By Brian Willwerth
The huge smile on Marcos Ambrose’s face in victory lane said it all. He has finally broken through in NASCAR’s top series. Ambrose and his #9 car took the checkered flag Monday on the road course at Watkins Glen, one day after the race was postponed due to inclement weather.
This race will be remembered for being Ambrose’s first Sprint Cup win, and for the vicious wrecks that resulted in the race ending under caution (more on that in a moment.)
Ambrose took the lead on a green-white-checkered finish, squeaking past both Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Marcos becomes the fifth, first-time winner this season. He is also the 15th different driver to win a race in 2011.
Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano rounded out the top five. Busch has taken over the points lead by a single point over Carl Edwards.
THE WRECK WRAP: Wow – where do we start?
Let’s start at the end, where we may have seen the crash of the year. On a tense, final lap, Boris Said got into David Ragan, sending the #6 car plowing into the left-side wall, and back across the track, where he collected the #00 of David Reutimann. Reutimann crashed head-on into the wall, causing his car to flip over several times. It was the most violent crash I’ve seen since Edwards went flying through the air a few years ago at Talladega. In their post-race interviews, both Ragan and Reutimann were very critical of the lack of SAFER barriers at the track. The good news: both drivers amazingly walked away from the vicious wreck.
That wasn’t the only violent crash. Also on the final lap, Tony Stewart went plowing through the grass, and ended up against the wall when the yellow flag came out to end the race. The wreck cost him some precious points.
Earlier, two other contenders ran into trouble: Kurt Busch blew a tire and ended up crashing into a pile of tires. Denny Hamlin lost his brakes, and suffered a similar fate.
And if that wasn’t enough, ESPN’s cameras caught a heated, post-race exchange between Said and Greg Biffle. The two had to be separated. Said later told ESPN that Biffle was an “unprofessional little scaredy cat,” and said he would settle the dispute off the track. That’s quite a statement coming from someone who doesn’t race in the top series very often.
NEXT WEEK: it’s back to Michigan International Speedway. Hamlin won at the 2-mile track back in June.