Watkins Glen, NY – Marcos Ambrose prevailed in a frantic last-lap battle with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski to win at Watkins Glen International for the second year in a row on Sunday.
Ambrose, who collected his first career Sprint Cup Series win at Watkins Glen one year ago, ran in third at the start of the 90th and final lap around this 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course. Busch led the way, but as his car was leaking oil, Busch slid off the track before Keselowski made contact with him. Busch spun around, allowing Keselowski to take the lead.
"The 18 (Busch) was leaking fluid something fierce, and the track just had no grip at all," Keselowski said. "When I caught him, he had leaked really bad going into (turn) one and missed the corner because he was slipping in his own oil. I got under him going into two, and we all slipped in his oil. I hit him and then spun him. I hate to say there was nothing I could do, but there was literally nothing I could do. I feel bad about that."
That allowed Ambrose to catch Keselowski for the lead. Both drivers battled side-by-side before Ambrose bumped into the rear of Keselowski and took the top spot away from him in turn nine.
After the race had concluded, many drivers reported that oil leaks were present throughout the track, causing them to slid and even spin out.
"I was the first one to slip in the oil, and I let Brad pass," Ambrose said. "The oil was just getting worse and worse, and it was moving around the racetrack. You just take your chances. You got to commit at that point of the race. It was awesome fun, and that's the way racing should be."
Keselowski made several attempts to reclaim the lead during the final two turns, but Ambrose beat him to the finish line by 0.6 seconds for the win in the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen.
"It feels so good to back into victory lane," said Ambrose, who drives the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Ambrose and Keselowski also finished 1-2 in the 2011 race at Watkins Glen. Ambrose passed Keselowski for the lead during a green-white-checkered finish and then held it for his maiden victory in NASCAR's top series.
"It was just really good, hard racing," Keselowski said. "There was some beating and banging. I think that's the way racing should be."
Jimmie Johnson finished third, followed by Clint Bowyer, who won the first road-course race of the season in June at Sonoma, Calif. Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top-five.
Greg Biffle placed sixth, while Busch settled for seventh. Busch led the most laps with 43. He was desperately seeking a win to put him back in the hotly- contested battle for a wild card position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Just four races remain before the Chase begins.
"The 47 (Bobby Labonte) broke, and he let oil down all over the track, and (Busch) just got caught in the oil," Busch's crew chief, Dave Rogers, said. "That allowed the 2 car (Keselowski) to get to us. Then the 2 car raced us."
Busch did not comment after the race ended. Last weekend at Pocono, Busch crashed in the early going and placed 33rd.
Matt Kenseth, Regan Smith and Martin Truex Jr. finished eighth through 10th, respectively.
Jeff Gordon, who won the rain-shortened race at Pocono, was running in 10th on the final lap, but Gordon slid in the oil and spun out in turn 11 before slamming into the guardrail. His 21st-place finish dropped him out of the second spot in the Chase wild card rankings.
"It's pretty ridiculous that (NASCAR) did not want to end the race under caution and put that many cars in jeopardy," Gordon said. "I had no idea that there was any oil out there. I knew there was all kinds of havoc going on all around."
Ryan Newman's 11th-place run allowed him to take over the last wild card spot. Busch is third in the rankings, as he trails Newman by six points. Gordon fell to fourth (-10 points).
Kasey Kahne finished 13th and remained in the first wild card spot by virtue of his two wins for the season.
Ambrose's one win this year moved him up to fifth in the wild card battle.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. came to Watkins Glen with the points lead, but he spun around coming out of turn five with seven laps left and ended up finishing one lap down in 28th. Johnson moved atop the standings for the first time this season, as he leads Biffle by a single point and Kenseth by two markers. Earnhardt Jr. is 17 behind.