It’s not often when I can say that an exciting race happened on a road course. Normally, these races are decided early and often, and that certainly seemed to be the case this weekend at Watkins Glen.
Right from the beginning of the race, the car making the most moves and looking to be the strongest was the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota of Kyle Busch. He made the most aggressive moves, made smart decisions, and when he needed to get to the lead, he got the job done. There was no question that Busch had the best car all day long.
That was until the last lap.
Before getting into what happened, keep in mind that all this occurred because another car lost an engine, and drivers were reporting that there was oil on the race track. Obviously the drivers have the best feel for whether there’s something on the race track, whether it is oil, water, or in the case of road course, gravel. So if teams are reporting there’s oil on the track, NASCAR normally will check and see if that’s the case. NASCAR still let the race go on, unsure if there was visible oil on the track.
Now, back to the final lap. When Busch and his challengers, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose, were coming to the white flag, it was clear that Busch was slowing down, as if he had something on his tires. Now, at the time broadcasters and fans alike didn’t know what was going on. But they sure know what happened after.
After turn 1, Keselowski and Busch went door to door entering the uphill s-turns, and Keselowski slipped and got into the back of Busch. Again, we still are not aware of oil on the track. Both Keselowski and Ambrose now went on to battle for the win, and went at it on the backstretch, and into the inner loop, with both sliding onto the grass. The two traded the top spot, with Keselowski and Ambrose sliding through the sweeping fifth turn.
The two went at it even more coming to the final two corners, with dented fenders and rubbing tires, and finally exiting the last corner, it was Ambrose taking the checkered flag in one of the wildest single laps NASCAR has seen.
Fans all around the track were in awe of what had transpired, and even I who just was watching on television began saying it was the best finish NASCAR has seen all season, and those in attendance say it was the best finish they had ever witnessed.
At least when it comes to road course racing, that is something I have to agree with.
Road courses are not seen very much in NASCAR. The Sprint Cup Series runs only two each year, Sonoma and Watkins Glen, and the second-tier Nationwide Series runs three each year (Road America, Watkins Glen, Montreal). At the same time, they’ve provided some unique memories for the sport. Last year’s wreck with David Ragan and David Reutimann stands out, as does the 2008 event in Montreal where NASCAR decided to go racing in the rain for the first time ever.
But, compared to those two moments, this weekend’s final lap is one that will forever be remembered as one of the best final laps in the history of the sport.
RESULTS: 1-Ambrose 2-Keselowski 3-Johnson 4-Bowyer 5-Hornish Jr. 6-Biffle 7-Kyle Busch 8-Kenseth 9-Smith 10-Truex Jr.
NOTABLE FINISHES: 14-Edwards 19-Stewart 21-Gordon 28-Earnhardt Jr. 34-Hamlin
CAUTIONS: 4 for 13 laps. Lap 27-29 (#1 accident-T4), 59-61 (Oil from #11 on BS), 65-68 (Oil from #49 on BS), 72-74 (#14 accident-FS).
LEAD CHANGES: 10 among 5 drivers. Montoya POLE, Kyle Busch 1-26, Montoya 27, Keselowski 28-38, Ambrose 39-45, Keselowski 46-56, Kyle Busch 57-58, Edwards 59, Keselowski 60-74, Kyle Busch 75-89, Ambrose 90.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 14 Mins, 48 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 98.145 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.571 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Top-10, Wild Cards): 1. Johnson, 777 points; 2. Biffle, -1; 3. Kenseth, -2; 4. Earnhardt Jr, -17; 5. Keselowski, -44; 6. Truex Jr, -49; 7. Bowyer, -58; 8. Stewart, -61; 9. Harvick, -67; 10. Hamlin, -84. WILD CARDS: Kahne (11th, 2 wins), Newman (13th, 1 win).