Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ambrose Comes Out on Top

Kyle Busch was all set to take the victory at Watkins Glen, but oil on the track derailed his hopes of victory.  When Brad Keselowski took the lead, Marcos Ambrose was not going to let Keselowski win the race.  He got around the Blue Deuce to win his second Sprint Cup Series race, and his first since winning this race at Watkins Glen one year ago.

Juan Pablo Montoya, always a threat on the road courses, won the pole for the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen and led Kyle Busch to the green flag.  Montoya didn't hold the lead for long, because Busch was able to pull around him getting into Turn 2.  Before the cars had even completed one lap, Brian Vickers took his car to the garage.  Vickers, who was driving the No. 55 car this weekend, blew an engine and his day ended early.  On lap 9, Boris Said spun in Turn 1, but he was able to continue on and there wasn't a caution.  Said was spun by David Ragan when he tried to pass Said heading into the corner.

Montoya leads Busch to the green flag (Courtesy Getty Images)
Ryan Newman was the first driver to make a pit stop on lap 17.  On lap 18, Jason Leffler got out into the gravel pit in between Turns 6 and 7, but he was able to make it back to pit road and the race continued green.  During the round of pit stops, Marcos Ambrose and Jimmie Johnson also pitted.  The drivers who pitted here were on a three-stop strategy, while the rest of the field was on a two-stop strategy. 

On lap 23, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick made their first pit stops of the day.  Brad Keselowski, who had been running third, made his pit stop on lap 24.  While drivers were pitting, the caution came out on lap 26 for Jamie McMurray who cut down a left-front tire and slammed into the wall heading into Turn 2.  Under the caution, Kurt Busch lost his left-rear tire and spun out.  Under the caution, the leaders who hadn't pitted made their stops, and Juan Pablo Montoya was able to beat Kyle Busch off of pit road.  Tony Stewart was penalized for removing his gas can from his pit stall under the caution, and was forced to restart at the back of the pack.

Brad Keselowski led Marcos Ambrose to the green flag on lap 30.  Joey Logano took his car to the garage on lap 31 with a broken shock mount.  On lap 32, Juan Pablo Montoya slowed while running in sixth, and Montoya said something broke in the left-front.  Montoya took his car to the garage after his team tried to diagnose the problem on pit road.  

Montoya's car sits in the garage (Courtesy Getty Images)
On lap 39, Marcos Ambrose was finally able to get around Keselowski for the lead.  Ambrose led until he came in to make his pit stop on lap 47.  Johnson also came in to make his second stop of the day.  On lap 57, Keselowski gave up the lead to come in and make what was to be his final pit stop of the day.  Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all came in at the same time as Keselowski to make their final pit stops.  Martin Truex Jr. ran out of gas on lap 59, and the caution came out at the same time for Denny Hamlin.  His engine blew, and the car had a little bit of fire underneath the car. 

Under the caution, Kyle Busch and the rest of the leaders came in to make their pit stops.  Marcos Ambrose also came in to make his final stop of the day.  Busch won the race off pit road, and was followed by Matt Kenseth and Ambrose. 

Keselowski led Stewart, Bowyer, and Earnhardt Jr. to the green flag on lap 62.  Keselowski was able to hold the lead going through Turn 1, while Bowyer was able to get around Stewart for second place.  On lap 63, Kasey Kahne went for a spin off of Martin Truex Jr.'s bumper in Turn 1, but he was able to continue on.  Jason Leffler stopped in the interloop area on lap 64, bringing out the third caution of the day.

The rain arrived at the track, and kept the race under a long caution, but the race went back green on lap 69, with Keselowski leading Stewart and Bowyer to the green.  Keselowski was able to hold the lead, while Greg Biffle forced his way under Ambrose and Busch, forcing Busch to go wide in Turn 1.  On lap , Tony Stewart had a big spin coming off the last turn, and he slammed into the wall near pit road.  He came into the pits so his crew could try to fix the massive amount of damage to the rear end.

Kyle Busch leads the field (Courtesy Getty Images)
When the race restarted on lap 75, Keselowski led Ambrose down into Turn 1.  Keselowski got a bad restart, and Kyle Busch was able to get around him for the lead, while Ambrose stayed in third.  On lap 80, after a fierce battle, Ambrose was able to get around Keselowski for second place and he set his sights on the race leader.  With just seven laps to go, Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun on his own in Turn 5, and dropped all the way to 22nd place.  He had been running in 10th place. 

With two laps to go, Keselowski was able to pull around Ambrose to take back second place.  At the same time, Kyle Busch began to slow, and going into Turn 2, Keselowski spun Busch out to take the lead.  Keselowski had some damage to his left front, and Ambrose and he drove through the grass racing for the lead.  Coming out of Turn 5, Ambrose nudged Keselowski to take the lead, and he had to finish second.  Ambrose would go on to win his second Sprint Cup Series race, and his second in a row at Watkins Glen. 

Keselowski had to settle for second place after a great day.  Jimmie Johnson finished third, and was followed by Clint Bowyer.  Sam Hornish Jr. finished fifth in a stellar performance in the No. 22 car.  Greg Biffle finished sixth.  Kyle Busch finished seventh following his wreck.  Matt Kenseth, Regan Smith, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the Top 10.  Carl Edwards finished 14th, and Kevin Harvick finished 15th.  Tony Stewart couldn't overcome his wreck, and he finished 19th.  Jeff Gordon wrecked on the final lap, and finished 21st.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 28th, one lap down.  Juan Pablo Montoya finished 33rd, and Denny Hamlin finished 34th.  Brian Vickers finished 43rd following his blown engine on the first lap.  Mark Martin will be back in the car next weekend.

Ambrose celebrates his first win of 2012 (Courtesy Getty Images)
Watkins Glen proved that the road course races are some of the most exciting on the NASCAR schedule.  After the exciting race, the Sprint Cup Series returns to a 1.5 mile track next week.  The series returns to the site of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s last win, Michigan International Speedway.  The Pure Michigan 400 can be seen next Sunday at 12 noon, only on ESPN.

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