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.