Monday, August 13, 2012

Watkins Glen Finish Was One For The Ages

Busch spins to trigger a wild final lap
Marcos Ambrose’s win in Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen highlighted everything that is right with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. 

Ambrose took the white flag Sunday in third place, trailing leader Kyle Busch and second-place driver Brad Keselowski. All three drivers faced do-or-die scenarios, and nothing less than a win would do. 

For Busch, a win would effectively lock him into the Chase For The Sprint Cup, erasing a maddening regular season filled with frustration and mechanical failure and wiping his competitive slate clean for a final, 10-race shot at redemption.  

For Keselowski, a Watkins Glen victory would be his fourth of the season, sending him the Chase as the top-ranked driver in NASCAR, with a vital head-start en route to the 2012 title. 

For Ambrose, victory at The Glen was nothing short of imperative. Far removed from the Top-10 in points, the Aussie ace came to the Empire State needing to win at least one of the final five regular-season races to claim a Wild Card spot. Winless on ovals to date, a defeat at the Glen would essentially end Ambrose’s hopes for a Chase berth.

That “all or nothing” scenario combined with an oil-slicked racing surface to create one of the most spellbinding finals laps in the 56-year history of the legendary road course. The leaders took the white flag just after Bobby Labonte’s Toyota laid a thin film of oil around the entirety of the circuit. At the head of the pack, Busch was first to lose traction in the Glen’s slippery second turn. His M&M’s Toyota slipped sideways and was collected by Keselowski, spinning Busch spinning into the Armco Barrier and out of contention.  

Huge win for Ambrose and Petty
Keselowski then took command, but was helpless against the greasy race track and the unrelenting attacks of Ambrose. The two swapped positions with just two turns remaining, with Ambrose sliding into the lead as both drivers battled to maintain control. Keselowski retaliated as Ambrose slipped wide in Turn Seven, and the two raced off the final curve nose-to-nose, with Ambrose prevailing to claim a car length victory.   

“That last lap was crazy,” said Ambrose afterward. “I slipped in the oil right off the bat. The oil on the track just kept getting worse and worse, (so) you just take your chances. You've got to commit at that point in the race and it was great racing with Kyle and Brad.”

The win moved Ambrose to 17th in championship points, trailing Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon in the battle for the final Wild Card berth. He will likely need to win again at Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta or Richmond to compete for the 2012 championship. Before that, however, the Tazmanian was determined to celebrate his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. 

 “It's just awesome fun and that's the way racing should be. You just have to take Lady Luck when she strikes and (today) was our day." 

Team owner Richard Petty was also beaming in Victory Lane. After negotiating seriously for a return to the Dodge camp in 2013, Petty likely has some fence mending to do with Ford Motor Company, and Ambrose’s victory provides a critical bargaining chip.

“I seen some of the Ford people there today,” said Petty after the race. “I told them, `Me and Marcos won the race.' I had the contract in my pocket (and) I was going to let them sign it right there. I don't think it went over too good."

Photo: Jerry Markland, Getty Images For NASCAR


  1. That was one of the best finishes ever. Love or hate Keselowski his post race interview showed me a lot of class. He races you like you race him. If they through the yellw it would have bee a fuel miliage race and another NASCAR conspiracy. NASCAR has to make judgement calls all the time and get 99% of them right. Not bad in my book. so lets give them credit this week. Tootallsteve

  2. An exciting finish, indeed. Maybe we should free up the track with few laps to go at every race with a little grease. Oil-white-checker, anybody?

  3. Pocono the previous week and the finish at Watkins Glen illustrated what's good about racing yet they both show what's wrong with it in that they are exceptions proving the rule.

    It has become a rarity to see any race where the lead changes twice a lap for several straight laps as happened at Pocono, or see a race where the three leaders wage a true all-out fight for the win. If these were the norm, the sport would begin regaining its lost popularity.

    Seeing Richard Petty win again is also good for the sport - he's the one who built it among drivers; he's the face of the sport for its entire history.

    1. Monkeesfan, I appreciate your comments on this topic. Your thoughts on the Danica Patrick story will not be published, however, due to some fairly blatant violations of our "no trash talking" policy. I'm confident that you can express your feelings about Ms. Patrick without calling her (or Kelley Earnhardt) disparaging names. Feel free to try again, if you like.

  4. Anonymous4:31 PM

    With safety on our minds after Pocono.....leaving the #18 backwards in a cloud of smoke doesn't "hightlight everything that is right in Nascar".

  5. Wayne7:09 PM

    BK was talking his trash but left out the bump with Kyle. Don,t look back!

  6. I was yelling at my TV yesterday! Come on Brad! Wait, Get him Marco! Get back up there Brad! Last Chance Marco! Oh no! Holy @#%&! YES!!! What a race!!! Hit the rewind button, and still didn't know what was going to happen the 2nd time I watched it!

    It was a spectacular finish. The best finishes have been because the battle raged to the checkers. Not because somebody get taken out on the last lap. It was good to hear both Brad and Marcos echo each other, without hearing what the other said.

    That is what its all about. Anyone can stuff someone in the wall or spin em out. Trading paint and position, not placing blame. No excuses. He beat me fair and square, now we're gonna share a beer and trade stories.

    Extremely Gruntled

  7. By the way,

    Thank you Brad and Marcos for that last lap.

  8. Anonymous12:10 AM

    actually the king always wanted to keep his ford connection but some partners were drooling over fiat's money

  9. Someone dropped the ball on the condition of the track. With 3 laps to go Dave Rogers told Kyle Busch the 47 blew up and there was oil in turn 1. We still ran 2 entire laps while that was the case. Safety did not seem like the primary concern for NASCAR there. Between the Nationwide race at Indy and yesterday at The Glen, I have my doubts about race control. Yes, the images of that last lap were exciting but it really did have a potentially damaging effect on at least 2 drivers' seasons. Hopefully it won't, Brad really showed alot of fortitude this past weekend in both races for sure. Could use a few more drivers like him out there. Just sucks we had to have a finish like that under those circumstances.

    1. That's interesting, since the 47 didn't "blow up" until the leaders were almost to the stripe with TWO laps to go.

    2. Almost to the stripe, so they weren't there yet.... Meaning it was still 3 to go right?

      Fact remaining they still ran two ENTIRE laps with a smoking car oiling down the track.

      Between the television delay and the scanners being ahead of the pictures on my screen it could very well have been only 2 laps to go. But my point is that they ran two full laps without even the thought of a caution flag.

      The images of that last lap are thrilling, but are tainted in my eyes. Dale Jr, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson said there was no reason to be racing on the track in that situation, so are we just going to give NASCAR a "pass" since Ambrose and Brad put on one hell of a show?

  10. Anonymous11:20 AM

    Glad there was no caution and they got to race...

    Hate to see Kyle get spun on the last lap, I'd rather seen him get crashed on the parade lap lol