WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Marcos Ambrose missed his daughter's first day of school. She probably won't mind.
The snakebitten Ambrose, deprived more than once of a NASCAR victory, beat Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch on a two-lap dash to the checkered flag Monday to win the rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International.
It was his first victory in 105 starts in NASCAR's top series and atoned for a slip-up a year ago on the road course at Sonoma, when he stalled his car under caution while leading with six laps to go and finished sixth.
"I've tried for 2 1/2 years," Ambrose said. "We're going to onward and upward from here. It's a proud day."
Ambrose has won all three Nationwide races he's entered at Watkins Glen, and in three Cup starts here, he's notched one second and two thirds, including an impressive drive from last to third in 2008.
Finally pulling into victory lane was a feeling like no other.
"This is almost surreal," the Australian said in his No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports after crossing the finish line.
Ambrose signed a multiyear deal with struggling RPM a year ago to drive the No. 9 this season. That capped a tumultuous summer in which he opted to leave the No. 47 at JTG Daugherty Racing at the end of 2010 with one year left on his contract, even though he knew he was taking a big risk in difficult economic times.
"There were days, weeks when I was anxious," Ambrose said. "There were times I was sitting around the boardroom table and there was nobody else there. But you've got to roll the dice sometimes."
It was Ford's first victory on a road course since Geoff Bodine won here in 1996 and the 15th different winner in Cup races this year.