Marcos Ambrose wins at Watkins Glen

Updated: August 7, 2010, 11:40 PM ET
Associated Press

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Sonoma just faded a little bit from the psyche of Marcos Ambrose.

Starting from the pole for the first time at Watkins Glen International, Ambrose dominated the Nationwide Zippo 200 on Saturday and won the race for the third straight time. He led 60 of 82 laps, had a perfect driver rating of 150, and beat Joey Logano by 2.8 seconds.

"It's been a roller-coaster ride for me," said Ambrose, who announced less than two weeks ago that he was leaving JTG-Daugherty racing at the end of the season. "We've been through so much together. The last three weeks have been challenging. My future is uncertain. It just feels really satisfying to think that we've come this far and leave as good friends at the end of the season."

"This is probably better than the last one," crew chief Frank Kerr added. "We've had such a bad year. Sonoma is a thorn in our side."

Ambrose was poised to capture his first Sprint Cup victory at Sonoma in June when things went awry. He stalled his No. 47 while leading under a late caution, was unable to keep pace, had to restart seventh when he couldn't get it refired, and finished sixth.

The memory is still there, but it's fading.

[+] EnlargeMarcos Ambrose
Rusty Jarrett/Getty ImagesMarcos Ambrose won his third straight Nationwide Zippo 200 on Saturday, a welcomed victory after his disaster at Sonoma in June.

"This is the most satisfying win I've ever had," Ambrose said.

Ambrose quickly pulled away from Logano on the final restart with 15 laps remaining and coasted to the finish line after building a lead of nearly 4 seconds.

"He's the man. He's pretty good here. I did the best I can," Logano said after his best finish on a road course. "I'm happy with second. That's the first time I said that. I learned a lot. We're getting closer and closer."

Kevin Harvick somehow avoided a 10-car wreck and overcame a dustup on the first lap and a speeding penalty on pit road to finish third. Points leader Brad Keselowski was fourth, followed by Kyle Busch, who was seeking his fourth straight win and 10th of the season.

Ron Fellows, Nelson Piquet, Jacques Villeneuve, Steve Wallace and Michael McDowell rounded out the top 10. Carl Edwards, second in points, finished 33rd after losing a cylinder and dropped 327 points behind Keselowski.

Ambrose had won the previous two Nationwide races here but never had started from the pole. That changed on Saturday morning. He set a qualifying record with a lap of 122.410 mph to break the record of 121.999 mph set a year ago by Harvick.

Ambrose led the first 18 laps, taking command at the start with Logano dogging him lap after lap. Ambrose opened a wide lead, staying out as the rest of the leaders pitted for the first time, but he lost time when Colin Braun spun in front of him on lap 19 and was second to Logano after pitting.

There was a huge chain-reaction crash involving 10 cars coming out of the first turn on a restart after the first caution.

Among those involved were Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne, and Justin Leffler, all in the top 10 in season points. Brendan Gaughan, Boris Said, Braun, Tony Raines, Victor Gonzalez Jr., Alex Kennedy and Billy Johnson also were involved.

Leffler, Allgaier and Johnson were evaluated at the infield care center and released as the race was stopped for 25 minutes.

Leffler precipitated the crash, veering his No. 38 Toyota wide into the runoff area coming out of the first turn and clipping Braun's left rear.

"I'll take the blame because I got wide," Leffler said. "I was trying to ease back over and got hit in the right front. If you don't give, you cause a multicar wreck. I'll take the blame, but you've got to let somebody back in. It's early in the race to get wiped out like that."

"I just saw the 38 get out of shape," said Allgaier. "I knew it was probably going to be more than I wanted to see. It's so tight there, you're just kind of at the mercy of everybody else."

The carnage left the rear of Raines' No. 34 Chevy atop the hood of Braun's Ford and Allgaier's front end crushed with the hood bent up over the windshield.

Harvick somehow managed to avoid it.

"I was stopped and at least three cars went by me at full speed," Harvick said. "There were some big hits. It was like a big lego pile fell down and we didn't get touched."

Logano was the leader when the race went green on lap 27, and Busch bulled in on the inside to take second from Ambrose. Busch passed Logano for the lead entering turn 11, with Fellows moving to third, and figured to give Ambrose his biggest challenge.

Ambrose, who surprised Busch with a daring pass to win last year's race here, began stalking Busch and passed him at the halfway point of the race.

Ambrose made the pass on the back straightaway when the No. 70 of Mark Green got in Busch's way. Busch went wide entering the curve at the end of the straight and was blocked, allowing Ambrose to slip by inside.

"I couldn't pass him straight on speed," Ambrose said. "I just waited for some lapped traffic and just outfoxed him."

Ambrose then bulled his way past Eric McClure on the inside and quickly pulled away.

Busch made his final pit stop on lap 48 and trailed Ambrose by 44 seconds. That all disappeared when Ambrose pitted three laps later -- he barely beat Busch back on the track, and the third caution of the race bunched the field again with 27 laps remaining.

"I don't know where I'm going to get him," Busch said over his radio before a restart on lap 57.

"He'll make a mistake," crew chief Jason Ratcliff said. "He's already a little nervous."

Hardly.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press