Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ambrose wins in wild ride at The Glen

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images
Marcos Ambrose muscled his way to the second Sprint Cup victory of his career, beating and banging, slipping and sliding with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski through the final laps for one of the most exciting finishes of the year in the Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen.

With 16 laps to go, Ambrose and Keselowski lined up in front to take the green after the final caution flew for Tony Stewart's spin. Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer led the rest of the field.  Coming to Turn 1, Busch dived to the inside of Keselowski, taking them three wide. Keselowski let him go, and Busch swung wide to push Ambrose up the track and emerged with the lead.

Ambrose fell back, but with 10 to go started hammering Keselowski's rear bumper as if they were at Bristol in 1999. After a few corners of pushing and shoving, Ambrose got past Keselowski for second, then went to work on catching Busch, who was pulling away. Keselowski didn't give up though, and coming to the white flag he was back up to Ambrose, nipping at the bumper of the No. 9 car when the No. 18 car started wiggling a bit. The three drivers were going all-out when they started sliding on oil from the No. 47. Busch went wide on a turn then pulled down in front of the No. 2. They made contact, with Busch's No. 18 spinning. Despite the oil and the spin, NASCAR did not throw the caution, and Ambrose and Keselowski dueled to the end.

Keselowski described the last lap. "When I got to turn two side-by-side, there was nothing but oil.  I felt lucky not to wreck myself.  He spun out. Marcos was right on my bumper. We got going through turns three and four, it was nothing but oil. We all about spun out.  I could see him in my mirror.  We got to inner loop, nothing but oil. We both slid off the racetrack. I knew I had to drive in there hard. If not, he was going to hit me."

"Just fun." Keselowski said. "We leaned on each other, we bumped each other. We were both cool about it and didn't dump each other...This is what I think racing in NASCAR is supposed to be, hard-nosed, going for the win, bumping and rubbing without any of that intentional wrecking nonsense.  Marcos gets that.  I enjoy racing with him."

Ambrose did bump past him, though, and they traded paint down the final stretch until Ambrose finally emerged in front, taking the checkered flag, giving crew chief Todd Parrot his 32nd Cup win, and putting Richard Petty Motorsports in victory lane.

Jimmie Johnson finished third and took over the points lead after Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was running just outside the top ten, spun late in the race, flat-spotted his tires and had to pit with five to go. Earnhardt Jr., understandable unhappy with NASCAR's decision not to throw a caution, finished in 28th and fell to fourth in the points.

Johnson, however, said, "In general I thought the racing was really good. Our cars work good around here. Even with the strategy we had today, I had to pass a lot of cars, and seemed like a lot of good racing everywhere."

Clint Bowyer hoped to follow up his win at Sonoma with one at The Glen, but he couldn't quite get it and finished fourth. Sam Hornish Jr. was fast all day and his fifth-place finish was just his third top five in Sprint Cup.

The first part of the race turned into a war of attrition, with Brian Vickers heading to the garage with a blown engine on the first lap starting the list of cars that either headed to the garage and returned laps down, or simply fell out of the race. Kurt Busch had a wheel come off, Denny Hamlin blew an engine and had to bail out of his car because flames were coming up through the floor. Polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya's car broke something, Tony Stewart spun and ended up on pit road. Jeff Gordon spun in the oil. Joey Logano, Jason Leffler, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Burton, Michael McDowell all had various mechanical failures or crashes. Joe Nemechek ran out of gas right at the end. Despite all the issues, only four cautions slowed the race.

The 27th annual race at Watkins Glen International featured 10 lead changes among five drivers with Kyle Busch leading the most, 43 of the 90 laps. 

The championship standings changed dramatically.  Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth jumped ahead of Earnhardt Jr., with Keselowski, Truex Jr., Bowyer, Stewart, Harvick, Hamlin, Kahne, and Edwards rounding out the top twelve, though Ryan Newman holds the second wild card slot by virtue of his one win.

Complete results: 

1 Marcos Ambrose
2 Brad Keselowski
3 Jimmie Johnson
4 Clint Bowyer
5 Sam Hornish Jr.
6 Greg Biffle
7 Kyle Busch
8 Matt Kenseth
9 Regan Smith
10 Martin Truex Jr.
11 Ryan Newman
12 Paul Menard
13 Kasey Kahne
14 Carl Edwards
15 Kevin Harvick
16 Casey Mears
17 Scott Speed
18 Aric Almirola
19 Tony Stewart
20 David Gilliland
21 Jeff Gordon
22 David Ragan
23 Landon Cassill
24 Travis Kvapil
25 Boris Said
26 Stephen Leicht
27 Bobby Labonte
28 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
29 Joe Nemechek
30 Jeff Burton
31 Kurt Busch
32 Joey Logano
33 Juan Pablo Montoya
34 Denny Hamlin
35 Jason Leffler
36 Dave Blaney
37 Michael McDowell
38 Josh Wise
39 Jamie McMurray
40 J.J. Yeley
41 Chris Cook
42 Patrick Long
43 Brian Vickers


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