Road racing at its finest. Describing the race today here at Watkins Glen. Today’s race was full of action and extraordinary weather. This capped off once of the nicest race weekends I can remember here at Watkins Glen.
Juan Pablo Montoya claimed victory in the Sprint Cup Series for just his second time in 131 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. It was not for lack of effort as Montoya had been close to victory in a few races this season, most notably last month in Indianapolis at the Brickyard. His victory breaks a 113-race winless drought as his last victory came at the second road-course that the Sprint Cup Series visits at Infineon Raceway in 2007.
Pole-sitter Carl Edwards did not last long at the front of the field as Jamie McMurray slid past for the lead on lap number two. McMurray was also the next driver to see only a brief stint at the front of the field, as Juan Pablo Montoya wasted no time showing that his car was the one to beat today. Montoya made a pass on McMurray to gain the lead on only lap number five. The 42 car had all but checked out in the first stint as the race as other pre-race favorites like Marcos Ambrose and Tony Stewart were caught in traffic behind Montoya.
Road course pit strategy started around lap 27 when Montoya pitted from the lead for four tires and fuel. The field followed pace with leader Montoya the following lap where Ambrose, Stewart and Carl Edwards all came to the pit lane under green for four tires and fuel.
A Caution on lap 29 bunched the field up and was the first time where we saw that there was more than one car that could win. When the green flew on lap 31, Marcos Ambrose made it a statement that his car was good enough to win, passing Carl Edwards for second and keeping pace with Montoya at the point.
It took around nine laps for Ambrose to finally make a move on Montoya for the lead, gaining the top spot on lap 40. This move, like many others here at Watkins Glen came as a dive-bomb into the right hand turn one, out-breaking Montoya for the lead.
Just after Ambrose took the lead, the caution flag waived for the second time as Bobby Labonte was sidetracked in the Inner Loop. During the caution, Crew Chief for Juan Montoya told his driver to “Drive it like a maniac”. And drive like a maniac did Juan as the green flew again on lap 46, as Ambrose and Montoya made it to Turn 1, Montoya trapped Ambrose on the bottom and drove off with the lead.
The field went single file with a few changes, but the mix came on lap 60 when Montoya hit pit road for tires and fuel, followed by Ambrose. Again, the leaders caught a break when the third yellow flag of the race came out for debris on lap 62. When the dust settled from that yellow, Juan Montoya and Marcos Ambrose were shown at the top of the leaderboards.
The next news came from defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson on lap 70, when he spun in Turn 7, sending he and Denny Hamlin into the outside wall. The wreck collected two of this years Chase contenders out for the win here as Hamlin later stated that drivers were “dive-bombing” each other when racing for position.
When the field took the green with 15 laps to go on lap 75, the top two spots had remained stagnant. Montoya leading Ambrose, Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger, and Jamie McMurray into Turn 1 following the fifth caution of the day.
From then on it was smooth sailing for Montoya at the front of the field as he stretched his lead to over four seconds over Kurt Busch by the time the checkered flag flew on lap 90. Montoya had lead an amazing 74 laps when his Chevy crossed the stripe, winning the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen in commanding fashion.
The rest of the top five looked like this; Kurt Busch in second, yesterday’s winner in the Zippo 200 Nationwide Series race here at Watkins Glen – Marcos Ambrose in third, AJ Almendinger in fourth, and pole-sitter Carl Edwards in fifth.
In the points, Denny Hamlin took the biggest hit out of all the Chase contenders dropping three spots to sixth, where Kurt Busch did the opposite and gained three spots with his second place finish. Mark Martin traded places with Clint Bowyer for the twelfth and final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The top twelve after today’s race looks like this:
Another successful weekend comes to a close here at Watkins Glen, and again I have to give Kudos to the staff at Watkins Glen International for treating all the members of the media to the always-delicious fare of Dinosaur Barbeque.