|Kyle Busch finally wins again at Watkins Glen|
|Monday, August 12, 2013 12:24 AM|
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — There was no slipup on the final lap this time, so Kyle Busch’s victory celebration at Watkins Glen International was as sweet as it gets.
Bumped aside a year ago by Brad Keselowski on the final lap as they sped around an oil-covered track, Busch held the reigning Sprint Cup champion at bay on a 2-lap dash to the checkered flag Sunday.
Busch kept his foot on the accelerator a tad longer than usual during his postrace burnout, even sticking half his body out the window while smoke swirled all around and the tires kept churning.
“A big sigh of relief, just a deep breath. Whew!” exclaimed Busch, who also was victimized two years ago while leading on a green-white-checkered finish and finished third. “I was just trying to take it all in and figure it all out. The last couple of years here have been tough and today it could have been tough again.”
Keselowski finished second in this race for the third straight time and challenged Busch on the final lap, pulling to his rear bumper at one point. There was no bump this time.
“We had a shot at it,” Keselowski said. “I was going to have to wreck him to really get it and I didn’t want to do that. There’s racing and there’s wrecking. Those are two different things.
“Everybody defines them a little differently and I guess that’s the code you live your life by. If I was going to take out Kyle, it would have been wrecking in my mind and there’s a distinct difference.”
Racing can be all about luck sometimes and Busch couldn’t get much luckier than he was on this day.
Polesitter Marcos Ambrose dominated the race, leading 51 laps, but his good fortune — he was seeking his third straight Cup win at The Glen — finally ran out just past the halfway point of the 90-lap race.
Crew chief Dave Rogers was planning to have Busch pit on lap 60 but his crew noticed fluid on the track and brought the No. 18 Toyota in a lap early. Busch was in the pits when a caution flew and Ambrose had to pit under yellow, losing his spot to Busch at the front.
Busch held on through a series of cautions over the final 28 laps. Ambrose, who restarted 12th, crashed late trying to make a run with an ill-handling car and finished 23rd. He entered the race with an average finish of second in five previous starts at Watkins Glen and also had won all three Nationwide races he’d entered at the storied road course in upstate New York.
“That’s just the way it goes,” Ambrose said. “We put on a strong showing. It wasn’t our day but we’ve had plenty of good days here.”
The field didn’t have to worry about 5-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart. The man known as Smoke is out indefinitely after breaking two bones in his right leg last Monday night in a sprint car race in Iowa. Stewart, who has undergone two surgeries, saw his streak of 521 consecutive Cup starts come to an end. Max Papis drove Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet on Sunday and finished 15th.
Several drivers had stickers on their cars honoring Stewart with the message: “Get Well Smoke 14.”
Martin Truex Jr. was third, followed by Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya. Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10.
Jeff Gordon entered the race with momentum in ninth place in the points standings after a second last week at Pocono but his day was ruined early with a wreck on lap 15. The 4-time Watkins Glen winner finished 36th and dropped to 13th in the standings with four races to go until the Chase for the Sprint Cup title starts.
The top 10 drivers in points and the drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins earn wild-card berths for the 10-race postseason. Kurt Busch moved into 11th place, just two points behind Truex and only four behind ninth-place Greg Biffle.
Ambrose was unchallenged for the lead through the first half of the race, building a margin of nearly 3 seconds over Kyle Busch, who started fifth and was up to second by lap 21.
Busch had been unable to close on Ambrose before a red flag flew midway through the race and was focused on the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in front.
On the ensuing restart on lap 43, Ambrose again sailed clear of the field, building a cushion of 3.5 seconds over Busch as the final pit stops loomed.
The complexion of the race changed when Aric Almirola blew a right front tire and slid off course into a tire barrier, bringing out that fateful caution.
When the race restarted, Busch was in front with Keselowski third and Ambrose 12th and the car that had dominated the race out front became just ordinary in traffic, unable to move forward. Nine laps after the restart and struggling, Ambrose had picked up only one spot and trailed Busch by nearly 10 seconds.
Truex managed to pass Busch on lap 65 but Busch banged past him in the Inner Loop seconds later and Keselowski followed into second. Keselowski stayed close for a while but Busch began to pull away just as he had a year ago when oil spoiled his day.
Smoke released from hospital; resting at home: Three-time Sprint Cup champion Stewart has been released from the hospital and is resting at home.
His team, Stewart-Haas Racing, tweeted the news on Sunday night: “TonyStewart is out of the hospital & resting as comfortably as he can at home. Thx for the thoughts & prayers.” The tweet closed with a “SmokeWillRise” hashtag.
The team is expected to name a replacement driver for Stewart as early as today.
Luhr, Graf win at Road America
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf rolled to their fifth consecutive American Le Mans Series victory Sunday at Road America, holding on after a strong challenge by the revolutionary DeltaWing LM12.
The DeltaWing led for the first time in the series, topping the field twice for 16 laps. In the production-based GT class, SRT Viper took its first factory-backed victory since New Year’s Eve in 2000 when Dominick Farnbacher and Marc Goossens won in the No. 91 Viper GTS-R.
Katherine Legge put the No. 0 DeltaWing into the overall lead on Lap 20 and led eight laps before giving way to Luhr’s No. 6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03c. Co-driver Andy Meyrick regained the lead during pit stops and also led eight laps before being passed by Graf in the Canada Corner with 51 minutes remaining.
Legge and Meyrick took third in class and placed fifth overall, running at the finish for the first time this season.
Luhr extended his ALMS-leading total to 46 victories, while Graf won for the 19th time.
Schatz wins Knoxville Nationals sprint car race
KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Donny Schatz charged from the back of the field Saturday night to win the Knoxville Nationals sprint car race for the seventh time in eight years.
Schatz earned $150,000 for winning the world’s premier sprint car event. Schatz started 21st, the furthest back of any winner at the nationals.
Brian Brown was second, followed by Justin Henderson, Paul McMahan and Chad Kemenah.
The race came less than a week after Stewart, Schatz’s team owner, broke his leg racing sprint cars in nearby Oskaloosa.
Fellow NASCAR driver Kyle Larson finished sixth.
Jones races to first ARCA win
MARNE, Mich. — Michigan teenager Erik Jones raced to his first ARCA Racing Series victory Saturday night at Berlin Raceway, holding off Mason Mingus.
The 17-year-old Jones, from Byron, led 154 of 200 laps on the 0.4375-oval to become the third driver this season to win in Venturini Motorsports’ No. 15 Toyota.
Points leader Frank Kimmel was third. He’s tied with Iggy Katona for the ARCA career victory record with 79.