After two years of leading the most laps at Watking Glen (N.Y.) International, including laps late in the race, only to watch Marcos Ambrose celebrate in victory lane, Kyle Busch finally got his second-career Watkins Glen victory on Sunday, winning the Cheez-It 355 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the track.
Brad Keselowski overcame a spin early in the race to finish second, again, for his third-straight Watkins Glen runner-up showing. Martin Truex Jr. was third.
“We were strong, but we just weren’t quite strong enough,” Keselowski said. “We were definitely really close, and we’ve been close over the last three years, but just came up a libble bit short on the last lap on all three of them. That stinks, but that’s racing.”
Ambrose started from the pole and dominated the first two-thirds of the 90-lap race. He led all but 10 laps when the yellow flag waved on lap 60. While several drivers, including Busch, had just cycled through green-flag stops, the yellow flag caught Ambrose and a few others still needing to make a stop.
Ambrose, along with a few others, pitted under the yellow. As a result, he restarted the race 14th. While Juan Montoya, who also pitted, was able to make up some of the positions lost, Ambrose wasn’t. Ambrose, instead, remained mired outside the top-10 and saw his race end prematurely when the field got bunched up on a restart with six laps to go. Contact sustained sent Ambrose into a spin and into the wall. He wound up 30th.
“I’m just really disappointed for my Stanley team,” Ambrose said. “Something was wrong with the car there, and I just couldn’t get going. I could feel on the roll-around lap that something had broken, but I just feel bad for the guys who got caught up in all that mess. That’s not the way we wanted our day to finish, but thank you to Stanley and Ford and everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports for giving me a good shot to win today. We had a very fast car, but it just wasn’t our day.”
Busch restarted the race in the lead after the lap-60 caution and didn’t look back. He had to battle Keselowski and Truex on three more restarts, all in the final 12 laps, but each time, he was able to stay out front.
“I knew I needed to keep position on them (Keselowski and Treux),” Busch said. “The car was really good on long runs.”
The yellow flag was waved a total of eight times in the race, with a caution on lap 40 for a multi-car incident resulting in a red flag period of more than 20 minutes for track cleanup.
Carl Edwards finished fourth, and Montoya worked his way back up through the field to finish fifth. Finishing sixth through 10th were Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and A.J. Allmendinger.
With top-three finishes, both Keselowski and Truex moved into the top-10 of the championship points standings, Keselowski to eighth and Truex to 10th. Both Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon dropped out of the top-10 after getting caught up in on-track incidents at The Glen. Gordon is winless, so far, in 2013. Kahne, though, has two wins, making him the provisional holder of the first Chase for the Sprint Cup wild card. Ryan Newman, with one win, holds the second.
Max Papis, filling in behind the wheel of the No. 14 for the injured Toiny Stewart, came out of Watkins Glen with a 15th-place finish.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR