Racin’ with Russ—Marcos Ambrose doubled up in the win column after taking the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon in Watkins Glen, N. Y. in what was surely the most exciting final lap of NASCAR Sprint Cup competition this year.
The race began with Juan Montoya leading the field to the stripe after taking the pole on Saturday. However, the Columbian driver never led a lap as it only took two turns for Kyle Busch to jump out front, a view he enjoyed more than any other driver by the end of the day. Others among the top five for most of the day included Brad Keselowski, Ambrose, and Jimmie Johnson.
The overall event saw a lot of passing and side-by-side racing which led up to an impressive final few laps. On lap 74, Keselowski led the pack into the first turn with Busch and Ambrose not far behind. Busch then made a wild three wide pass to claim the top spot and started to pull away by as much as two seconds.
With a few laps to go, things started to change as the drivers were slipping and sliding around, the result of someone laying down a stream of oil all around the 2.45-mile circuit (Possibly Bobby Labonte’s No. 47). Busch’s lead was alll but gone on the white flag lap with all three doing all they could to stay on course through the first turn. Ambrose then went real wide while in third, while Keselowski saw a bit of an opening by Busch as they entered the second turn. BK barely tapped Busch and sent him around as Ambrose made a strong run at BK’s Dodge racer.
Over the final lap, they traded paint and a bit more while traversing the course on and off the track. BK gave Ambrose’s Ford a bump into the next to last turn with the Aussie once again going very wide, only to come back on the bottom of the final turn as BK slid wide. Ambrose went on to claim his first top five finish of the season and second career trophy over Keselowski, Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Sam Hornish Jr.
The Australian driver also claimed the fifth overall win for Richard Petty Motorsports. Of note were the poor results of Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hamlin blew up late in the go (finished 34th), Stewart spun by himself, also late (19th), Gordon spun by himself off the final turn (21st) and Earnhardt spun unassisted late to net a disappointing 28th.
These results shuffled the overall standings with Johnson now leading by only one point over Greg Biffle and two points over Matt Kenseth as Earnhardt dropped to fourth.
Saturday’s race at the Glen saw excitement from the opening lap as rookie Ryan Truex spun going into the first turn, whereupon Danica Patrick ran slam into his car, essentially ending her day dead last in 43rd. I will say that had she kept an eye on the water temperature, she may have averted blowing up the engine just two laps later as much of the damage was cosmetic in addition to the radiator.
Hornish Jr led the opening laps while his teammate, Keselowski, led the most, but not the most important one. That was left to Carl Edwards in his first Nationwide competition this year. The two full-time Cuppers battled briefly before Edwards set sail for the finish line and one of his trademark back flips at the finish line, much to the delight of the crowd.
The latest win marked the Ford driver’s 38th, beating Keselowski, Hornish Jr. Ricky Stenhouse Jr and road race ace Ron Fellows. Elliot Sadler remains on top of the points despite a 12th place finish.
Stenhouse Jr got closer with his results, yet remains 13 points back. Austin Dillon survived his worst finish of the season in 23rd, slipping down to fourth in the standings, 29 points back.
Reports from Penske Motorsports indicate a decision is forthcoming (by mid-September). "In regards to who will drive the No. 22 Cup car for next season and beyond, first consideration will be current NNS and Cup fill-in driver Sam Hornish Jr, but names such as Joey Logano and Ryan Newman are in the mix as well." (FoxSports)
That’s it for this week. Next week, RWR will review the NASCAR Truck and Cup action from Michigan along with more racing news from around the globe.