Ambrose survives craziness at Watkins Glen
Brad Keselowski and his broken ankle sat in the media center at Watkins Glen International, fresh off a second-place run – Willis Reed! – when he looked over at a TV screen to see an irate Boris Said going after Greg Biffle.
“Fightin’s racin’ too, I guess,” Keselowski said. “This is the story.”
In part, yes.
Credit has to be given to Marcos Ambrose, the Australian-born road-course expert who left his homeland for one thing only – to win a Sprint Cup race. And now he has done it, having out-dueled both Keselowski and Kyle Busch in a final two-lap sprint to win the rain-delayed Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen.
It took Ambrose three years and 105 starts – 42 too many considering he should have won last year at Sonoma – to finally get that win, and who knows if he’ll stick around these parts much longer now that he has it. Ambrose has made no secret that he’s not long for racing in America, openly declaring that he will move his wife and kids back home sooner rather than later.
For now, though, he’s celebrating win No. 1, which he earned in the first of a two-lap green-white-checkered finish. It was Kyle Busch who led the field to the line for the final restart, but when he slipped up going into Turn 1, Ambrose and Keselowski snuck by. Keselowski held the lead briefly, but Ambrose, considered the best road racer in NASCAR, quickly got by him.
When David Ragan got run into a retaining wall, a wreck that ended with David Reutimann flying through the air, and Tony Stewart spun, sparking a multi-car melee, the caution flag came out, ending the race with Ambrose as the winner.
Afterward, Ambrose said his not winning began to play in his head, admitting that the word “choke” had entered his mind. No doubt that stems from last year’s race at Sonoma when, while leading, he turned his car off to save fuel only to not be able to get it restarted. He lost the lead, the race and potentially his first Cup Series win.
“I’ve traveled halfway around the world, dragged my kids and wife with me,” Ambrose said. “I kept telling them I was good, but until you win in the Cup Series, you can’t put your stamp on it.
“Eventually I’m going to get spat out of the sport, right?” he continued. “You can’t drive forever unless you’re Mark Martin, and I’m happy. I’m happy with what I’ve done. I’ve got to victory lane. I can go home knowing that I’ve won in the Sprint Cup Series, and it’s a proud day for myself and my family.”
The win gives Ambrose an outside chance at a wild-card berth – he’s still just 22nd in the standings – a situation that got shaken up on Monday. Denny Hamlin, 11th in points heading into the race, lost his brakes, crashed hard and dropped to 12th. He still holds the provisional wild-card berth, but Clint Bowyer moved ahead of him in the standings, meaning if Bowyer wins, he’s in and Hamlin could be out.
By virtue of his second-place finish, Keselowski moved up to 14th and can sit comfortably knowing that his two wins likely are going to get him into the playoff.
Paul Menard and David Ragan took hits both on the track and in the standings. Menard, running 14th, blew a tire and dropped to 15th, while Ragan got spun out by Said and wrecked hard. A few weeks ago Ragan held a wild-card berth. Now he’s out of the top 20 altogether.
As for the dust-up between Biffle and Said, that one had been brewing for a while. Simply, the two don’t like each other. Early in the race, Biffle ran out of gas, yet despite falling a few laps down continued to race Said hard. Said didn’t appreciate it.
“He’s the most unprofessional little scaredy-cat I’ve ever seen in my life,” an irate Said said after the race. “He won’t even fight me like a man. So if somebody will text me his address, I’ll go visit him at his house and show him what he really needs. He needs a whooping, and I’m going to give it to him. He was flipping me off, giving me the finger, totally unprofessional, two laps down. He’s a chump.”
Just add this one to the list of feuds that sparked up at Watkins Glen:
And the tension only will grow from here. The wild card will make sure of that, as anyone with a sliver of hope of making the Chase will fight for a win no matter the cost.
“Everybody is just going at it with this new points system,” Ambrose said. “You know the top 10s reward you well for points and top 20s don’t get it done. … It’s going to get to a frenzy here before the end, I’m sure.”
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