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NASCAR Nationwide Watkins Glen: Ambrose takes fourth win

Marcos Ambrose always looked the man to beat in the Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen on Saturday - and it turned out no one could.
CLICK: Full race results and Nationwide Series championship standings.

Marcos Ambrose rebounded from early contact with Kyle Busch to work his way back to the front of the field in the Zippo 200 Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen International on Saturday afternoon, and once he was there there was no one who could dislodge him again as he claimed his fourth win from four consecutive starts at the venue to become the all-time most successful driver in terms of road course wins in the series.

Brad Keselowski had taken pole position by just under eight hundredths of a second from his Penske team mate Joey Logano with a new Nationwide track qualifying record of 71.018s (124.194 mph), eclipsing the previous benchmark set by Sam Hornish Jr. in 2013 of 123.291mph. Keselowski converted pole to an early lead in the race while Logano had his hands full holding off Ambrose and Busch in third and fourth places through the opening laps. The top four were closely packed together but managed to eke out a lead over the chasing pack consisting of Regan Smith, Paul Menard, Ty Dillon and Brian Scott.

The status quo was broken on lap 6 after Keselowski got wide through the final corner, enabling Logano to get the jump on him down the frontstraight and into turn 1. Moments later, an impatient Busch tried an opportunistic lunge down the inside of Ambrose into the bus stop which ended up spinning both cars off track; they were able to rejoin but Ambrose was now in 12th and Busch in 15th place leaving them both with ground to regain.

Lap 10 saw Keselowski get around his team mate to resume the lead, with Smith up to third ahead of Menard, Kenseth and Dillon. Ambrose had recovered to seventh by the time the first caution came out on lap 12 after contact between Trevor Bayne and Kenny Habul left debris on the track between turns 5 and 6. The leaders stayed off pit road but Ambrose and Busch were among those to pit, rejoining in 16th and 18th place respectively; it took only a lap after the green for them both to be back in the top ten. Both men came in when the leaders made their first round of pit stops, their fuel-only requirement meaning they exited ahead of both Penskes.

There was a new caution on lap 27 when Bayne tapped Kevin O'Connell into the wall in the inner loop, and a last smattering of pit stops put Ambrose in charge of the restart on lap 31 ahead of Busch, Logano, Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard. Logano pushed Busch wide through turn 1 to take second spot and give chase to Ambrose. There was a quick return to yellow on lap 35 after JJ Yeley took a hard head-on impact with the barrier between turns 6 and 7 after contact with Bayne, making it a hat-trick of cautions involving the #6.

Ambrose was the first of the leaders to come in for his final stop of the day on lap 50. Logano was in next time by and exited side-by-side with Ambrose but the Australian won the battle to keep their relative positions ahead of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth while Brad Keselowski lost some ground with a slow getaway from his pit stall and Regan Smith suffered a disaster when the team failed to secure all the lugnuts on the front right wheel, obliging him to return to pit lane a second time. Last year's winner Brendan Gaughan held the lead for a spell from lap 52 until his own pit stop on lap 57 which returned control of the proceedings to Ambrose as the race entered the final 25 laps; Ambrose had opened up a three second lead over Logano during this time with Busch in third and Keselowski quick to recover his lost positions and back into fourth ahead of Kenseth and Menard while Gaughan filtered back into seventh place ahead of Chase Elliott.

Ambrose's lead was eliminated on lap 59 by a caution for a right front tyre blow-out on the #01 JD Motorsports car driven by Landon Cassill, doing heavy damage to the bodywork of the car. At the restart, Keselowski made a spirited challenge for third on Busch but overcooked it through the bus stop and ploughed through the grass, giving himself and everyone immediately behind a headache with clogged grilles sending water temperatures spiralling. Keselowski managed to clear his grille and quickly worked his way back past Elliott and Kenseth to recover fourth place, while Gaughan's defence of his race title at Watkins Glen ended on pit lane with the engine gushing a spirited geyser of steam.

Although there were a number of minor contacts and spins there were no further major incidents to trigger additional cautions for the remainder of the race. That allowed Ambrose to pull away from Logano once again, who started to fade and succumbed to Busch for second place. With Ambrose hitting lapped traffic the #54 was able to pull up to the back of Ambrose in the closing laps but Busch ran out of time to try a move for the lead and it was Ambrose who crossed the line in first place, his fourth Nationwide win at Watkins Glen.

Behind Busch in second, Logano held off his team mate Keselowski for third place with Kenseth in fifth ahead of Elliott, Sadler, Dillon, Menard and Scott. With Regan Smith only able to recover to 17th place after his costly lugnut issue, Chase Elliott extends his lead in the championship standings to 12 points over his chief rival who is just one point ahead of Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler heading into next week's event, a second consecutive road race event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings.



Related Pictures

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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #12 Snap-On Ford, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
The #28 Texas 28 Spirits Stage Dodge, driven by JJ Yeley, is seen after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #09 Stanley Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS who finished in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, April 9, 2016 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 as Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage (L) and John Godwin of Duck Commander (R) look on at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #14 Target Chevrolet SS, finishes in third place, Sunday April 3, 2016, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, VA (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, leads Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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