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Ambrose finally gets to victory lane

Marcos Ambrose finally achieved his maiden Sprint Cup victory, beating Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch at the final restart to win a dramatic climax at Watkins Glen.
After two and a half seasons in Sprint Cup competition - 105 starts in all - Marcos Ambrose has finally arrived in victory lane following a nailbiting and explosive finish to the rain-delayed race at the historic Watkins Glen International road course.

It took place in the unfamiliar setting of a Monday morning after the race had been unable to run in its usual scheduled Sunday afternoon slot because of heavy rain hitting the area. As feared, rain was still threatening on Monday as the green flag finally dropped for the 'Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen' Sprint Cup race: the showers were very light and fairly brief, but it was still enough to make the track greasy and the grass wet enough to catch out the unwary, but delaying wasn't an option even as the fog rolled in to add to the problems, as the forecast looked much worse for later.

Hence it was 10am in the morning at the Glen in New York state, under less than optimal circumstances, when the race finally got underway, with AJ Allmendinger immediately getting aggressive and beating pole sitter Kyle Busch through turn 1 to take the early lead, Kyle going another place down before the end of the second lap after Allmendinger's Richard Petty Motorsport team mate Marcos Ambrose also pushed past.

The tricky conditions were underscored when two drivers expected to do well at the Glen had early offs: Kurt Busch, who had won Saturday's Nationwide Series race, spun off through the inner loop section while trying to pass Dale Earnhardt Jr. and was forced into the pits on lap 4 to have the car tidied up, new tyres fitted and grass removed from the grille, putting him briefly a lap down; and Boris Said similarly got lose, spun and slid off the track on lap 2 and was forced into his own early pit stop for a clean-up and to deal with a vibration issue. There was also a drive-thru penalty for Casey Mears who had changed lanes before the green flag at the start.

More cars were coming in for surprisingly early pit stops, with Kevin Harvick in for an apparently routine visit on lap 7 and Ryan Newman in the next time by, but by contrast others such as Ambrose and Juan Montoya stayed out to lap 17 when a brief intensifying of the drizzle made them pre-empt a full course caution that didn't happen.

Whatever Allmendinger's pit stop strategy was intended to be, it was upset when he tangled with Kurt Busch on lap 9, with Busch determined to recover from his early problem and get back on the lead lap. In getting past Allmendinger, Busch locked up his rear brakes and the #43 was pushed wide off the track. AJ was not at all happy as he made clear over his car radio, especially when two laps later he was forced into the pits to take care of the grass clogging the grille and consequently fell to 35th place.

Arguably the most surprising strategy was that of Kyle Busch, who opted to stay out much longer and found himself with a huge seven second lead over his nearest rival. By lap 26 he was coming up on the back of Carl Edwards to lap the #99, after Edwards had suffered a lengthy pit stop for handling adjustments. The highest-placed of the early stopped was Marcos Ambrose back in tenth position.

There were ongoing complains about the conditions - brief rain here, a wet track there, grass thrown up onto the track, too much water on the infield, too little visibility in the fog - but the first full course caution didn't materialise until lap 28 when Greg Biffle stalled in the inner loop section having run out of gas. Leader Kyle Busch was almost badly caught out with the timing, driving on empty himself by this point and needing to coast through the caution laps until the pit road was open and he could come in for gas.

That put Marcos Ambrose back on front for the second time that morning, followed by Montoya and Jeff Gordon with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fourth place (despite his pathological hatred of road courses) just ahead of Red Bull duo Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne. All of them had stayed out, with Kyle Busch having dropped back to eighth place with his pit stop for maximum fuel and four tyres while others who came in largely going for shorter fuelling and only two tyres.




Related Pictures

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NASCAR Officials wait in the rain for the start of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen on Sunday, August 14 before the race was officially postponed until Monday. [Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images]
Heluva Good! Senior Vice President of Operations, Scott Blake, waves the Green Flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 15 in Watkins Glen, N.Y. [Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images]
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, and A.J. Allmendinger, driver of the #43 Best Buy Ford, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 15 in Watkins Glen, N.Y. [Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 15 in Watkins Glen, N.Y. [Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 15 in Watkins Glen, N.Y. [Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 ToyotaCare Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, qualified for 2nd position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined on the front row by Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS who won the Pole position. Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, who is not in the Championship Four final phase of the Chase, won the pole position Friday, November 14, 2014 for Sunday`s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. He will be joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS on the front row. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 ParkerStore Chevrolet, poses with the Keystone Light Pole Award after qualifying for pole position for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, climbs into his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody`s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2014 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, talks to his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, after failing to advance to the championship round of the Chase for the Spring Cup after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/ Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, leads Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, lead the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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