In a race named by kilometers rather than the actual 90 laps and the 220 miles distance, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the 28th annual road course running at Watkins Glen International.
Surprising: In addition to the traditional burnout, flag capture and bow, there was a surprising new tradition in Victory Lane at the Glen, with a handshake between the race winner Kyle Busch and runner up Brad Keselowski.
The gesture signified the respect that both had as they raced each other cleanly and without wreckage, in contrast to the previous year where both were running through oil that resulted in some final lap mayhem.
“I felt we ran really hard there those last couple laps,” Busch said. “I commend Brad for doing a better job this year at bringing home a cleaner race.”
“I could have dumped Kyle and won the race,” Keselowski said. “It doesn’t mean there isn’t temptation, but there’s a level of respect and a code of honor that you have to have as a man.”
“I know I did the right thing.”
Not Surprising: As so often happens in the sport of NASCAR, the most dominant car, the No. 9 Stanley/CTC Jumpstart Ford piloted by Marcos Ambrose, did not win the race.
Ambrose got caught further back in the pack after a caution and wrecked trying to come back up through the field, finishing a heartbreaking 31st.
“I’m just really disappointed for my Stanley team,” Ambrose said. “That’s not the way we wanted our day to finish.”
Surprising: Juan Pablo Montoya led team Chevy when the checkered flag flew at the Glen, bringing his No. 42 Target Chevrolet home as the highest finisher of the brand in the fifth position.
“It was fun,” Montoya said. “These cars, you know, guys that run up front are pretty good here.”
“Our Target Chevy was really good all day.”
Not Surprising: The Michael Waltrip team regulars, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer, proved their road racing prowess yet again by finishing third and fifth respectively at Watkins Glen. And not only were their finishes special but both racers had been looking forward to the weekend for their own reasons.
“Watkins Glen is a place that has been special to me,” Truex said. “I went there when I was younger running Busch North back in the day.”
“It was the first road course that I ran a stock car on.”
“I think it’s great that PEAK and Duck Dynasty came together to create this special paint scheme and have some fun with it,” Bowyer said. “Being a guest on an episode of Duck Dynasty was probably one of the biggest things I’ve done outside of a race car.”
Surprising: With a solid road course record at Watkins Glen, including four wins, six top-fives, nine top-tens and two poles, Jeff Gordon exited the race surprisingly early, wrecking on lap 13 and finishing 36th.
“It’s unfortunate,” Gordon said. “I had a big run on the No. 11 and I got up on him and the nose just completely took off and put me in the wall.”
Although the difficult day also resulted in a significant points loss, with Gordon dropping from ninth to fourteenth place in the standings, it is also somewhat surprising that after such a tough run, the four-time champion sits just 15 points out of the tenth position and still is in line for possible Chase contention.
Not Surprising: Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson continued his march to the championship with a top-ten finish, bringing his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet to the checkered flag in the eighth position.
Johnson still maintains a 75 points lead over second place Clint Boywer and could literally sit out a race or two, potentially for the birth of his second child, without any fear of point standing damage.
Surprising: Richard Childress Racing’s highest finisher was surprisingly Kevin Harvick, taking the checkered flag in the 13th position.
“We had a really fast Budweiser Chevrolet today,” Harvick said. “We just couldn’t get the break we needed on pit strategy.”
Not Surprising: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne were upset and a bit miffed after tangling with several other cars and wrecking into one another.
“The No. 20 was going after the No. 9 and missed him and ended up knocking the No. 5 out of the race and knocked ourselves out of the race,” Junior said.
“I’m not sure what happened,” Kahne said. “I was just trying to get through there.”
Surprising: After running out of gas in the No. 47 Scott Products Toyota, A.J. Allmendinger made a surprising comeback to finish in the top-10.
And without a doubt, that was an additional boost not only for the driver but also the team, who had Bobby Labonte step aside for a few races to let Allmendinger shake that car and team down.
Not Surprising: Max Papis, in for the ailing Tony Stewart, who is now home recovering from two surgeries on his broken leg, finished a respectable 15th. Papis helped maintain Stewart Haas Racing’s 11th place position in the owner’s point standings.
“It was pretty crazy,” Papis said. “I drove the wheels off the car every lap.”
“These guys are all pretty good.”
This will apparently be Papis’ only substitution for Stewart as the team just announced that Austin Dillon will drive the No. 14 car for the Michigan race next weekend.