It was back to the left and right turns for the 25th running of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at Watkins Glen in upstate New York. The Cup Series took 90 laps around the 2.45 mile road and here is what is surprising and not surprising from the race at the Glen this past weekend.
Surprising: After two consecutive failures to win due to four tire pit strategy decisions, crew chief Brian Pattie finally made the right call and took Juan Pablo Montoya and the No. 42 Target Chevrolet to victory lane. This was Montoya’s second career win in the Sprint Cup Series and Pattie’s first ever win as a crew chief and undoubtedly has gone a long way to easing the tensions on that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team.
Not Surprising: After calling Hendrick Motorsports rivals Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon ‘pretty boys’, both of whom have also annoyed him on the track as well, Kurt Busch flexed his road course muscle at Watkins Glen with a second place run. With his runner up finish, Busch was also the biggest winner in the point standings, advancing three positions to fourth place.
Surprising: Marcos Ambrose, who scored his third Nationwide win at the Glen on Saturday, was in contention yet again for another victory on a road course on Sunday. Unfortunately, the racing gods and an ill-handling car resulted in another disappointment for the Australian, who finished the race in the third position. Ambrose noted it was just another down in the up and down roller coaster ride of his season, from his surprising gaffe at Sonoma to his announcement of his departure from JTG-Daugherty Racing at the end of this season.
Not Surprising: Carl Edwards, who started the race from the pole position, had a solid run at the Glen. He brought his No. 99 Aflac Ford home in the fifth spot, advancing up to the ninth position in the Chase race.
Surprising: Hendrick ‘pretty boy’ Jimmie Johnson was nowhere to be found on the leader board at the Glen. Johnson had a Tiger Woods type day, colliding with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch after a three-wide attempt through the turn, ending his day in 28th and falling to the fifth position in the point standings.
Not Surprising: Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., never one known for his road racing abilities, lived up to that reputation with a disappointing 26th place finish. Junior lost two more spots in the point standings falling to 16th, 690 points behind and undoubtedly out of contention for the Chase.
Surprising: After signing a multi-year contract with Richard Petty Motorsports, AJ Allmendinger became not only the alpha dog at RPM but also a top five finisher at the Glen. The ‘Dinger brought home the No. 43 Insignia HDTV Ford in the fourth spot, after qualifying it in that very same position.
Not Surprising: Jamie McMurray, who started the race on the outside pole, has continued to prove his prowess on road courses as well as ovals. He brought his No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet to the checkered flag in the sixth position, notching another top ten finish for the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team.
Surprising: Tony Stewart, with one of the best records overall at Watkins Glen International, was not really a contender for the win during Sunday’s Cup competition. Stewart had a top ten, coming in seventh, with his teammate Ryan Newman following behind in 12th.
Not Surprising: Jeff Gordon, proud second-time papa to son Leo Benjamin born after the conclusion of the race at the Glen, was strong all race long. He was able to pass point’s leader Kevin Harvick, who was struggling with a tire issue at the end, to secure a top-ten finish, taking the checkered flag in tenth position.
Surprising: The final foursome of the Hendrick Motorsports team Mark Martin had a top twenty run at the Glen, finishing in the 19th position in the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. But even more important, with that finish Martin has now climbed to the coveted final position in the Chase race, up one spot to 12th in the point standings.
Not Surprising: While no one seems to be paying much attention, veteran Jeff Burton had a top-10 finish on the road course. With his ninth place race finish, Burton climbed two positions closer to the top and now rests third, right behind the other Jeff in the Chase race.
Surprising: The so-called ‘road course ringers’ had a heluva bad time at the Glen. Boris Said, who was finally in good equipment with the Red Bull team, tussled with Tony Stewart and finished a disappointing 38th. Fellow road course aces Ron Fellows and PJ Jones fared no better, finishing in 40th and 41st respectively.
Not Surprising: Kyle Busch pulled out another good finish after an eventful race. Yet even after an eighth place finish, Busch dropped one position in the Chase standings to the seventh spot.
The Cup Series will now head to the Irish hills of Michigan for the CARFAX 400. The race will be broadcast at 1:00 PM ET on ESPN from Michigan International Speedway.