August 12, 2012
Gordon, Busch fall in NASCAR Chase standings
By DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Marcos Ambrose may have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Finger Lakes 355 on Sunday at Watkins Glen International but the day was really all about who lost and who won in the battle for the Chase for the Championship.
Even with the win, Ambrose and the No. 9 Ford squad realistically have only the remotest of chances of making the Chase.
But with only four races left until the Chase starts at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 16, it was critical for several drivers who probably saw their post-season hopes, if not die, at the least be severely wounded at the Glen.
Tops among those was Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Toyota team that had victory within his reach on Sunday only to be punted aside on the final lap by second place finisher Brad Keselowski.
While Busch still managed a seventh place, he really needed a win to solidify his Chase position.
As it is, with only one win this year, Busch is 65 points out of 10th place with Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman ahead of him for the two wild card spots.
If there is any kind of silver lining for Busch it was that at least he was in contention to win until he hit oil on the track on the final lap that precipitated him being spun by Keselowski.
Busch was understandably upset at the result and left the track without comment.
And Jeff Gordon — the winner last week at Pocono — lost a lot of ground with a 21st-place finish after his No. 24 Chevrolet also spun out in the oil.
That dropped him to 15th in points.
Gordon was critical of NASCAR for not stopping the race when the oil on the track issue became a problem.
“I went to the outside on that last lap and hit it (oil ) and just spun right out,” he said. “I’m just really disappointed because we fought hard today to come back to get what was going to be a pretty nice finish.
“The thing is, I’m just disappointed at how hard we had to fight for the position. The points are going to be what the points are going to be. We can’t control what other people do. We can only control what we do.”
“To work that hard all day long, come all the way from way back all the way up into the top 10 and have it taken away because they don’t want to throw a caution it’s pretty disappointing.”
In the winning category at the Glen, five time champion Jimmie Johnson — surprise, surprise — leap frogged past Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the championship lead.
“I’m excited to be leading the points,” he said. “I really believe (the team) gets some much-needed experience with the pressure of the points lead late in the season.
“It’s just different than leading at any other time. I look forward to the pressure on my team and myself.”
From his third-place finish he had a front row seat to the action amongst Ambrose, Keselowski and Busch.
“You could feel the oil on your tires and slipping and sliding and then guys are spinning all over,” he said. “It was chaos, but I’m glad we got back to the finish line, finished third very solid day for this Lowe’s team.”
Another big winner was Keselowski, who like Johnson already has a Chase spot pretty much sown up, but he made a statement at the Glen that he is a serious threat for his first Cup championship win.
“I feel like Jimmie Johnson with the cars I have had on road courses as of late,” he said. “We are very, very close (to a championship run).
“I am trying to keep it in perspective how far we have come ... but it is something I’m very proud of.”
nascar sprint cup
Marcos Ambrose out-duelled Brad Keselowski over the final lap to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Finger Lakes 355 on Sunday at Watkins Glen International on Sunday.
In what was certainly the most exciting finishes of the season so far, Ambrose in the No. 9 Ford, Keselowski in the No. 2 Dodge and Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota, battled door to door to start the final lap before oil on the track between Turns one and two caused Keselowski to get into the back of Busch sending the No. 18 car spinning across the track.
From there through to the start finish line Ambrose and Keselowski traded places and paint before Ambrose came out ahead to take the checkered flag.
“It was great racing with Kyle and Brad,” Ambrose said. “They’re the two best guys to race. It’s just awesome fun and that’s the way racing should be.”
Keselowski also said it was racing the way racing should be in NASCAR.
“It was just really good, hard racing; some beating and banging,” he said. “It’s great to race against guys like Marcos that you can run on, lean on and (they) don’t lose their cool and intentionally wreck you.”
It was Ambrose’s second straight win at the Glen and the second of his Sprint Cup Series career.
Jimmie Johnson finished third and took over the series lead by one point over Greg Biffle, who wound up sixth. Clint Bowyer was fourth, followed by Sam Hornish Jr., Biffle and Busch.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., the points leader going into the race finished 28th.