Ambrose Wins Again at Watkins Glen
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Watkins Glen, N.Y. – Marcos Ambrose pulled a fast one on Kyle Busch Saturday at Watkins Glen International, where the Australian road-racing specialist is now a back-to-back NASCAR Nationwide Series winner.
Ambrose took the lead from Busch on Lap 64 of the Zippo 200 with a self-described “bomb” of an inside move heading into the Bus Stop complex covering Turns 6 and 7 of the 11-turn, 2.45-mile layout. Basically ambushed, Busch chose to stop rather than roll through the straight and incur a penalty as Ambrose sped away and Denny Hamlin momentarily took second.
Busch rallied to take second place on Lap 78 of the scheduled 82 on the day’s final restart via a macho outside line pass of Carl Edwards through the track’s famed uphill Esses complex featuring Turns 3, 4 and 5. But Busch couldn’t cut into Ambrose’s final winning margin of 1.082 seconds, and the fiery star expressed his displeasure with a well-timed fender rub during Ambrose’s cool-down lap.
“Just a perfect day when you’re racing against Kyle,” said Ambrose, who scored his second victory in 71 Nationwide Series starts as driver of the No. 47 STP Toyota Camry. “When you pass him to win you’re doing something special.”
Busch saw it differently, as reflected by an agitated demeanor during his brief post-race news conference.
“I think it (Ambrose’s winning pass) was a little aggressive getting into the Bus Stop, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win,” said Busch, driver of the No. 18 NOS Toyota. “I felt it was a really, really late move and if I would’ve went through there with him I would have wrecked. So I had to do what I had to do to preserve my car and save myself. I never saw him. I heard him and heard him in the grass or wherever the hell he was and I had to turn left. I couldn’t keep going through the Bus Stop.
“I wouldn’t have made (the attempt) because I would’ve wrecked and I think we would’ve wrecked if one of the cars didn’t give, which I was the car that gave. I don’t think it was a fair move. It won him the race and he had to do something. I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I would’ve wadded my stuff up. Yay for him.”
Ambrose, seated next to crew chief Frank Kerr, did not feel compelled to apologize for his first Nationwide victory and top-10 finish of 2009.
“I didn’t have the top-end speed to make a classic pass on him,” said Ambrose, who qualified second Saturday morning. “I knew I’d have to bomb him somewhere. He wasn’t going to make a mistake on his own; I’d have to force one on him. I came from a fair ways back and knew it was a high-risk move. But we’re not here to come second. We’re here to win. You’ve got to have that fortitude that you’re going to win. When you’re passing Kyle Busch you’ve got to do something special because he doesn’t want you to pass him.”
Furthermore, Ambrose said the pass was spot-on clean. “I never touched him,” said Ambrose, who led twice for a race-high 26 laps. “You’re racing against one of the best in the business and the element of surprise was part of my attack. I surprised myself! Don’t know what he’s complaining about. I never touched him and we won the race. Doesn’t matter if he was mad at me anyway. Today’s race was a great race.
“Last year was more about relief, winning a race in North America in the NASCAR series. It was a burden off me. This one was just joy…we had to pass cars to win it and it just feels great.”
Busch ended the day with a 212-point lead over Edwards. But Busch took zero consolation with either his second top-10 finish in three races at WGI or his 19th top-10 of 2009. Busch broke the record for most consecutive first and second-place finishes in series history with 10, a mark set by series icon Jack Ingram in 1983.
Busch also took issue with Edwards, whom he dispatched with that outside pass through the Esses. “Racing with Carl, I had a faster car by half-a-second a lap and he was blocking me,” Busch said. “Give a guy a break. It is what it is. He wanted to have fun. We’ll smile about it.”
Edwards, who led 25 laps, said he was driving the wheels off his No. 60 Save a Lot Ford Fusion. “With the car we had, the team performed flawlessly,” Edwards said. “I held off the guys as long as I could and came home third. We just got to make our cars faster. Those guys are in another league. Congrats to Marcos Ambrose…that car was fast.”
As for Busch’s contention that he was intentionally holding him up during the closing laps, Edwards said, “Hell yes, I was holding him up. I was trying to keep him behind me. That’s my job. That’s racin’. Feel terrible for him.”
Edwards added that Ambrose abused him at one point during the event that saw the winner average 79.407 mph before a crowd estimated at 40,000. “Marcus knows more about road-racing than all of us,” Edwards said. “I wasn’t happy he moved me out of (Turn) 1 earlier, but he apologized for it. I saw it (the winning pass) up on the big screen later and…looks like a pass. If I could have put my car in that position, I would have. “
The race also featured a running series of fender-banging involving Robby Gordon and Joey Logano. The exchanges ended on Lap 73, when Gordon ran Logano off the track and into the tire barriers framing Turn 5. Logano’s drive in the No. 20 GameStop/Mad Catz Toyota ended when the car went up in flames, prompting the sixth and final caution. Ironically, the yellow caused by Gordon allowed him to use the Lucky Dog pass to get back onto the lead lap. Logano, who exited his smoldering Camry unharmed, calmly termed Gordon’s actions as “stupid” after being medically cleared.
“You can’t fix stupid,” Logano said. “It’s forever.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment