Chase Elliott Earns Watkins Glen Pole as Kimi Raikkonen Shines

Chase Elliott earned his second career pole at Watkins Glen as Hendrick Motorsports swept the front row in qualifying.
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports

Elliott scored his third pole of the season and the 12th of his career with a blistering lap in the final round of qualifying at Watkins Glen. The two-time winner at the Glen posted a speed of 125.147 mph early in the final session and none of the nine drivers were able to come close.

“My car has been solid. I felt like we had some work to do there from where we were in practice,” Elliott said. “I felt like there was a couple parts of the track I wanted to put together better. It’s just so fast. The pace is just so high here with this car I feel like from what I remember and how much throttle you’re carrying. A little bit carries with you a long ways. I’m really proud of my team.”

"Watkins Glen is where I got my first win so it’s of course a place that holds some great memories for me. We’ve had a good amount of success here as a team and I feel like this year we’ve come a long way in our road course program with the new car. This is a track that I feel like we can really go and have a good run and get some momentum back heading into the playoffs."

Speaking of playoffs, Elliott has another opportunity to clinch the regular season title tomorrow. That would give him another 15 playoff points to add to the 25 he already has. Elliott has led 141 laps in those last three races, and plans on adding to that tomorrow.

Joining Chase on the front row tomorrow will be his teammate Kyle Larson, who is the defending race winner. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates have combined to win the last three races here, and will be tough to beat on Sunday.

Larson led 27 laps on his way to victory last year, but the reigning series champion is not having the same type of success that he did last season. His only win this year came at Fontana, which was the second race on the calendar. He hopes to turn things around tomorrow with a win.

“It’s a much faster pace,” Larson said about the NextGen car at this track. “I just feel like you don’t have as much time to relax. I feel like we’ll be running qualifying laps the whole race. I don’t think you’re going to be able to pass very well. Restarts and stuff, you may be able to get people, but as soon as things get strung out, it will be very, very difficult to pass just because the braking zones are way shorter than the previous car.”

Michael McDowell could play the role of spoiler tomorrow, as the Front Row Motorsports driver posted his best qualifying effort of the season in 3rd. He was the fastest Ford driver as Chevrolet took five of the top six spots in qualifying. William Byron qualified fourth, as the Hendrick organization re-affirmed their stance as the team to beat in the race.

2022 Go Bowling at The Glen - Qualifying Results
Pos Driver Team Manufacturer
1Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
2Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
3Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord
4William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
5Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
6AJ AllmendingerKaulig RacingChevrolet
7Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord
8Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord
9Daniel SuarezTrackHouse RacingChevrolet
10Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
11Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
12Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
13Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet
14Chase BriscoeStewart Haas RacingFord
15Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord
16Ty Gibbs23XI RacingToyota
17Joey HandRick Ware RacingFord
18Ross ChastainTrackHouse RacingChevrolet
19Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord
20Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord
21Ricky Stenhouse JrJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet
22Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
23Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota
24Kevin HarvickStewart Haas RacingFord
25Martin Truex JrJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
26Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord
27Kimi RaikkonenTrackHouse RacingChevrolet
28Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet
29Cole CusterStewart Haas RacingFord
30Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord
31Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet
32Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet
33Mike RockenfellerSpire MotorsportsChevrolet
34Loris HezemansTeam HezebergFord
35Aric AlmirolaStewart Haas RacingFord
36Daniil KvyatTeam HezebergToyota
37Kyle TilleyLive Fast MotorsportsFord
38Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
39Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord

Tyler Reddick has two road course wins already this season, and will aim for a third tomorrow from the 5th starting spot. AJ Allmendinger certainly knows his way around the Glen, and starts from the 6th position for Kaulig Racing. The 2014 race winner is making his first Cup start here in four years. This will be his 11th Cup start here, but his first with Kaulig.

Chris Buescher is another driver that can punch his playoff ticket tomorrow with a win. The RFK Racing driver starts 7th tomorrow. Austin Cindric is an exceptional road course racer, and the Team Penske driver will start 8th with Daniel Suarez behind him in 9th.

The only other active driver (Elliott) that has multiple wins at this track is Kyle Busch. After another eventful race last weekend at Richmond, the veteran driver finally snapped his streak of finishes outside of the top-ten. While the JGR driver has not won here since 2013, he has performed well.

Kyle's last six finishes at the Glen are 2nd, 6th, 7th, 3rd, 11th, and 4th last year. He has three poles and 247 laps led here, and should be a factor in the race tomorrow as he starts from the 10th position.

Alex Bowman has struggled since his win in early March. In the last ten races, he has just one top-ten finish, which was a 9th place at Michigan. In his five starts at the Glen, Bowman has an average finish of 22.6 with a best finish of 14th, and he has never led a lap. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet qualified 11th today.

Ever since Denny Hamlin had his break through Watkins Glen win in 2016, he has really performed well. He finished 4th here the following year, earned pole position the next year, then finished 3rd and 5th in the last two races. He has been knocking on the door in recent weeks, but struggled in qualifying today. The driver of the No. 11 Camry rolls off in 22nd tomorrow.

Kevin Harvick has put the rest of the garage on notice with two consecutive wins. It will be a tall task to make it three in a row tomorrow, although he has done it before (2018). Harvick won here in 2006 with Richard Childress but has just two other top-five finishes in his 20 career starts at the Glen, and starts back in 24th.

The battle for the final playoff spot between Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Blaney continues tomorrow, from Row 13. While Blaney holds a 23-point edge over the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, it is Truex who should have the advantage here. Neither driver did themselves any favors today, as they qualified 25th and 26th respectively.

Chase Elliott Earns Watkins Glen Pole as Kimi Raikkonen Shines

Martin won here in 2017 and has finished 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd in the three races since. He has finished inside the top-five in nearly half of his 15 career starts at the Glen. After coming up empty after being one of the favorites to win last Sunday, Truex is not exactly oozing with confidence.

"If you look at our season, the road courses have been our biggest struggle, at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota as a whole. I have confidence in what I can do, but if you don’t have the car to drive, it’s hard to make up for it. It would be disappointing not to make it with the season we’ve had, but you have to win to get in."

Blaney has only led two laps in his five starts at the Glen, with an 11.6 average finish. His best result came in 2019 when he finished 5th, but it will take much more than that tomorrow before the driver of the No. 12 Mustang is comfortable with his playoff situation.

Watkins Glen International will be living up to its name this weekend as drivers from seven different nations will be represented in the race. Those drivers include Suarez from Mexico, sportscar aces Mike Rockenfeller from Germany and Kyle Tilley from England, NASCAR Euro Series champ Loris Hezemans from the Netherlands, and a pair of former F1 drivers in Kimi Raikkonen, of Finland and the talented Russian driver Daniil Kvyat.

Raikkonen’s Cup debut this weekend has garnered a lot of attention throughout the motorsports world. The 2007 World Champion performed well in limited practice, and looked good in qualifying. He will make his first career start from the 27th position in the No. 91 TrackHouse Racing Chevrolet.

Chase Elliott Earns Watkins Glen Pole as Kimi Raikkonen Shines

Outside of Busch, none of the Toyota drivers had a good day. Christopher Bell did not even have the opportunity to qualify, as his engine expired during the practice session. That makes tomorrow even more challenging, as he was not able to log many minutes around the circuit in the NextGen car.

“The run-off area we have outside the carousel, we would use that all the time with the old car, but with the NextGen car it appears to be very sketchy whenever you jump over the rumble strips. I would expect that to be completely different. The bus stop, the way you jump off the curbs and land really abruptly, I think that will be really different too.”

Kurt Busch announced yesterday that he will miss the next two races, as he continues to recover from his concussion-like symptoms. That will be the fifth and sixth consecutive races that he misses, but Busch said he aims to be back the following week for the start of the playoffs. Ty Gibbs remains in the seat of the No. 45 Toyota this weekend at Watkins Glen, and next week at Daytona. Gibbs had a crash in practice today, but still qualified in 16th.

Should Kurt not be ready for the first playoff race at Darlington, or if he is bumped from the playoff field with two new race winners, the 23XI Racing team is ready for either scenario. “We’re always thinking about it. We’re as forward-thinking as you can possibly be as a race team,” Hamlin said. “But ultimately, we are not, and we can’t rush Kurt’s health, but we always are trying to come up with contingency plans based off of any other scenario that might get thrown our way.”

In the last 12 races at Watkins Glen, the pole sitter has won just one time. Qualifying towards the front is certainly important though, as 12 of the last 14 races here have been won by a driver starting in the first three rows. Chevrolet has won the last three races here, with Toyota winning the two prior to that. Ford has just one win (2015) at the Glen in the last eight years.

The focus for teams now turns to race-day strategy. Several drivers see a pathway to the playoffs with a victory tomorrow, and with only Daytona remaining on the regular season schedule, this race will be oozing with drama. Coverage for the Go Bowling at The Glen begins at 3:00 ET on USA Network.

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