Sunday, August 11, 2013

Redemption and relief for Rowdy at Watkins Glen

Credit: John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images
Last year's epic last-lap battle at Watkins Glen will be replayed for years, alongside the "Pass in the Grass" and the Kurt Busch - Ricky Craven Darlington finish. For Kyle Busch, though, it meant another loss after having led the most laps, and another unfortunate encounter with Brad Keselowski.

This year Rowdy didn't lead the most laps, but he led the most important one - the one with the checkered flag.

And Keselowski raced him cleanly. Bad Brad caught Busch on the last lap but chose not to wreck Rowdy for the win.

“There’s racing and wrecking," said Keselowski. "Those are two different things. Everybody defines them a little differently and I guess that’s the code you live your life by. Me, I define last year as racing and some people would define that as wrecking. If I was gonna take out Kyle today it would have been wrecking in my mind and there’s a distinct difference.”

Keselowski finished second - again! - with Martin Truex Jr. third, Carl Edwards in fourth and Juan Pablo Montoya fifth.

Marcos Ambrose was looking for three wins in a row at the Glen and when he led 51 of the first 61 laps, it appeared to be his race to lose. But after pitting under the Lap 61 caution, Ambrose got stuck in traffic with an ill-handling racecar. After leading the most laps, he found himself unable to drive back to the front. Something broke on the No. 9 with five to go causing Ambrose to wad up the field. He finished the day in 31st place.

How did the win make Busch feel?

Relieved.

"A big sigh of relief, just a deep breath, just like, whew," said Busch in his post-race press conference.

"I didn't even say anything until I got over to the backstretch. I was just trying to take it all in and figure it all out. Last couple years here have been tough and today it could have been tough again, but we were raced clean and we put on a good show I felt like. We've had fast cars here. I wouldn't say we deserve it, but we felt like we deserved to win here and just haven't quite been able to put it all together when it matters," said Busch.

What about Keselowski, who spun early in the race but fought back to finish runner-up?

"Three years in a row in a second, that kind of stinks, but proud of the effort, proud of the recovery because I dug us a deep hole very early in the race trying to pass McMurray, and I lost control and about knocked our race out right there and finished our car off," the 2012 champion said.

Despite his satisfaction at having worked back up from 27th to second, Keselowski wasn't completely mollified by the team's rebound.

"I wasn't racing or running today thinking, boy, I need a great points day, even though I definitely was cognizant of the fact that the 5 and the 24 and obviously the troubles with Tony, but I didn't enter this race thinking, 'Let's run second or third; that would be great; that would be a lot better than taking a risk and winning,'" said Keselowski. "Hell no I wasn't thinking that. I wanted to win the race, and that's where my heart's at."

Martin Truex Jr. finished third, and while he agreed with Keselowski about wanting to win, he said, "Brad and I were side by side a couple times through there, me and Kyle went up through there side by side once, but I'm telling you, you're on pins and needles and you're just waiting for something bad to happen when you do it."

Last year's race had only four cautions for 13 laps but this year the yellow flag flew eight times for 21 of the 90 laps, plus there was a red flag thrown in for good measure.

Notably, on Lap 81 going into Turn 4, Matt Kenseth - who has a new middle name courtesy of Dale Earnhardt Jr. - got into Kasey Kahne, turning him across the track and into Junior's path. Six cars were involved, with Kahne and Earnhardt incurring the most damage.

"That was Matt F*****g Kenseth right there," said Junior, even as crew chief Steve Letarte began barking orders for the No. 88 team to hustle to the garage and replace the radiator. "We got ten laps. There could be a green-white-checkered, we don't know," said Letarte. "They aren't done wrecking yet." He was right.

Junior was back on the track in time to finish ahead of Ambrose, gaining three valuable points in the process. He still dropped to sixth place as the win propelled Kyle to fifth in the standings.

Faring even worse were Kahne and Gordon, who fell to 12th and 13th respectively. For a look at the full standings, click here.

Also of note:
  • Max Papis substituted in the No. 14 as Tony Stewart convalesces with a broken leg from a sprint car accident last week. Mad Max managed a 15th-place finish in his first race in a Gen-6 car.
  • AJ Allmendinger ran up front until he ran out of gas heading for pit road. He fought his way back to finish 10th. 
  • With the exception of Papis, the "road-course ringers" had a rough day. Boris Said finished 22nd, Owen Kelly 24th, Ron Fellows 35th, Victor Gonzalez Jr. 41st, and Tomy Drissi 42nd. All but Drissi suffered varying degrees of sheet metal damage.
The full finishing order:

1    Kyle Busch
2    Brad Keselowski
3    Martin Truex, Jr.
4    Carl Edwards
5    Juan Pablo Montoya
6    Clint Bowyer
7    Joey Logano
8    Jimmie Johnson
9    Kurt Busch
10    A.J. Allmendinger
11    Jamie McMurray
12    Casey Mears
13    Kevin Harvick
14    Ryan Newman
15    Max Papis
16    Greg Biffle
17    Paul Menard
18    Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
19    Denny Hamlin
20    Danica Patrick
21    David Ragan
22    Boris Said
23    Matt Kenseth
24    Owen Kelly
25    David Gilliland
26    Jeff Burton
27    Dave Blaney
28    Landon Cassill
29    Alex Kennedy
30    Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
31    Marcos Ambrose
32    Brian Vickers
33    David Stremme
34    Kasey Kahne
35    Ron Fellows
36    Jeff Gordon
37    Aric Almirola
38    Michael McDowell
39    Brian Keselowski
40    Travis Kvapil
41    Victor Gonzalez, Jr.
42    Tomy Drissi
43    David Reutimann

Next week the NASCAR travelling circus winds its way back to Michigan International Speedway.


Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.

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