With rumors this week that Marcos Ambrose could be out of money and a ride next year and headed back to Australia, but in NASCAR good things happen to those who need it. Marcos Ambrose won today’s action packed ZIPPO 200 at Watkins Glen International by 2.835 seconds over Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. An ecstatic Ambrose commented in victory lane: “This is the most satisfying win I’ve ever had. It’s huge for us. It’s nice to get a win for my guys.”
Second place finisher Joey Logano said this may have been the first time he was happy to finish second. “I’m glad we (Kevin Harvick) ran each other clean. I thanked him afterwards. We had a good car. That #47 (Ambrose) is the man. We had a bad set of tires on the second set. I’m happy with a second place at a road course.”
Harvick commented, “I didn’t do a very good job today. I knocked the front fender in against the #60 (Carl Edwards) at the start running over the curb. It didn’t’ start good. Then I was speeding g on pit road. My shoe string got stuck on the gas pedal. I had a lot of weird stuff happen today.
Former Formula One drivers Nelson Piquet Jr. and Jacques Villeneuve finished 7th and 8th respectively.
At the drop of the green flag, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano pulled away from the field. Behind them, Jacques Villeneuve moved up from his 6th starting spot into the 4th position. He held onto that position for a few laps before his brakes began fading. He had to give way to Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, dropping back to his original 6th position. Jacques would fight brake problems for the entire race.
On lap 3, Brendan Gaughan (#62 South Point Hotel & Casino Toyota) spun his machine in turn one. A couple laps later, rookie Brian Scott (#11 AccuDoc Toyota) did a 360° spin in the ‘bus stop’.
The first pit stop of the day was on lap 9, when Billy Johnson (#6 CitiFinancial Ford) headed to pit road for fuel. It became evident that the strategy of the day was to pit relatively early in the race, hoping this would translate into better track position later in the race. Edwards and Harvick pitted before lap 15
There was a tense moment as Marcos Ambrose headed for pit road on lap 18. Tony Raines was helped into a spin entering the final corner by another car, just as Ambrose was looking for the entrance to pit road. Luckily, he made it through, as did Jacques Villeneuve. When the front runners were done with their pit stops, Joey Logano, who had pit on lap 14, was in the lead.
The first caution of the race flew on lap 20 for debris on the track from bodywork knocked off a car after a blown left front tire. Carl Edwards needed the time out to have his engine looked at. All the cylinders appeared to be firing, but there was clearly something amiss. The team would end up isolating a cylinder and attempt to finish. This effort would prove to be futile and the team parked the car.
Going green on lap 23, Jason Leffler (#38 Great Clips Toyota), who was running 8th,and Colin Braun (#16 Con-way Ford) ,who was in 10th, came together on the short straight between turn one and the Esses. As Leffler and Braun bounced off guard rails on opposite sides of the track, they ricocheted right back into the path of the pack. Once the dust cleared, the track was blocked and NASCAR had no choice but to throw the red flag, stopping the action. Justin Allgaier (#12 Verizon Wireless Dodge), Alex Kennedy (#23 Media Master Chevrolet), Billy Johnson (#6), Boris Said (#09 Zaxby’s Ford), Brendan Gaughan (#62), Trevor Bayne (#99 Out! Pet Care Toyota) and Victor Gonzalez Jr. (#05 31-W Insulation Chevrolet) all ended up with damaged race cars. Tony Raines (#34) even ended up on top of Billy Johnson’s machine. The red flag period would last 25 minutes.
When the race commenced under the yellow flag, Jacques Villeneuve headed to pit road from his 5th place to change 4 tires and make adjustments to his brakes. He would drop back to 13thposition. Kevin Harvick, who had nearly been involved in the giant melee, headed to pit road to change 4 tires as a precaution.
At the end of the first green flag lap, Kyle Busch muscled his way past Joey Logano coming out of the last turn. Logano would drop to 4th place by the time he got out of turn one, losing positions to Marcos Ambrose and Ron Fellows (#88 GT Vodka Chevrolet). As the leaders completed their 30th lap, Carl Edwards climbed out of his crippled machine, calling it a day after 25 laps.
On lap 33, Nelson Piquet Jr. made a mistake at the ‘bus stop’ under pressure from Jacques Villeneuve. Harvick would also get around Piquet Jr., dropping him back to 11th.
By lap 35, Busch and Ambrose would pull out a 4 second lead over Fellows, who was another 2 seconds up on Joey Logano. By lap 40, the leaders would pull out 6 seconds over third place
On lap 41, Ambrose was able to maneuver around Busch on the back straight after Kyle got balked by a back marker.
Kyle Busch headed to the pits on lap 48 for new tires and fuel. Ron Fellows was in one lap later, along with Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard. Unfortunately, Fellows and Menard would be penalized for speeding on pit road.
Ambrose made his pit stop on lap 51 while holding a 40+ second lead. Ambrose would return to the track just ahead of a charging Kyle Busch. These pit stops left Jacques Villeneuve in the lead. In the Carousel, Villeneuve was held up in traffic, ran wide, and then chopped in front of Ambrose. Marcos would get past Villeneuve in the next corner, but Busch was not able to get around. Moments later, the caution flag waved because of a blown engine for Justin Allgaier. Allgaier’s machine was running 25 laps down with no hood following the race-stopping pile-up on lap 23. Villeneuve would head to the pits while crews cleaned up the oil and water dropped by Allgaier’s machine, dropping Jacques to 14th
As the race returned to green on lap 56, the running order was Ambrose, Busch, Keselowski, Logano, Harvick, Fellows, and Ryan Newman.
By lap 60, Ambrose opened up a 3.4 second lead over Kyle Busch who was under attack from Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. Ambrose was so comfortable in the lead that he radioed his crew to say, “This is a lot of fun.” He would go on to set a number of fastest laps in the closing stages of the race as he pulled out a sizable lead.
With 19 laps to go, Kyle Busch dropped to 5th place after running wide at the entrance to the Esses. Just behind this action, Paul Menard’s car dropped a “weight box” sending a heavy piece of debris bouncing down the track at the bottom of the hill at the Esses. This brought out the 4th caution of the day.
With 7 laps to go, Kevin Harvick got past Brad Keselowski at the bottom of the Esses. With 5 laps to go, Ambrose led Logano by 3.5 seconds, followed by Harvick, Keselowski, Busch, Fellows, Piquet Jr., and Jacques Villeneuve.
The average speed of the race was 93.526mph. The ZIPPO 200 had 3 lead changes among 3 drivers. Fourth place finisher Brad Keselowski now leads the NASCAR Nationwide point standings with 3509 points, 327 ahead of Carl Edwards who finished 33rd today.
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Kwik Fill/Red Apple/Zippo Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 1st
What does this win mean to you? “It’s just a huge win for us. Frank Kerr (crew chief) has been so good to my career and I have to thank him so much for every opportunity he gets me to victory lane. Scott Zipadelli helped too this weekend, he’s had a tough chart but he’s awesome too. What a great day for our guys. I’m saying goodbye to JTG Daugherty Racing at the end of the year and it’s just nice to get some wins for them. I’m hoping I can do it in the Cup Series tomorrow but this feels really sweet.”
How did you pass Kyle Busch on lap 40? “He’s hard to pass and whenever you’re going to do it you’ve got to do it in style. I couldn’t pass him (Kyle Busch) on straight-line speed. He just had too much top end on us so I just waited for some lapped traffic to try to get around him and get some momentum on him and just out-foxed him there coming across the top of the hill. If I had to try to do that 100 times again I probably wouldn’t do it because it was just one of those moments that just came together. He got boxed on the outside. The lapped car didn’t quite know where to go and baulked his run and I just took advantage. It was pretty awesome. I passed him last year and I’m sure he’s no more pleased this year.”
Why have you been so successful at Watkins Glen? “I’ve got no idea -- just growing up road racing, especially these heavy cars. I seem to feel comfortable with them sliding around on these road courses. Just got a great crew, a great setup and we managed to make the most of it. This win, this year was probably our most dominate and I’m just really proud. We’ve been through a tough patch here at JTG (Daugherty). It hasn’t been the year that we all wanted. I’m just glad to get into victory lane to make it feel right.”
How do you translate this win into another win in tomorrow’s Cup race? “We have learned some definitely. We had a great handling race car today. We took on the very best teams and we dominated and we’ve got a good understanding of what we need to do. Converting that to a Cup car is a little more tricky with the way that the bump stops work and so forth. We’ll be thinking tonight about what we need for tomorrow. We didn’t quite qualify where we wanted to in the Cup Series car. Right now, I’m just going to enjoy the moment and enjoy today. It’s been a great rollercoaster ride for us. It’s the most satisfying win I’ve ever had. It’s just a great day for us.”
Why was this the most satisfying victory for you? “We’ve been through so much together. The last few weeks have been really challenging for us. My future is not certain in NASCAR and just to come out like we did today with the passion, even though we’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations this year. It just feels really satisfying. I feel good for everybody on this table and that I was able to get them back to victory lane. We’ve got a job to do tomorrow to try and get them there in the Cup Series. It’s just really satisfying to think that we’ve come this far and we can leave as good friends at the end of this season and as winners. That’s what is so important. I’ve won championships and I felt good winning championships, but today for me just feels like it’s right. It’s the most perfect day I’ve ever had.”
FRANK KERR, crew chief, No. 47 Kwik Fill/Red Apple/Zippo Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
How special is this win for you? “We really needed this. Like Marcos (Ambrose) said, we’ve had a tough year. We have a great team and we just come to the race track that’s probably his best race track and we had a good car and worked on it pretty hard and made some changes the other day to give him what he wanted. Now we’ll go out and do it tomorrow I hope.” -
Did Marcos Ambrose make you nervous at all during today’s race? “We had a little motor mount or something going wrong. The shifter was moving around there, I’m not sure what was going on there. We had a great car all weekend from when we unloaded and put a lot of effort in it. Marcos Ambrose did a heck of a job today.”
TAD GESCHICKTER, co-owner, JTG-Daugherty Racing
How special is this win for you? “This one is special. Marcos (Ambrose) and Jodi and Brad (Daugherty) started this journey a few years ago and I guess everyone knows by now that the ride is going to end here in November. He’s (Marcos Ambrose) has become a great friend. I believe he’s one of the greatest race car drivers out there. It’s just fun to win together and go off on a good note. Thank you Marcos. Thank you Quik Fill and Zippo. Thank you TRD (Toyota Racing Development) -- great power, great car. It was just a great day so it felt good.”
BRAD DAUGHERTY, co-owner, JTG-Daugherty Racing
How special is this win for you? “It really is. This race team has really worked extremely hard this year. We haven’t had the results that we want, because we always want to be in victory lane every weekend. I’m really proud of Marcos (Ambrose) and Frankie (Kerr, crew chief) and our whole team. Guys have really put in a lot of effort and time and a lot of sweat, a little bit of blood and a little bit of tears to getting here and it makes it that much sweeter. We’re really thankful though to Zippo and TRD (Toyota Racing Development). Great race cars that they’ve been giving us -- great power so we’re really blessed. Like Tad (Geschickter) says, the ride is going to come to an end and our relationship racing-wise is going to end here very soon. Marcos is a friend and we’re very, very proud to have him drive our race car. He’s done a great job for us and we look forward to maybe getting another one tomorrow.”
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