NASCAR always likes to mix things up, especially when it comes to styles of tracks. This week, for the second time this year, they visited a road course. But, unlike earlier this year, this course is much faster, tighter and creates more challenges for all.
It was Watkins Glen International, and on the docket for the Sprint Cup Series was the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen.
Pole-sitter Carl Edwards brought the field to green, and led through the first turn. Out of that first turn, Jamie McMurray got a great run and grabbed the lead heading up through the esses to the backstretch.
McMurray would lead the first five laps until teammate Juan Pablo Montoya made a strong run and took over the lead.
As the leaders approached green-flag pit stops, Marcos Ambrose made a challenge for the lead and got it on lap 26 as Montoya made his way to pit road. Ambrose would come in two laps later, and the field would cycle through, giving Montoya the lead right back.
The race’s first caution came out on lap 29 when P.J. Jones stalled out on the track in the inner loop. With the field already cycled through, teams actually began telling their drivers to save fuel as it would only take one more pit stop to make the 90-lap distance. Sure enough, guys like Ambrose, Montoya and others began cutting their engines off coming out of the inner loop and turn five.
Montoya brought the field back to green and had a slight challenge from Ambrose heading into the first turn. However, the battle for second would win out as guys like Kurt Busch and Edwards would pass Ambrose on the restart.
It was a great battle, but all the while Montoya was enjoying his lead. But, Ambrose got his car handling just right and then made his charge to the front. On lap 41, Ambrose would get by Montoya to take his second lead of the afternoon. He would hold his position as the race would have a caution on lap 43 when Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemachek collided in the inner loop.
Ambrose brought the field to green, but Montoya would not be denied and he got the lead out of the first turn. He would hold onto the lead for the next 12 laps as the field began to set up for the last round of pit stops.
To be sure he didn’t give up much time, Montoya wanted to pit before Ambrose. But, it appeared Ambrose had an idea of what the No. 42 team was doing. So, he decided to come to pit road at the same time, so that he could stay right on his heels.
Both teams came to pit road for service, but Montoya once again would not be denied. He would come out on top and would get the lead back once the pit cycle was over.
As the laps wound down, fans and media alike knew one of those two drivers would be in victory lane. But, things got extremely interesting in the late running.
With Montoya out front, Boris Said and Tony Stewart were battling for position out of the first turn. But, it looked as though Said had the preferred line and when he made the pass. But, the unfortunate part was he felt he was clear of Stewart, when in fact he was still on his left side.
The end result, Said getting tagged an ending up in the outside fence heading up the esses.
That would not be the final caution as three laps after the field went back to green, Jimmie Johnson found himself in a rather uncomfortable position. He was battling Jeff Burton for position, when suddenly he spun out in the seventh turn. He would get into the outside wall, but then got hammered by Denny Hamlin, who was caught on the outside and didn’t see his car in all the smoke.
Burton later apologized because Kyle Busch got on his inside corner and it forced him into the outside groove. He didn’t mean to get into Johnson, he just was in a bad position.
But, all the time it was Montoya out front. He also knew that Ambrose would be coming strong, but suddenly got a surprise as he saw the No. 47 getting smaller and smaller in his mirror. Ambrose began feeling an issue with his car, possibly a tire going down or another handling issue.
That was all it took to decide a winner. Montoya would run his own race from then on and cruised to nearly a five second lead. After missing out on a sure win at Indianapolis, and having to wait over three years since his last victory, Montoya brought the No. 42 Target Chevrolet out of the last turn on lap 90 out front, and across the finish line to win the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen.
Montoya’s win was the second for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in a three week span, but unlike Indy, the dominant car would take the victory. A very popular win for the Columbian driver.
Next week, it is back to the ovals but also a large increase in speed. The Motor City will be in the background as NASCAR makes it’s second trip to the Michigan International Speedway.
ESPN once again has coverage next Sunday beginning at Noon ET with NASCAR Countdown. The Carfax 400 will go green shortly after 1 p.m. ET.
RESULTS: 1-Montoya 2-Kurt Busch 3-Ambrose 4-Allmendinger 5-Edwards 6-McMurray 7-Stewart 8-Kyle Busch 9-Burton 10-Gordon
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Harvick 17-Kahne 19-Martin 26-Earnhardt Jr. 28-Johnson
CAUTIONS: Five for 13 laps. Lap 29-30 (#07 stall on track), 43-45 (#09, 87 accident-inner loop), 63-64 (debris), 67-69 (#14, 83 accident-T2), 72-74 (#11, 48 accident-T7).
LEAD CHANGES: 10 among 5 drivers. McMurray 1-5, Montoya 6-25, Ambrose 26-27, Montoya 28-40, Ambrose 41-45, Montoya 46-58, Ambrose 59, Newman 60, Martin 61-62, Montoya 63-90.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs. 23 Mins. 52 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 91.960 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 4.735 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Four races until the Chase): 1-Harvick, 3210 points; 2-Gordon, -185; 3-Burton, -315; 4-Kurt Busch, -318; 5-Johnson, -328; 6-Hamlin, -338; 7-Kyle Busch, -344; 8-Stewart, -345; 9-Edwards, -389; 10-Kenseth, -404; 11-Biffle, -467; 12-Martin, -569.