The weekend in US motorsports turned out to be a tale of two Australians: in IndyCar, you had one very angry Queenslander in Will Power. But over in NASCAR less than 24 hours later you had one ecstatic Tasmanian by the name of Marcos Ambrose. Who was - wait for it - standing in victory lane. At last!

"It's just a dream day," he said at the winner's press conference. "Winning in the Cup series is just an incredible feeling and I'm very, very proud."

It hadn't come easy, that's for sure. "I drove pretty much 100 percent the whole day and it's not often you need to do that around this place," he agreed. "With the rain imminent and the fog imminent, the strategy all messed up with fuel strategies, you never knew who was gonna be in the lead, you had to go the whole time ... It was frantic. It was tough all day. It seemed everytime I looked in my mirror there was someone there."

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The shifting strategies meant that Kyle Busch led the most laps in the race, and was still in front going into the final laps. Ambrose had to charge him down - and then find a way past him.

"I had a run at him and had a couple chances and he locked up a tyre and I missed a shift and locked up my tyres and got all frazzled, so I was cooling everything back down to have one more shot at him," he said. "I knew the laps were winding down, but he was struggling. He was fighting his car. I could see that he was really loose up over the esses. I was gonna have another shot at him. If I was within three or four lengths coming into the last brake zone, I was gonna go through him to try to win."

The game changed when Paul Menard hit the wall and caused a late caution, throwing the race into a green-white-chequered situation.

"On the restart, I tried to actually blend in behind him because I knew I was never gonna outbrake the #18," he said. "He was gonna just saddle up in there trying to win the race and that's exactly what he did, but I couldn't find a hole, so I kind of got stuck into turn one and just saddled off in there and tried to make a hole, which worked out for me."

Busch ended up overrunning turn 1 and and lost the lead to Brad Keselowski - who, ironically, was the driver that Ambrose had been shooting the breeze with in the motorhome on the wet Sunday afternoon. "And there we were, the two of us, duking it out for the victory.

"I got through the bus stop really good and just forced the issue on him. I never touched him, I don't think, but I got him aero-free and I was able to slide past," said Ambrose of the penultimate lap before a major wreck involving David Ragan and David Reutimann brought out an early chequered before Keselowski could regroup and fight back.

"He's an up-and-coming superstar and a great talent," said Ambrose of Keseloski, who is still driving in pain after his Road Atlanta testing smash. "All of those guys in the front today drove superbly. You've just got to take chances and today it worked out for us."

There were a few bittersweet sides to the rejoicing in victory lane, however, with Ambrose quick to dedicate the race win to team owner Richard Petty's wife, Lynda. "Mrs Petty is not doing so well at home. She's having a tough time of it right now. This win is for her and the whole family."

And Ambrose faces trouble at home from one of the junior members of his family: "I flew the kids home yesterday [after the rain washed out Sunday's racing.] Today is my little girl's first day at school and I wanted to take her to school, and here we are racing at Watkins Glen on a Monday. She's probably still cranky at me - but I think it's a good compromise to be here in Victory Lane!

"We make sacrifices every day to do what we do," he continued. "Families - Todd [Phillips, crew chief] and his family and all the team - we all sacrifice to live the dream and here we are. We're the best on the day and we're gonna enjoy it."

And Ambrose was forced to drop out of defending his win in last year's Nationwide race on Saturday: "I would have loved to have done the Nationwide race, but the first thing was we had to really stay dedicated to our Cup program," he said. "It was the right thing to do not to attempt the Nationwide win. It would be great to win four in a row, but it's even better to be in Victory Lane today!"

After two and a half years at Cup level - and over five in NASCAR overall since he left Australian V8 Supercars at the end of 2005 - he was renowned as being the best NASCAR race course driver, with Carl Edwards no less suggesting that he could have been an F1 champion if he'd chosen that direction. "For Carl to say that I appreciate it. I tried to get to Formula One and didn't make it, so if I have a chance to do it again, I might be too old!"

Having decided to enter NASCAR, he's a confessed fanatic about the series and completely committed to making a success of his time here: "I'm totally dedicated to NASCAR. It's what I want to do and where I want to be. It's the best sport in the world and I'm very lucky to be doing what I'm doing."

But after all this time - 105 starts at Cup level - there were still no wins to show for it until Monday. Ambrose admitted that it was getting tough, carrying the mantle of 'road course master' but still not winning on the road courses, let alone the ovals.

"I've felt a lot of weight of expectation and pressure to win and sometimes that clouds judgement," he admitted. "I know I've tripped over myself once or twice trying to get to Victory Lane here in the Cup Series. It's not that I was worried, but the word 'choke' was starting to creep into the back of my mind.

"[But] we survived today. We fought our way back to the front. We had a late-race restart. We fought and gouged our way to the front and got the win," he said. "I'm very thankful for the opportunity that I've got to be here and that I made the most of it today.

"I've travelled halfway around the world and dragged my kids and my wife with me. I kept telling them I was good, but until you can win in the Cup Series you can't really put that stamp on it. I've tried for two-and-a-half years ... to finally get to finally get to Victory Lane is a dream come true for me."

Anyone thinking that this one victory would have in some way sated his appetite would be very wide of the mark: instead, it's simply made him even hungrier for more. "Hopefully, we can get back to Victory Lane again soon. I think this might open the box for me to get a few more," he said. "I think we're all gonna get a bit of mojo, a bit of confidence about us and keep fighting, keep trying and you never know."

Despite the win, a spot in the Chase is still very unlikely even with the "most wins" wildcard. "We're not out of the Chase, that's for certain, but looking at points aren't gonna help you. You've just got to go out there and try to win races," he said. "Everybody is just going at it with this new point system. You know the top 10s reward you well for points and top 20s don't get it done."

It's hard to believe that Ambrose very nearly wasn't in NASCAR at all this season. After deciding midway through 2010 to leave his original team JTG Daugherty Racing and sign for Richard Petty Motorsports, he found himself in the middle of what looked to be RPM's financial implosion involving former co-owner George Gillett. The team was lucky to survive at all into 2011 only after the iconic Richard Petty returned to manage and lead the team bearing his name.

"At this time last year I didn't know what I was gonna be doing," he admitted. "I didn't know if I was gonna be in the Cup Series. I took some chances and was on the rollercoaster with the whole Petty team when it went through the changes last year, and to get them to Victory Lane is just a dream come true.

"There were days and weeks where I was very anxious, but you've got to roll the dice sometimes and be patient and turn the phone off, play golf for a while and it all worked out," he revealed of those dark times. "There was a time I was sitting around the boardroom table and I was the only one there. Who knew what was gonna happen, it was completely out of my hands.

"To see it pare down from four [cars] to two, get rebuilt, I think it's helped us," he continued. "I think it's helped all of us who have been through it to have the glue. We know what we went through. We're thankful for what we've got and we're now helping rebuilt Richard Petty Motorsports back to where they want to be. "

"The fans out there who have supported Richard Petty and this whole team through the turmoil last year, I can't thank them enough," he stressed. "We're gonna go onward and upward from here. It's a proud day. No one realizes how much everybody puts in to try to get to Victory Lane and when it actually happens it's almost a surreal moment."

Of course, having scored his first win in Sprint Cup, he now has his eyes set on an even bigger and more dear prize to him: an oval victory.

"For me now the next big challenge is Michigan coming up next week, and Bristol the week after that because I want to win badly on those," he said. "I'm trying hard to work out the missing link between myself and guys like Carl who can win on those ovals consistently. Who knows? I'm gonna keep trying.

"I'm a hobby racer. I do it because I love it and I'm lucky enough to get paid," he explained. "I'm a historian and I love old school racing. I love knowing about the old style race cars and the drivers from back in the day and I have a passion for the sport. I think it helps me on the race track. I'm a good student. I watch others around me and try to do better. We now need to win on the ovals."

Buoyed with his first Cup win, his many fans and supporters will be hoping that his Watkins Glen triumph breaks the dam and that a flow of victories on all of NASCAR's various circuits is just around the corner for the self-styled hobby racer, historian, proud father - who can now add 'NASCAR Cup race winner' to the list of titles.

"Eventually, I'm gonna get spat out of the sport. You can't drive forever - unless you're Mark Martin!," he added with a laugh, referring to NASCAR's seemingly unstoppable veteran driver. "But I'm happy with what I've done [now]. I've gotten to Victory Lane. I can go home knowing that I've won in the Sprint Cup Series and it's a proud day for myself and my family."