Kyle Busch hung on ahead of Brad Keselowski to win the Watkins Glen NASCAR Sprint Cup race and make amends for their last-lap clash a year ago.
Busch lost the 2012 Glen race to Marcos Ambrose when Keselowski tapped him sideways on the final lap. But this time it was Ambrose who lost out, having dominated the first half of the race from pole position.
Ironically, Ambrose’s Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Aric Almirola played a part in his downfall, crashing due to a flat tire as the final pit stops were unfolding.
Crucially for Ambrose, he had not managed to stop before the caution prompted by his teammate, whereas his main rivals led by Busch had. That dropped Ambrose right back to 13th for the restart, and he made little progress before picking up damage and then being spun by Max Papis with six laps to go.
Ambrose’s spinning Ford collected Brian Vickers on its wall to the barriers and had to retire. That incident was the second multi-car restart tangle of the closing stages, following a similar incident at the same part of the Esses when Matt Kenseth tagged Kasey Kahne and sent him into the wall and then Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Following another clear-up, the race came down to a two-lap shootout, with Penske driver Keselowski trying everything he could to overtake Busch’s Joe Gibbs Toyota. A final-corner bid sent Keselowski sliding, and he only just held onto second as Martin Truex Jr. gained.
“It was just run as hard as you can, drive your car, try not to worry about what’s behind, whatever happens, happens, we’ll deal with it,” Busch said. “I commend Brad for doing a better job this year at bringing home a cleaner race.
“I felt we ran really hard there those last couple laps. I couldn’t get away from him. My car wouldn’t turn through the corners as well a s I needed it to. I just couldn’t get the front tires to bite, and so he could catch me through the corners. But in the braking zones and exiting the corners, I felt like I was really strong and could get away from him.”
Keselowski had earlier fought back from a spin that dropped him from seventh to 22nd.
“I could have dumped Kyle and won the race,” said the defending Cup champion. “That stuff goes back and forth, and I’m sure someone in the tabloid side of the media will make a big deal about that, but it won’t be me, because I know I did the right thing
“It doesn’t mean there isn’t temptation, but there’s a level of respect and a code of honor that you have to have as a man.”
Juan Pablo Montoya was caught out in the pits in the same manner as Ambrose, sending him from fourth to 12th. He recovered to fifth, just behind Carl Edwards, and ahead of front row starter Clint Bowyer.
Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch were next up, with AJ Allmendinger salvaging 10th. He had been third before running out of fuel and then picking up a pit penalty that left him 32nd.
Kevin Harvick was a lead contender for a while on an alternate pit strategy, but it only gave him 13th place in the end.
Other incidents included a struggling Jeff Gordon crashing heavily early on before rejoining in a patched-up car.
There was also a 22-minute red flag spell after a multi-car midfield tangle in which Victor Gonzalez Jr dropped a lot of oil as he tried to limp back to the pits.
Results - 90 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota 2h32m04.000s 2. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +0.486s 3. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +0.582s 4. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford +1.357s 5. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +1.833s 6. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +2.365s 7. Joey Logano Penske Ford +2.778s 8. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +3.344s 9. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +4.190s10. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Toyota +4.223s11. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +4.743s12. Casey Mears Germain Ford +5.018s13. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +5.516s14. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +5.966s15. Max Papis Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +6.343s16. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +7.146s17. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +7.280s18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +7.441s19. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota +7.747s20. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +7.868s21. David Ragan Front Row Ford +8.781s22. Boris Said FAS Lane Ford +10.362s23. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +10.534s24. Owen Kelly Phoenix Chevrolet +10.621s25. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +10.700s26. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +10.789s27. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +11.820s28. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet +12.136s29. Alex Kennedy Humphrey Smith Toyota +16.927s30. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +5 laps*31. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +6 laps*32. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota +6 laps33. David Stremme Swan Toyota +7 laps34. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +8 laps35. Ron Fellows Circle Sport Chevrolet +16 laps36. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +25 laps* Not running at chequered flagRetirements: Aric Almirola Petty Ford 58 laps Michael McDowell Front Row Ford 58 laps Brian Keselowski Keselowski Toyota 47 laps Travis Kvapil BK Toyota 41 laps Victor Gonzalez Jr Baldwin Chevrolet 39 laps Tomy Drissi NEMCO Toyota 39 laps David Reutimann BK Toyota 4 laps