[media-credit id=24 align=”alignright” width=”224″][/media-credit]In spite of a few drops of rain and much discussion about oil on the track in the waning laps, here is what else was surprising and not surprising for the 27th annual Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen.
Surprising: Although this two-time winner at the Glen was far from home, in fact about as far away as one can possibly be, he felt right at home, relishing his triumph with his family from down under in Victory Lane.
Australian Marcos Ambrose, driving the No. 9 Stanley Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, scored his first victory of the season and his second win in 141 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
“My kids haven’t shared this in America and it’s a special thing to win a NASCAR race, especially a Sprint Cup race, so it’s fantastic,” Ambrose said of having his children with him in Victory Lane and the media center post-race. “I’ve got my in-laws sitting in the back here too.”
Although Ambrose was surrounded by family, his thoughts were with his family who could not be with him to celebrate.
“My dad is in the hospital right now, so I hope this makes him feel better and gets him going,” Ambrose continued. “It’s a tough life when you’re racing , especially I’m from Australia and my immediate family is down home and I feel a long way away a lot of days.”
“It’s great to have my family here and great to let them celebrate with me,” Ambrose said. “These days don’t come around every day.”
Not Surprising: Ever the hard core racer, it was no surprise to see Brad Keselowski so completely jazzed with his runner up finish after beating and banging with Ambrose all the way to the checkered flag.
This was the second top-10 finish in three races at Watkins Glen International for the driver of the Miller Lite Blue Deuce for Penske Racing. It was also Keselowski’s 12th top-10 finish of the season.
“That’s what racing is supposed to be right there; a little bit of bumping and rubbing but none of that intentional wrecking BS,” Keselowski said. “It came down to just running a whole lap against Marcos.”
“I got in the oil and we’d slip up,” Keselowski continued. “He’d get by me and then he’d get in the oil and I’d get by him.”
“It’s great to race against guys like Marcos that you can run on, lean on and don’t lose their cool,” Keselowski said. “I think that’s the way racing should be.”
Surprising: They may be teammates and even share a Hendrick Motorsports garage, but Jimmie Johnson took advantage of his teammate Dale Junior’s slip up to not only finish third in the race, but also snatch the points lead away from him.
“I just got in the corner and made a mistake and that was pretty much all there was to it,” the driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet said. “I was just overdriving the car.”
“It was a bad ugly finish at the end.”
Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Cortez Silver Chevrolet, deemed the finish “chaotic” as well.
“But I’m glad we got back to the finish line and finished third,” Johnson continued. “Very solid day for this Lowe’s team.”
“I’m excited to be leading the points.”
Not Surprising: In spite of one Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver sitting on the pole and the other re-signing with the team, both EGR drivers had yet another rough day at the race track.
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet, secured his second pole in a row, last week at Pocono and this week at the Glen. Mechanical troubles, however, sidelined JPM, relegating him to a 33rd place finish.
“I think it was the lower control arm,” Montoya said. “We got the last two poles and I did think we had a car to win today.”
“It was looking really good; everything looked like it was going according to the plan,” Montoya continued. “All of a sudden I hit a curb and the car went completely left on me.”
Teammate Jamie McMurray, fresh off inking his signature on his new contract with the team, also struggled. Jamie Mac hit the Armco barrier so hard that it left its impression on the driver’s side door of his No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet.
“It just happened all of a sudden,” McMurray said. “The tire blew out and we hit the guardrail pretty hard.”
Surprising: While the Queen may have had her James Bond moment at the Olympics, there was one such moment at the Glen, with the wild card spots being definitely ‘shaken, not stirred.’
The two drivers whose Chase chances were most shaken were both Kyle Busch and four-time champion Jeff Gordon.
Busch, behind the wheel of his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota, looked like he would notch another win until he tangled with Brad Keselowski and got shuffled back to seventh at the race end. That win would have moved Busch into the second wild-card spot in the Chase.
“I’ve got nothing good to say,” was Busch’s only post-race comment. He later posted on Facebook, “Can it get any worse?”
The other driver shaken in the Chase was Jeff Gordon, behind the wheel of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. He too was headed for at least a top-10 finish until he slid in oil and wrecked on the last lap, finishing 21st.
Gordon lost two spots in the Chase standings, falling to 15th.
“I’m pretty bummed,” Gordon said after the race. “We didn’t have the day I thought we were going to have.”
Not Surprising: While brother Kyle struggled at the Glen, so too did big brother Kurt Busch. Busch, driving the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Construction Services Chevrolet, had a mechanical problem, blew a tire, and headed to the garage.
“These guys work way too hard for these mechanical things to happen,” Busch said. “Sometimes these things just add up and we are just on the wrong side of the eight-ball.”
Surprising: For the second race in a row, Denny Hamlin suffered problems on the track that entailed another quick exit from his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota.
“I have a thing with wrecks and fires here lately,” Hamlin said. “I was fine until once again I started feeling the heat and looked down and saw the fire at my feet.”
“Once I got fire on me, I decided to stop at the nearest fire station,” Hamlin continued. “It’s unfortunate but an overall bad weekend for us.”
Not Surprising: Regan Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet, had another top 10 finish for himself and the team. Smith, who finished ninth at Pocono last weekend, replicated it again at the Glen.
This was also his first career top-10 finish on a road course.
“I am happy to come away with a top-10,” Smith said. “I am very proud of this team and very excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish recently.”
“We’re on the right track and that’s encouraging.”
Surprising: Something that is surprisingly not heard often was heard at the road course this weekend. Veteran driver Jeff Burton was black flagged for failing to maintain minimum speed.
“Once again, bad luck found us, this time it was in the form of a fuel pump issue,” the driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet said. Burton soldiered on to finish 30th.
Not Surprising: Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. conquered nerves and dodged bullets respectively to both finish in the top-10 on the road course.
“That was some slick racing the last few laps,” Bowyer, behind the wheel of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, said. “We were sliding everywhere.”
“It was kind of fun, but it was pretty nerve-wracking.”
“Man, it was rough,” teammate Truex, Jr., driving the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, said after running out of gas with 25 laps to go. “Those kinds of days when you make mistakes, you’ve got to battle back.”
“We dodged a big bullet be being able to come back through the field like that.”
Surprising: Tony Stewart, driving the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, made a surprising and uncharacteristic error on a road course, spinning on lap 71 after being second in the race running order.
Smoke backed into the Armco barrier, significantly shortening up the car. He went on to rally after repairs from 29th to finish 19th.
“Sorry guys,” Stewart said. “I gave it away there.”
Not Surprising: On the flip side, Stewart Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman said a big hello to the wild card spot in the Chase. The driver of the No. 39 US Army Chevrolet finished 11th to move up to 13th in the point standings, just 49 points out of the 10th position.
“In the end, it was a good day for us in the points, which was what we needed to make the Chase,” Newman said. “That’s our mission and we’re going to have to fight it out these next four races.”
“Just like our Army Strong soldiers, we’re a determined bunch and we’re not going to give up.”