NASCAR returns to Watkins Glen on Sunday.
NASCAR returns to Watkins Glen on Sunday.@WGI on Twitter

NASCAR Sunday: The Eckel 4 pick Go Bowling at Watkins Glen, like Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., longshots

Go Bowling at the Glen, Watkins Glen, N.Y. Sunday, 3 p.m. TV: NBCSN.

Go Bowling at the Glen, Watkins Glen, N.Y. 3 p.m. TV: NBCSN

Eric Jones, whose relatively short NASCAR career already includes a Rookie of the Year Award and two playoff appearances, is not having the kind of 2021 he expected.

Jones, the 2017 Rookie of the Year and a playoff driver in 2018 and 2019, needs to win one of the next four races to qualify for this year’s Cup Series playoffs.

Currently in 25th place with no wins, no top fives and just two top 10s, if Jones is going to qualify, Sunday might be his best chance.

NASCAR heads to Watkins Glen, Sunday and the road race has been kind to Jones. As a rookie in ’17 he placed 10th. In 2018 he finished fifth and in 2019 he finished fourth. Last year’s race was not held because of Covid-19.

If Jones, who comes in with odds of 125-1, were to win he would become the 14th automatic qualifier, leaving just two open spots. One would go to Denny Hamlin, who despite no wins in 2021, is still the overall points leader. The other two non-winners who are currently in the playoffs are Kevin Harvick and Tyler Reddick, who sits just five points ahead of Austin Dillon for that final spot.

Here’s how The Eckel 4, which as always includes Scott “Tobacco Road’’ Baker, Mike “Left Turn’’ Sweeney and Barry “Dr. NASCAR’’ Davis see Sunday’s race.

Chase Elliott (9-5): Three of “The 4’’ are going with the odds-on favorite and king of the road race in Elliott, who is looking for his second road win of the season. Elliott won this race the past two times it’s been run and is looking to become the third driver to three-peat. Jeff Gordon did it from 1997-99 and “Left Turn’s’’ favorite, Mark Martin did it in 1993-95. You certainly can’t leave him out, especially in your fantasy plays, but those odds make it tough to bet him.

Martin Truex Jr.: The only other driver to be picked on top, the New Jersey native has had his share of success at the Glen. Truex won here in 2017 and finished second to Elliott in both 2018 and 2019. Maybe this year he turns the table on Chase.

Also Mentioned: Kevin Harvick (25-1); Ryan Blaney (25-1); Kyle Busch (7-1). Harvick certainly needs the win and is long overdue. Blaney is hot with three top five finishes in his last five races. Busch is rounding into form at the right time.

Longshot Plays: Eric Jones (125-1); Ross Chastain (65-1).

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