WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – There is just something about Watkins Glen Int’l that suits Marcos Ambrose.
The Australian native overcame an early spin on lap six while battling Kyle Busch for third, then held off Busch over the final laps to win his fourth NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Watkins Glen Int’l and first since 2011.
Ambrose was the class of the field all day, leading a race-high 48 laps during the 82-lap Zippo 200 at The Glen, but an early spin made things a lot more difficult on Ambrose and his Richard Petty Motorsports team.
Ambrose was battling Busch for third on lap five when the two attempted to enter the bus stop between turns four and five side-by-side. Unfortunately for both drivers the move didn’t work and they both spun out after making slight contact.
“No harm, no foul,” Ambrose said of the incident. “The spotter said he sticking his nose in. I kind of half closed the door and we made contract. I knew it wasn’t over, that’s for sure.”
Both drivers continued, but they had fallen back just outside of the top 10. Meanwhile, at the front, Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were battling each other for the race lead.
The first caution flag of the day waved on lap 12 for debris between turns five and six. By that time Ambrose had made his way back up to eighth and Busch was in 11th as Keselowski held on to the lead. Both Ambrose and Busch opted to pit under the caution period to replace their tires after the early spin.
Those pit stops turned out to be well timed as both Keselowski and Logano opted instead to stay out in order to hit their pit windows. When the field returned to racing green flag pit stops began within a few laps. When Keselowski and Logano came down pit road they took fuel and tires, but Ambrose and Busch opted only to take fuel when they pitted under the same cycle.
The extra time saved by Ambrose allowed him to inherit the race lead once the pit stops had cycled through. Busch was also able to regain his lost track position and was up to second in front of Logano in third and Keselowski in fourth.
Once he got the lead Ambrose looked like a man on a mission. Busch, Logano and Keselowski all took turns chasing Ambrose during the middle of the event, but none could pass him on track. The only time he gave up the lead was when he made a green flag pit stop on lap 49.
Once again the pit stops cycled through and Ambrose was just barely able to beat Logano off of pit road to retake the race lead. The final caution flag of the race waved on lap 59 when Landon Cassill lost his right-front tire, allowing the field to close the gap on Ambrose’s Ford.