After the race in Pennsylvania’s mountainous vacation spot, the series heads to Watkins Glen International where we could see a fifth first-time winner and/or a 15th new face in victory lane. For the purposes of this column, let’s focus on the guys who haven’t won but who have the best shot at winning at The Glen.

There have been four first-time winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series through the first 20 races of the season.

This is unprecedented in the modern era, and when combined with 14 different victors overall, it’s been quite refreshing. No one driver has more than three wins and the top 10 are separated by 76 points.

After the race in Pennsylvania’s mountainous vacation spot, the series heads to Watkins Glen International where we could see a fifth first-time winner and/or a 15th new face in victory lane. For the purposes of this column, let’s focus on the guys who haven’t won but who have the best shot at winning at The Glen.

Marcos Ambrose:Of the group that hasn’t won, he’s the best bet.

His worst finish in three starts at The Glen is third, with 17 laps led and two Nationwide Series wins. He’s driving for a better team than he has in past seasons and poised to set new career highs across the board. However, he was underwhelming at Infineon Raceway in June and has a penchant for using up his car before the finish.

Tony Stewart:Seriously, Smoke hasn’t won a race yet this year. If that streak is going to end, it should probably be halted at The Glen.

Stewart has won five times with an average finish of 5.4 in 12 starts. His worst finish at The Glen since 2002 is 11th, and he’s never failed to complete a lap in Schuyler County in two different kinds of cars with two different teams. The only knock on Stewart this year are his results – or lack thereof: Two top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 20 starts. Very un-Smoke-like.

Juan Pablo Montoya:The defending race champ, who made at least 40 drivers look like rank amateurs in 2010, returns needing a win to make the Chase.

Montoya, one of the most naturally gifted drivers of his era, figured out The Glen and toyed with poor Ambrose in the last half of the race. But he’s got a new crew chief, the nose of the car is different from last season and his numbers have regressed to 2008 levels.

A.J. Allmendinger:Ambrose’s teammate is one heck of a road racer – he beat Sebastian Bourdais five times in one season in Champ Car.

He logged a career-best fourth at The Glen last year, and, like Ambrose, is on pace to better his numbers in 2011. He may not jump out at you as a threat, but if he pulls off the upset, don’t be terribly surprised. And here’s the “but”: He just hasn’t taken off on the NASCAR road courses the way so many thought he would. A fourth-place finish at WGI is his only top five on a serpentine track in five seasons.

Jamie McMurray:The feel-good story of NASCAR in 2010 is invisible in 2011. That could change at The Glen, where McMurray always seems to show speed.

He’s finished third and sixth at The Glen, took outside pole position last year and is almost always near the top of the charts during practice. Just remember, his team has been wretched this season with one top-five finish.

Martin Truex Jr.:Truex before Mark Martin, Greg Biffle or Kasey Kahne? I know, you’re thinking this was written during a cough syrup bender, but Truex has as many laps around The Glen as about 85 percent of the racers in the Cup series. He’s been racing stock cars here since he was a teenager.

He’s finished fifth and sixth at The Glen in the Cup cars, when he was with Dale Earnhardt Inc. You guessed it, the bad news: Truex hasn’t been the same since joining Michael Waltrip’s team. There’s promise to be better than 2010, but what ever lit his fuse with the Earnhardt team just hasn’t ignited with Waltrip’s people.

Mark Martin:This is totally a respect thing for Martin, who was inducted into the Legends of The Glen already. For the uninformed, he won three straight Cup races from pole position in these parts. From 1989-2005, his worst finish was 10th.

But, his last three finishes are 20th, 23rd and 19th. Blech. This season, the veteran has one top-five finish in 20 starts. Again, he’s on this list out of reverence of an 8.3 average finishing position at WGI – even after his last three starts.

Epilogue:Drivers I wanted to put on here but just could not pull the trigger on include Clint Boywer (The Glen is poison to this poor guy), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (chart his career with the introduction of the COT and tell me what happened), Greg Biffle (never fast for more than 10 laps at The Glen), Kasey Kahne (playing out the clock right now) and Jeff Burton (still doesn’t have a top-10 finish this year).

Old guard:The story of Dr. Joseph Mattioli’s retirement as head of Pocono Raceway didn’t get a lot of play in the press this weekend, which is sad.

Mattioli and his wife, Rose, built the quirky 2.5-mile triangle for less than what an Xbox game costs and, today, is worth more than $600 million. He refused to sell out when everyone was throwing money at him and modernized the track to such a degree that it’s now completely sustainable by solar power.

The kind of visionary auto racing sorely needs today, Mattioli handed the reigns to his grandchildren Friday in a surprise press conference at the track. Hopefully, his grandchildren inherited some of Doc’s fight and forward-looking ability. Hopefully, the wolves in the industry don’t take advantage of the regime change.

For all of Pocono’s perceived faults – i.e. the races are too long, no grandstands in the turns, two races too close together on the schedule – it’s still the last remaining paragon in racing of what a husband and wife can do together in an age of corporate control. That’s important.

* Chris Gill, who covers auto racing, can be reached at cmgill@the-leader.com.