Ambrose holds off Busch for Nationwide win at Watkins Glen
Ambrose, a Sprint Cup Series regular and a road-course expert, won a Nationwide race at Watkins Glen for a fourth consecutive time. His first three victories here came from 2008-10. He did not compete in this race the past three years. The 37-year-old Australian drove a second entry, the No. 09 Ford, for Richard Petty Motorsports at Watkins Glen. It was his first start in Nationwide this season.
After the last round of green-flag pit stops had concluded on lap 57, Ambrose took the lead for good. He held a three-second advantage over then second- place Joey Logano. With six laps to go, Busch passed Logano for second and then chased down Ambrose, running less than one second behind on the final lap.
"I had my tongue hanging out all day," Ambrose said. "I had nothing left. I had to make up all the ground from the [early-race] spin, and Joey was super fast in the middle, and I had to hold him back. Kyle really pressed at the end and came alive. Another lap and I would have been in real trouble."
Busch started third and Ambrose fourth, but on lap 6, both drivers made contact and spun off course while battling each other for position. There was no caution for their incident. Busch and Ambrose fell out of the top-10 in the running order but quickly bounced back.
"My spotter said [Busch] was sticking his nose in, and I kind of half closed the door and made contact," Ambrose said. "I knew it wasn't over, that's for sure."
Busch crossed the finish line 1.6 seconds behind Ambrose.
"Just was another race essentially. Nothing to it really," said Busch, who led only one lap. "Just got caught in a bad spot early and battled back from that and was able to get myself back up to second. I guess it was on pit strategy. Then we got passed by the 12 [Logano]. The 12 car was really quick there for probably 10 laps or so, and then he kind of faded, and we got back by him. Tried to chase down Marcos. A few more laps, maybe, but it wasn't."
Earlier in the day, Ambrose qualified second for Sunday's 90-lap Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. He is attempting to win his first race of the season in NASCAR's top series, which would virtually guarantee him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Jeff Gordon, the current points leader in Sprint Cup, won the pole.
"I just want to enjoy today," Ambrose said after his Nationwide win on Saturday." You get to victory lane, and it is special. I would love to repeat, but it is a lot of work tomorrow. I want to think about this and get a good night's rest and come attack them tomorrow."
Ambrose, who is in his fourth season as driver of the No. 9 Ford for RPM, won the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen in 2011 and '12. Last year, he started on the pole and led a race-high 51 laps but was involved in an accident late in the event, which led to a 31st-place finish. Busch won the race.
Ambrose scored his fifth career Nationwide win. All of them have come on road courses. He won at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal in 2011.
Logano finished third in this race, while his Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, took the fourth spot. Keselowski, the pole sitter, and Logano, who started second, swapped the lead for the first 18 laps.
Matt Kenseth was fifth.
Rookie Chase Elliott finished sixth and increased his points lead from 2 to 12 over Regan Smith, his teammate at JR Motorsports. Smith placed 17th.
Elliott Sadler and Ty Dillon, also a rookie this season, are both 13 points behind Elliott. Sadler finished seventh and Dillon eighth.