WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Kyle Busch finally has that elusive second win at Watkins Glen International, atoning for a year ago when he lost a certain victory on the last lap.
A year ago, Busch watched victory slip away when he slid off course on the final lap on a track coated with oil from a blown engine.
Marcos Ambrose, seeking his third straight Cup win at The Glen, was on the pole and led for 51 laps. But his luck finally ran out just past the halfway point of the 90-lap race.
He had to pit under caution after Busch had come in under green. That gave Busch the lead and he held on through a series of cautions over the final 28 laps. Ambrose crashed late trying to make a late run and finished 23rd.
The field didn’t have to worry about five-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart. The driver known as Smoke is out indefinitely after breaking his right leg Aug. 5 in a sprint car race in Iowa. Stewart, who has had two operations, saw his streak of 521 consecutive Cup starts end. Max Papis drove Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet on Sunday and finished 15th. Several drivers had stickers on their cars honoring Stewart with the message: “Get Well Smoke 14.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished third, followed by Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya. Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.
Jeff Gordon entered the race with momentum in ninth place in the points standings after finishing second last week at Pocono, but his day was ruined early with a wreck on Lap 15. He finished 36th and dropped to 13th in the standings with four races to go until the Chase for the Sprint Cup title starts.
The top 10 drivers in points and the drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins earn wild-card berths for the 10-race postseason. Kurt Busch moved into 11th place, just two points behind Truex and only four behind ninth-place Greg Biffle.
Kevin Harvick went with a different fuel strategy and was one of several cars who pitted after Gordon’s crash. He took the lead when Ambrose made his first stop. When the Australian got back on track, he trailed Harvick by 13 seconds, but that advantage was erased when Michael McDowell’s No. 35 Ford broke a track bar, bringing out the third caution of the race.
A crash involving Ron Fellows and Travis Kvapil brought out a 22-minute red flag on the next lap, giving teams a chance to discuss strategy. Ambrose, Kyle Busch, and Keselowski had dueled at the end for the win in each of the previous two races at Watkins Glen, and a third three-way confrontation was on the mind with Keselowski lurking in eighth after an early spin.
“All things, considered, it’s been a good race,” Ambrose said during the stoppage, repeatedly getting an earful from crew chief Drew Blickensderfer to save fuel. “But it’s not over.”
It sure wasn’t.