Zippo 200 at the Glen: Winners and Losers

Patti RodischAnalyst IAugust 8, 2009

WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 08:  Marcos Ambrose (C), driver of the #47 STP Toyota, poses with his team in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 8, 2009 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Road course racing is usually exciting, with drivers battling lap after lap for position. And with every call critical, the Nationwide drivers headed north to Watkins Glen for Saturday afternoon ride.

Check out which drivers were winners and which can’t wait to head back to the oval.

Winners

Marcos Ambrose

He was the favorite coming into this weekend, both for the Nationwide race and Cup race on Sunday. Marcos Ambrose stepped into this ride for a one-race deal this weekend.

Coming into the Glen, Ambrose was the defending race winner and as the green flag waved, he started up front and finished there.

Ambrose who started second stayed up front all day long, then fell back in the pack as pit strategies played out but soon cycled back up front and found himself in the lead.

During a caution and pit stops, Ambrose lost the lead to Kyle Busch but after the restart worked over Busch and took back the lead for good with less than 20 to go. Ambrose cruised to a victory lane for the second consecutive year.

Ambrose was worried about upsetting other drivers (by other drivers I mean the cup drivers who he races on Sunday).

But if he was leading and someone else did that to him, I doubt they would be as apologetic and that’s how he has garnered the respect of many of NASCAR top drivers.

Road courses bring out the best drivers and the worst drivers and Ambrose was simply the best.

Points: 17th (OP)

Kyle Busch

Well, Busch once again finished second setting a record for consecutive races of finishing either first or second at 10.

It's an amazing accomplishment all on its own and it leaves you to wonder just how many races he could have won this year alone.

Busch though had the second best car out there today. He was able to work through traffic and work fuel mileage to perfection.

His pit crew got it done on pit road, and Busch got the lead on a restart passing Steven Wallace. Although he was unable to keep the lead late, Busch was able to rally back for his record finish of second.

We will say Busch's “love tap” on Ambrose after the race was congratulatory, I think.

Points: First

Scott Speed

Scott Speed must have felt right at home, on a road course doing what he does best. Speed was probably the second-most consistent driver out there today. He fell behind early but was able to rally and pull back up front through great pit stops.

Speed sniffed at the lead but fell back to 10th where he finished on Saturday. Speed seemed to struggle in the “Esses” and turn one where he lost the most momentum on restarts.

Speed had exactly that on Saturday, and he proved him coming home with an impressive finish.

Points: 34th

Brian Keselowski/Michael McDowell

I want to give a nod to not a driver but a crew chief. With a tough economy and sponsorship hard to come by in this series, sometimes a driver has to be willing to get out of the car for it to find some success.

Brian Keselowski has done just that. For the second time this season Keselowski has been atop the pit box and was the crew chief, while another driver drives his car. Keselowski is a struggling owner/driver and had Michael McDowell drive his car this weekend.

It’s tough when you love to drive to give up the seat, but a good owner knows that sometimes it’s out of your hands.

Losers

Robby Gordon

For the second consecutive race, Robby Gordon tops my list but not for a good reason. His race started off promising. Strong qualifying spot put him right up front.

Gordon was spun early and was forced to play catch up the rest of the day. Gordon then tangled with Joey Logano late in the race. Gordon complained that Logano wasn’t passing him clean over the radio.

Once again, Gordon apparently couldn’t keep his emotions in check and wrecked Logano sending Logano hard into the wall and ending his day. Gordon would go on to finish 14th

Gordon's temper has often gotten the worse of him and sometimes has cost him decent finishes. His passion for his job is evident, but sometimes his passion becomes aggression and he not only ruins his day but he takes out another car in the process.

Gordon must have lots of spare cars the way he been banging and beating the last couple weeks.

Points: N/A

Denny Hamlin

Now I know, Denny Hamlin was up front for most of the day, actually to the last 14 laps, and then he suffered a suspension failure and relegated him to this finish.

Hamlin, who was stepping in to take over the No. 11 car for recently released driver Scott Lagasse, had a lot of hope coming into this race. He has found recent success on the road courses and was looking to come home with a win.

Hamlin though never could find the front of the field; he was forced to the garage with a suspension failure with only a handful of laps remaining. He finished 34th.

A top five or even top 10 finish probably wasn’t in the cards, it was either this or running out of fuel, as they were a few laps short even with cautions.

Points: 18th (OP)

Ryan Newman

In actuality, Ryan Newman was a substitute driver. After Mike Bliss was released as the driver of the No. 1 earlier this week, Newman was asked to drive. Newman had a decent run going and looked like a strong finish was in store for this team.

After a pit stop Newman began losing fuel pressure and was forced to pit again. After adding fuel and feverishly trying to fix the problem the team was forced to the garage where they finished 35th.

With this car sitting in the top 10 in points this was a big blow to this team, as they lost one position in the standings.

They are over 1,100 points out of the top spot in the standings but you can’t help but feel their grip on the 10 slipping.

Points: Seventh (OP)

Lucky dog

Justin Allgaier

Well he wasn’t really lucky; he finished 17th. But for this being his first time at this track and on top of it he wasn’t feeling very good, it was a solid performance. He’ll take 17th and move on to next week.

Allgaier who is the leading rookie of the year, used the last couple days to learn as much as he could about this track. The tricky bus stops and avoiding the “kitty litter” were key to coming home with a solid a finish.

It was just another day at the office, another solid finish to add to his growing resume.

Points: Fifth

Final Lap…

Turn one was not as distarous as many predicted on Saturday. Many drivers were not willing to take themselves out on restarts so most drivers were very cautious.

With these double-file restarts, many times the driver who is being too aggressive is the one who gets taken out along with whoever he tags, so being too aggressive leaves no advantage at most tracks.

Many have questioned whether or not double duty drivers have any advantage on Sunday because they drove on Saturday. At most tracks I would say no, with two different body styles. At a road course though, while handling is important, it’s not going to make or break your finish.

This weekend every one of those double duty drivers got just a little bit of extra practice in and that could pay off on Sunday.

Next up Michigan!

Editors’ note: OP means Owners Points; some drivers listed are not nationwide regulars.