Brad Keselowski got to Kyle Busch's bumper in the final corner, but Busch drove away to the checkered flag to win Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen.
Busch and Keselowski started side by side with two laps to go on the race's final restart, and Busch jumped away from the defending Sprint Cup Series champion enough that Keselowski's focus had to shift from going after Busch for the lead to holding off Martin Truex Jr. for second.
Keselowski cleared Truex as the field hurtled cleanly through the esses and slowly made his way to Busch's bumper throughout the course of the last two circuits. But it wasn't enough, as Busch got his third win of the season.
"My car wasn't turning as good as it needed to on cold tires," Busch said "I was really having to muscle it and get it around there as best I could."
"Fun to drive. Not quite as good as it needed to be, I think we could have made it better, but you know, I'm always a perfectionist so I always want to be better."
Keselowski said he thinks he could have caught Busch had the race to the finish been longer.
"Kyle's car was really good after about five to 10 laps and my car was really good for five to 10 laps," Keselowski said. "If that last run would have been about five laps I think I could have gotten him. But it was only two or three."
"Kyle did a great job with his restarts and I almost had him down here but I was going to have to wreck him to do it and I've had enough drama, I didn't need any more drama with the Miller Lite Ford Fusion."
Yes, Kyle's restarts were important, as was the use of the word cleanly in the third paragraph. The final restart was the third one inside of the last 10 laps, and after the first two, the field didn't make it up the hill to Watkins Glen's long back straightaway before a crash occurred.
After the restart with 10 laps to go, Matt Kenseth got into Kasey Kahne as Marcos Ambrose was loose. Kahne went around and collected Dale Earnhardt Jr. while Jeff Burton, Paul Menard and others were also involved in the mess.
That set up a restart with six laps to go and the ensuing crash just after the green flag took out Marcos Ambrose, who was loose going up the hill and went completely around collecting Brian Vickers after contact from Max Papis.
Ambrose is likely the reason for Busch's standard of perfectionism when describing his car. Throughout the first two thirds of the race, Ambrose, the pole sitter, was the car to beat, dominating the race. While Busch was driving away from everyone else, Ambrose was driving away from him. No one seemed set to challenge the No. 9's bid for a third straight victory at the Glen.
That was until a caution flag for his teammate Aric Almirola with 25 laps to go. When Almirola lost a tire in turn five, it was in the middle of green flag pit stops, a cycle that hadn't seen Ambrose on pit road yet. That meant that Ambrose was forced to pit under caution, and instead of rejoining the race at the front of the field if stops had cycled through, Ambrose was back in 14th place and Busch had a lead he wouldn't ultimately relinquish.
Once his car was back in traffic, Ambrose wasn't able to make up much ground. Then, during the yellow before the restart with six laps to go, Ambrose felt something go wrong with the car -- possibly a track bar -- which precipitated his issues immediately after the restart.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Kyle Busch
- Brad Keselowski
- Marcos Ambrose