WATKINS GLEN, NY – Put 3,500 pound cars, with drivers used to turning only left, on a road course and things are bound to get exciting. The final lap of the Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen was about as exciting as it gets ( Video )! As the white flag was dropped, Kyle Busch was running in first place with Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose in close pursuit. Busch looked to be having some sort of problem and was taking a defensive line into turn 1 then lost control of the 18 car and went wide. Trying to maintain his lead over Keselowski, Busch cut in front and was tapped by Keselowski causing Busch to spin into the infield at the esses. The 2 car suffered some damage on the left front and the sheet metal looked to be rubbing the front tire.
With two turns left, Ambrose saw his opportunity and reeled Keselowski in and went wide for the pass, barely clearing the 2 car’s front bumper. Keselowski was not going down without a fight and tapped the 9-car a couple of times causing him to go wide in the second to the last corner. Ambrose saved the car and maintained a slight lead. The #2 and #9 entered the final corner side-by-side. Ambrose exited first and Keselowski barely kept his car off the guardrail as he skated-around the oily track in a four-wheel drift on Marcos’ bumper. Ambrose pulled ahead on the final straight away to take the checkered flag. “It was absolute chaos at the end,” Ambrose said. “All of a sudden, I’m starting to slide around on oil. It was absolutely crazy at the end.” But in the final estimation, “It feels so good to be back in victory lane,”
Not only was the race exciting, it has made the points race exciting, upsetting The Chase apple kart. The biggest upset was with Kyle Busch who had a near lock on a Chase position, but now is a contender for a wild card spot. The point spread in the top three spots is only three points with Jimmie Johnson, moving up three spots, leading Roush-Fenway teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. Dale Jr dropped 3 places to 4th and Keselowski’s exciting finish moved him up two places to 5th. Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman are currently the wild cards.
So did NASCAR make the right call? Though the NASCAR corner workers did not see any evidence of oil, allegedly from Bobby Labonte’s blown engine, on the track, the drivers were surprised that the race stayed green. “The oil was getting worse and worse,” commented Ambrose, “Oil was moving around the track. You take your chances. You have to commit at that point. That’s the way racing should be, and we got the No. 9 to victory lane.” Brad Keselowski said it was “one of them days where the world throws everything it can at you and you hope to make it through all of them.” Jeff Gordon, who crashed in oil on the final turn and fell from seventh to 21st, said, “It’s just unfortunate that that gets taken away from you because NASCAR doesn’t want to end the race under yellow.” Kyle Busch probably suffered the most as the seventh place finish drops him out of The Chase. He left the track without comment. Todd Parrott, Ambrose’s crew chief and a long-time traveler of NASCAR pit roads, said Sunday’s finish “probably ranks in the top two or three as far as excitement level.”
Should NASCAR have waved the yellow flag? Well, in this case, I am certainly glad they didn’t because that was one heck of a great final lap!