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A weekend to remember at Watkins Glen

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Kyle Busch established himself as NASCAR's new "road-course king," and Australian driver Marcos Ambrose scored his first Nationwide Series victory during a memorable weekend of racing at the historic 2.45-mile Watkins Glen International.

Busch's already phenomenal season continued when he became the first driver in NASCAR's 60-year history to win three road-course events in the same year. He also won the June 22nd Sprint Cup race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA, and the April 20th Nationwide event at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

After disappointing performances at Indianapolis and Pocono, Busch rebounded with a dominating performance at Watkins Glen by leading 52 of 90 laps. He also avoided a multi-car crash somewhat resembling "the big one" at Daytona and Talladega. With eight laps to go, Michael McDowell and David Gilliland made contact in turn 11, triggering the pile-up involving nine drivers. Several cars were heavily damaged, and NASCAR halted the race for 43 minutes to clean up the mess. Nobody was injured, but Bobby Labonte was transported to a nearby hospital for further evaluation and later released. McDowell and Gilliland were summoned to the NASCAR hauler at the conclusion of the event.

Kyle Busch became the first driver in NASCAR's 60-year history to win three road-course events in the same year.
Busch held off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and four-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart in the final laps for his eighth Sprint Cup victory of the season. He has now secured the top spot in the championship standings when the "Chase for the Sprint Cup" begins September 14th at New Hampshire.

While everything went Busch's way at Watkins Glen, that wasn't the case for Hendrick Motorsports drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt, Jr. and crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. decided to pit late during a round of green-flag stops, but their gamble backfired. Junior held the lead after all drivers made their stops under green, but as the second caution flag waved on Lap 64, he had yet to pit. Junior was the only driver who pitted during the caution, and he lost valuable track position. He finished 22nd.

Gordon, another four-time winner at The Glen, dealt with radio issues and battled with an ill-handling car before posting a 29th-place finish. Gordon, currently sixth in points, has yet to win a race this season.

Next to Busch's record-setting accomplishment at Watkins Glen has to be Ambrose's monumental achievement there. In just his third Sprint Cup start, Ambrose charged from the 43rd-starting position to an impressive third-place finish, driving the No.21 Ford for the Wood Brothers. The Aussie's first Nationwide win on Saturday came in thrilling fashion. Johnson and Jeff Burton ran out of fuel with five laps to go, allowing Ambrose to move from third to first. He led the final four laps en route to his first victory in his 59th Nationwide start.

Had Ambrose won Sunday's Sprint Cup race, he would have become the first driver to win both NASCAR races at Watkins Glen in the same season.

Even though Watkins Glen got off to a soggy start with Friday's Sprint Cup qualifying cancelled because of rain, the weather cooperated from there on to allow Busch and Ambrose to make a weekend to remember in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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