Saturday wrap from The Glen

Brad Keselowski - could be coming to a short track near you.
Brad Keselowski – could be coming to a short track near you.

I have a list of items from Saturday at Watkins Glen that I will cover in no particular order. Here goes.

Following the Xfinity race Brad Keselowski was asked about the new limitations on Cup Series drivers participating in Xfinity and Trucks Series races. You might remember Kyle Busch – the poster child for those who detest Cup drivers running the lower series – expressed his feelings regarding the change rather directly. Keselowski chose sarcasm as his preferred method of response.

"I might go run some local tracks next year where people want me to run," said the 2012 Cup Series champion. Sensing the opportunity to perhaps slither out of having to answer the question Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano, simply said “My answer won’t be as clever as Brad’s."

This is likely to be the last race for Dale Earnhardt Jr. here at Watkins Glen International. The driver of the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet is of course retiring from full-time NASCAR competition following the 2017 season. And so far, it has not been a banner start to the weekend for NASCAR’s most popular driver. Junior was 26th fastest in opening practice before posting the 31st best time in final practice, more than two seconds behind session leader Keselowski.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports seem to have few answers these days
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports seem to have few answers these days

Before the final practice session, a noticeably morose Earnhardt Jr. met with the media.

"We haven't really developed any speed throughout the season," noted the 26-time Cup Series winner, who currently sits 22nd in the championship standings. “A lot of teams have and we're playing catch up right now."

And what about the possibility of catching up?

“I’m not going to be able to tell my team anything they don’t know. They understand the reality of the situation and where we are competition-wise and points-wise."

What hope did Earnhardt offer his fans that they might see a late-season playoff run? Well, he noted, they could get lucky.

“We have to go into every race like this is going to be the week that we get it done. I think that’s the only attitude you can have if you expect to take advantage of an opportunity because one might fall in your lap (emphasis mine) and we just might find what we’re looking for before the season is over."

Suffice to say, if you’re a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, I don’t think there was a whole lot in the way of encouragement in today’s presser.

Junior also had some other revealing insights. While people who follow the sport closely are aware of the financial difficulties that have plagued all forms of racing in the last decade, Earnhardt was forthcoming in a way you often don’t see drivers. I will share more on those insights at a later date.

Three weeks ago, I heard that ticket sales were not going well for the IndyCar race Labor Day Weekend at Watkins Glen. What I heard during the weekend was a bit of a different tune. Word is the ticket office and the local hotels are indicating that sales have picked up in recent weeks, and they are hopeful for a good weekend.

Jimmie Johnson says the days of the road course ringers are long gone
Jimmie Johnson says the days of the road course ringers are long gone

Jimmie Johnson also met with the media earlier, and discussed how Cup Series road racing has changed during his time in the series. In particular, Johnson noted how it is more difficult for ‘road course ringers’ to win nowadays.

“The days of a ringer coming in and outrunning regulars are over," said Johnson. “The teams are building better cars and the drivers coming in have more background than drivers twenty-thirty years ago."

Looking ahead to tomorrow, the general sense in the paddock is that Keselowski, Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have the cars to beat. Check back in tomorrow, as I will once again be on site covering all the happenings from the I Love New York 355 at The Glen.

Brian Carroccio reporting for AutoRacing1

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