|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