Two of the best in road course racing in the NASCAR ranks went bumper to bumper in closing laps of the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International Sunday afternoon.
After a race that had a little over an hour-and-a-half of red flagged minutes, AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose were set up side by side on the start of the race in a green-white-checkered conclusion. Allmendinger got a good restart, but Ambrose wasn’t going to back down. Ambrose got to the inside of Allmendinger and the pair were door to door for a few turns before the pair traded paint and Allmendinger powered to the lead. Kurt Busch attempted a run on Ambrose but didn’t have enough for the No. 9 who had shown power all day long.
JTG Daugherty Racing’s Allmendinger was able to hold on to the lead for the win – his first win in the Spint Cup Series and his first appearance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Allmendinger, Ambrose, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch were favorites going into the day’s competition. Kyle Busch would not be a factor in the race after having contact with Martin Truex, Jr. and would need to pull onto pit road for repairs. The gas can would not dislodge from the car and he would have to serve a pass through penalty for removing equipment from his pit box. He would experience more issues later in the race.
Jeff Gordon started on the pole and showed like he was the car to beat in the beginning of the race by leading the first 29 laps, but on lap 50 his car lacked power. He was slow on the track and couldn’t fire up his car. The caution flag flew and the team went to work on the No. 24. He would finish three laps down in the 34th position.
A red flag was thrown on lap 57 after an accident that took out the No. 31 of Ryan Newman and the No. 9 of Michael McDowell. It appeared that Ryan Newman got into the back of Greg Biffle and sent him head first into a guard rail and spinning back onto the track. Michael McDowell had nowhere to go and hit the rear of Newman’s car. McDowell’s car went airborne and hit a fence on the opposite side of the track. Both cars were destroyed, but both drivers walked away from the scene.
Jimmie Johnson’s troubles continued at Watkins Glen. He started third and was running well until lap 81 when Matt Kenseth tapped the No. 48 which sent him spinning. The accident caught Regan Smith who was subbing for Tony Stewart in the No. 14 for Stewart-Haas Racing. Johnson finished 28th while Smith finished 37th.
Another red flag was displayed on lap 88 when Denny Hamlin screeched sideways into barrels filled with dirt at the start of pit road. In a separate incident at the same time, Alex Kennedy went into a barrier and his car was done for the day. Crews repaired the damage and neither driver was injured.
The top ten: AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, and Brian Vickers.
The next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will be Sunday, Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.