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Watkins Glen: Owen Kelly survives to finish 24th

Australia's Owen Kelly managed to do something his compatriot Marcos Ambrose was unable to do on Sunday - making it to the finish line on the lead lap in his NASCAR Cup début.
Owen Kelly was able to celebrate a solid NASCAR Sprint Cup Series début outing on Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen International, coming home on the lead lap in 24th place in the #51 Phoenix Racing car.

The Australian admitted that he'd gone for a safety-first strategy early in the race, but near the end had nearly been taken out by his compatriot Marcos Ambrose when the pre-race favourite spun out with six laps remaining. Kyle Busch went on to win the race ahead of Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.

"At the start, I was ultra-conservative, I really wanted to settle into a rhythm so that we could then work out what the strategy was going to be," he said after the end of the 90-lap race. "The car was too tight heading into the carousel and I was having trouble turning it. During the pitstop we made a change, but that didn't help too much.

"On a few of the restarts I got hung out into turn one and lost a few positions and then had to fight to make them back up again," he added. "At one point, we were struggling with the front end and I looked into the mirror and Jeff Gordon was chasing me and pushing on my bumper to get by.

"I thought then, 'This is pretty cool, it's not every week you get pushed around by Jeff Gordon,'" he smiled. "That probably brought it home for me how big a deal this was. It was definitely the biggest race that I have ever been involved in."

It was at one of the late restarts that Kelly nearly got taken out by the spinning #9 Richard Petty Motorsport car. "I thought we'd probably end up about 15th overall, our pace was with those guys who were around there, but I lost a bunch of spots when Marcos crashed," he said.

"I could see him go around and was trying to avoid hitting him, but we just collected him on the way through. I reckon we lost about eight spots in jamming on the brakes to miss him," he continued. "It was eventful out there - when some were going around in front of you, I'd try to avoid them, then the guys behind would be in the back of you, it was relentless."

Kelly added that he's also been involved in some of the aftermath of Kasey Kahne's accident a couple of laps earlier.

"It was eventful out there. When some were going around in front of you, I'd try to avoid them, then the guys behind would be in the back of you, it was relentless," he said. "We came away with what we were looking for and that was to get through the race without damaging the car and finishing on the lead lap.

"Having come here on Friday never driven a NASCAR Sprint Cup car before, never driven Watkins Glen before, contending with rain during practice and everything else, to look back on qualifying to be the best of the non-regular runners and survive all of that which happened today was a huge achievement," he summed up. "I'm thankful to the guys from Phoenix Racing for the opportunity, we didn't get the result we were looking for in terms of position, but showed that we can be part of this deal."




Related Pictures

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Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley/CTC Jumpstart Ford, poses for a photo after winning the pole award during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 10, 2013 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley/CTC Jumpstart Ford, leads Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 PEAK/Duck Dynasty Toyota, to start the race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 11, 2013 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley/CTC Jumpstart Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 11, 2013 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Owen Kelly at Road America (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Brian Scott, driver of the #2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet, leads Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Cars race after a restart lead by Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet (L), Ryan Blaney, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Cartwheel by Target Chevrolet (R) during the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AutoTrader.com Ford, and Morgan Shepherd, driver of the #33 Little Joe`s Autos Chevrolet, crash during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 13, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones, driver of the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR)
Erik Jones in action in the #51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck Series car (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies fifth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies fourth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies second Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies fourth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
 
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet SS, qualifies fifth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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