through this Chase."
12:22 p.m. Regan (pronounced REE-gan) Smith, the native of Syracuse-area town of Cato, posts the top time on the grid with 19 drivers having run laps. I wrote a story on Smith that was published on Thursday.
That's a good lap for him. Normally he's not good on road courses, but a good performance at Sonoma, Calif., this year, along with his other successes, has him fired up for this year's visit to his home state.
12:31 p.m. Just had a short visit from Chuck Howard, who many Western New York sports fans will remember as a member of the WIVB Ch. 4 sports team. Howard, a native of South Dayton and a Pine Valley grad, was part of a Ch. 4 staff which included Van Miller, Brian Blessing and Paul Peck. I know those names well since I was an intern for Ch. 4 during my University at Buffalo days.
Howard is now working for NASCAR and Larry Ott will catch up with him as part of his story in Sunday's paper.
12:33 p.m. Denny Hamlin goes for a surprising spin exiting Turn Nine. Smith still on top of the charts.
12:41 p.m. Jimmie Johnson surges to the top of the speed chart, nearly a half-second faster than Smith. Not a big surprise there. Lots of big guns yet to come so we'll see how long that holds up.
It would be interesting if Johnson is in the top three, which would mean he'd have another opportunity to talk to the media -- and possibly respond to Kurt Busch's comments this morning.
12:51 p.m. Kurt Busch and Johnson won't be neighbors on the starting grid. Busch had a wiggly lap here and there and currently stands 14th to Johnson's first.
1 p.m. Marcos Ambrose, who is extremely perturbed that he doesn't have a ride to defend his Nationwide title this afternoon, has put himself on the pole. Not much of a surprise there. The Tasmanian is a superb road racer who is getting better overall (23rd in points).
1:20 p.m. A surprise here as A.J. Allmendinger goes all-out on his lap and takes the pole from Ambrose. Whoa.
1:24 p.m. Two drivers later, the final driver in the qualifying lineup takes the pole. Kyle Busch, who was last in the lineup due to his top performance in practice, backed that up with a fast lap of 69.767 seconds (126.421 mph).
1:28 p.m. Kyle Busch's lap sets a Sprint Cup record at the Glen. The old record was by Jeff Gordon back in 2003, which was a 70.7979-second circuit at 124.58 mph.
And two NASCAR races here, two Busch brother poles.
1:30 p.m. Interviews going on now here in the media center.
1:41 p.m. The top 15 qualifiers surpassed that record of Gordon's. Fast cars, a lot on the line for the Chase, Johnson and Kurt Busch fueding, Ambrose and Allmendinger aiming for road course wins -- it all sets a fun stage for tomorrow. I'll run down all of those factors in the story for Sunday's paper.
I'll also have a story on the Nationwide race, which is a bit away from starting. Timeout for me.
2:32 p.m. The Nationwide is under way with pole-sitter Kurt Busch leading and brother Kyle in second through 15 laps. I'll be working on my stories -- actually I've got to put together a high school story as well -- but I'll chime in with anything worth talking about, and with this race there usually is no shortage of that.
I watched the first few laps of the race at Turn One, down pit lane as far as we are allowed to go. It's a traditional stop. Just hearing -- and feeling -- the field dive into that first big turn is a must-experience deal here.
3:53 p.m. I shifted gears (heh-heh) to update the Prep Talk blog with the news that East Aurora's Stan Wier has verbally committed to the University at Buffalo. Shifting back to auto racing ...
And right on time -- we're heading down the stretch of the Nationwide race with Kyle Busch leading brother Kurt with six laps to go. The brothers have dominated a race that has been fairly uneventful (thus the lack of updates).
3:57 p.m. Whoa. Kyle Busch goes to pit road! Apparently they were low on fuel. Bummer for that team. Now Kurt in the lead.
4 p.m. Another whoa. An accident with Eric McClure and Casey Roderick brings out a yellow. Kyle should have a chance to get back in it with a green-white-checkered finish. Only 10 cars on the lead lap thanks to just having one previous caution flag.
4:08 p.m. Should be a very fun finish. Kurt Busch leads Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson (!), Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Ron Fellows, Paul Menard, Elliott Sadler.
4:12 p.m. Kurt Busch speeds off the restart, then puts space in between himself and Johnson for the WIN of the Nationwide Series Zippo 200 after 85 laps (the green-white-checkered added on to the scheduled 82).
4:22 p.m. In the picture above you can see Brad Keselowski, the usual driver for the No. 22, in a blue golf shirt to the left of the car as Kurt Busch celebrates in victory lane.
Your top 10: Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Logano, Kyle Busch, Edwards, Menard, Fellows, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Sadler.
4:46 p.m. More writing time for me. I'll be back tomorrow for updates from the track on the race (or a weather report).
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