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News

Marcos Ambrose Holds Off Kyle Busch for Fifth Nationwide Series Road Course Win

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.— Recovering from an early spin after contact with Kyle Busch’s Toyota, Marcos Ambrose held off Busch in the closing laps of Saturday’s Zippo 200 at the Glen to win the series-best fifth road course race of his Nationwide Series career.

The Australian driver has won four consecutive NNS starts at 2.45-mile Watkins Glen International, having triumphed in three straight from 2008 through 2010 and this year after a three-race hiatus from competition at the Glen.

Though Ambrose knows full well the big prizes—a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen (1 p.m. ET on ESPN) and a berth in the Chase—will be contested on Sunday, he was eager to savor the NNS win.

“I just want to enjoy today,” Ambrose said. “You get to victory lane, and it’s special. I would love to repeat, but it’s a lot of work tomorrow. I want to think about this and get a good night’s rest and come attack them tomorrow.”

During an exchange of pit stops with 32 of 82 laps left, Ambrose surged past Joey Logano as the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford exited pit road. When the sequence of stops cycled through, Ambrose, who had pitted one lap earlier than Logano, held the lead, with Logano running second.

Ambrose kept the top spot after a restart on Lap 63 that followed the fifth and final caution of the race. With five laps left, Busch roared past Logano but couldn’t get to the bumper of Ambrose’s No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in time to make a move for the win.

Logano came home third, followed by pole winner Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. Rookie Chase Elliott ran sixth and extended his series lead to 12 points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who finished 17th.

The way Logano saw it, losing the spot to Ambrose during the cycle of green-flag stops was crucial.

“That was definitely a key moment,” Logano said. “If I was able to get in front of him there… all I needed was three-tenths of a second probably, and that would have been enough position into that corner to beat him through the esses and get position. I felt like, if I got clean air and ran hard, that I could have gapped him.

“I think at the end of the race, he would have caught me and the 54 (Busch) also. It would have been close. I’m not going to say we would have won the race. It would have been close. Our car was good on the short run. Marcos was steady all the way through and the 54, late in the run, was really fast. If I didn’t run so hard and had clean air and didn’t burn the tires off, would I have lasted longer? Yeah.

“Would it have been enough to beat him? We’ll never know. But I feel it would have been closer for us, for sure.”

Ambrose agreed.

“I think if I hadn’t cleared him right there, he would have been gone,” Ambrose said. “Maybe I could have stalked him a little bit and got him in traffic, but we had a fast enough car to lead like that, but it would have been really tough to pass.”

Before the battle with Logano was even a consideration, Ambrose had to recover from a Lap 6 spin in the bus stop chicane after he and Busch collided near the entrance.

“He ducked out late, and then the spotter was late,” Ambrose said. “I was already committed to that line, and he thumped my left rear there. It wasn’t intentional. I’ve got no malice against him whatsoever—he spun out, too.”

Busch wasn’t quite as charitable in his assessment of the mishap.

“We didn’t qualify as well as we needed to and tried to make a move on somebody who didn’t give a crap, and then he just turned into me and spun us out, so that put us behind,” Busch said. “We came back and got second.”

In a quirky sort of way, the accident may have helped both drivers. Both Ambrose and Busch brought their cars to pit road for fuel and fresh tires under caution on Lap 13. Knifing his way through traffic, Ambrose worked his way back to fifth before pitting again under green on Lap 20, covering stops made by Keselowski (Lap 18) and Logano (Lap 19).

“If you’d told me that’s how we were going to do the race, I would have said that’s a bad strategy,” Ambrose quipped. “But it worked out for us—first and second. For two guys doing pirouettes in the bus stop, that’s pretty cool.

“And it just shows you how these races are never over. You can’t quit. Just because you’re in the grass backwards doesn’t mean your race is done.”

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News

Jeff Gordon Wins Record Fifth Brickyard 400

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service (INDIANAPOLIS) — As he crossed the yard of bricks, and the significance of his fifth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway hit him like a ton of bricks, Jeff Gordon reveled in the moment that propelled him to victory in the Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard.

“God! I finally had the restart of my life,” Gordon shouted into his radio mic, recalling the move just 15 minutes earlier that launched him past Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on Lap 144 of 160 in Sunday’s marquee NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Twenty years removed from his victory in the inaugural Brickyard 400, Gordon finished 2.325 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch who with teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished 2-3-4 in the 20th Sprint Cup race of the season.

The win was the 90th of Gordon’s career, third-most all-time, his second of the season and, of course, his record fifth at IMS, breaking a tie with teammate Jimmie Johnson for most Cup wins at the Brickyard. The win also clinched Gordon a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, assuming he attempts to qualify for the remaining six races of the regular season.

And though open-wheel purists may blanch at the notion, Gordon is the first driver in any series to win five races on the legendary 2.5-mile oval that has played such an integral role in the history of motorsports in the United States.

“I’m not very good on restarts and wasn’t very good today, but I finally got the restart of my life today when it counted most,” said Gordon, who gave Chevrolet its 12th straight Cup victory at Indy. “Once I got clear, I was thinking like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening now…’

“I was trying so hard with 10 (laps) to go not to focus on the crowd,” added Gordon, who increased his series lead over teammate and ninth-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. to 24 points. “Every once in a while, I’d glance up there and I could see the reaction. I was trying not to let it get to me and not think about it too much. And yet you can’t help it.

“It’s such a big place and such an important victory and a crucial moment in the season and the championship, and those emotions take over. I have my kids here. There’s nothing better, especially at one of the biggest races, to have your family here. … This one is for all those fans throughout the years and all weekend long. They’re saying ‘We believe you can get number 5.’ We got number 5—yes!”

If Gordon had trouble believing the outcome, team owner Rick Hendrick did not. In fact, Hendrick had a premonition about the race.

“I told (Gordon) this morning, ‘This is your day,’ Hendrick recalled. “For him to break that tie (with Johnson), it’s pretty special. I remember the first one (1994) and how good it felt.

“This one feels just as good.”

Joey Logano ran fifth, and Kahne slipped to sixth in the final 17-lap run after leading 70 laps and, for most of the afternoon, looking to be the likely winner.

Kahne grabbed the lead from Denny Hamlin after a restart on lap 73, bringing Kyle Busch with him. For the next 24 laps, Kahne maintained an advantage over Busch that fluctuated between one and two seconds until Trevor Bayne’s No. 21 Ford spun and smacked the inside guard rail in the short chute between Turns 3 and 4 to cause the third caution of the afternoon.

Clint Bowyer, who had come to pit road moments before Bayne’s spin, had the luxury of staying out while other lead-lap cars stopped under yellow and led the field to green on Lap 102. Seconds later, however, Kahne retook the lead, and Bowyer soon slipped back to fourth behind Kahne, Busch and Gordon.

Busch surrendered second place to Gordon on Lap 113 and used the opportunity to duck behind the No. 24 Chevrolet and free a piece of paper debris that had attached itself to the grille of the No. 18 Toyota. Gordon quickly pulled away and began to close on Kahne, knocking a 2.6-second deficit to two car-lengths by the time Ryan Truex’s Toyota stalled on the track.

“Use one of the freaking exits,” Gordon screamed rhetorically on his radio, but Truex’s car came to a stop, and NASCAR had no choice but to call the fourth caution.

Kahne and Gordon led a large contingent that opted to stay out on the track under the yellow, but Kahne faltered on the restart, opening the door for Gordon to pass on the outside through Turns 1 and 2 as Kahne slipped back to fifth.

And that restart, as No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson had predicted during a quick interview before the final green-flag run, decided the race.

2014 Brickyard 400 Results:

  1. Jeff Gordon
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Matt Kenseth
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Kasey Kahne
  7. Kyle Larson
  8. Kevin Harvick
  9. Dale Earnhardt Jr
  10. Austin Dillon
  11. Ryan Newman
  12. Brad Keselowski
  13. Greg Biffle
  14. Jimmie Johnson
  15. Carl Edwards
  16. Clint Bowyer
  17. Tony Stewart
  18. AJ Allmendinger
  19. Brian Vickers
  20. Jamie McMurray
  21. Aric Almirola
  22. Marcos Ambrose
  23. Juan Pablo Montoya
  24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr
  25. Martin Truex Jr
  26. Michael McDowell
  27. Justin Allgaier
  28. Kurt Busch
  29. Josh Wise
  30. Landon Cassill
  31. Michael Annett
  32. Cole Whitt
  33. Casey Mears
  34. Paul Menard
  35. David Ragan
  36. David Gilliland
  37. Bobby Labonte
  38. Reed Sorenson
  39. Travis Kvapil
  40. Alex Bowman
  41. Ryan Truex
  42. Danica Patrick
  43. Trevor Bayne
Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Johnson Dominates at Dover

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) DOVER, Del.—  Jimmie Johnson’s run toward a possible sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship shifted into high gear Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

On two fresh tires to polesitter Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s four, Johnson held off his Hendrick Motorsports teammate during a 26-lap green-flag run to the finish of the AAA 400 and made a significant dent in the series lead of Matt Kenseth, who finished seventh.

Johnson picked up his fifth victory of the season, his record eighth at the Monster Mile—breaking a tie with Richard Petty and Bobby Allison—and the 65th of his career. The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet vaulted over fifth-place finisher Kyle Busch into second in the Chase standings, eight points behind Kenseth.

Johnson, however, had plenty of cause for concern when he lined up for the final restart with Earnhardt right behind him—on four fresh tires.

“Two (tires) worked good for us in practice,” Johnson said. “And believe me, I wanted to see four tires line up in the fourth or fifth row. When they lined up right behind me, I thought I was going to have my hands full. And I really did. Junior drove a whale of a race, and track position really gave me the advantage I needed to hold him off.”

Johnson also took a moment to enjoy the magnitude of his record-breaking win.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “To do anything Bobby or Richard has done is quite an accomplishment. We’ve had a few sneak away from us here, too, over the years. I’m just happy to get that done and be the sole leader of race wins here. It’s a very special day.”

Johnson held a lead of nearly five seconds when NASCAR called the fourth caution of the race for debris in the form of a spring rubber that had dislodged from a car and landed on the concrete racing surface in Turn 3.

With every lead-lap car short on fuel—with the possible exception of Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota—the yellow presented a welcome opportunity to refuel. Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus, opted to change right-side tires only, while Earnhardt’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, called for a four-tire change.

Earnhardt restarted fourth on Lap 375 of 400 and quickly rocketed into second place, but couldn’t catch the five-time champion.

Joey Logano ran third, followed by Jeff Gordon and Busch, as Chase drivers claimed all top 10 finishing positions for the first time in Chase history.

Earnhardt, whose winless streak reached 48 races, relinquished the race lead during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 119 after missing the entrance to pit road on the previous lap. The snafu cost Earnhardt seven positions and 13 seconds on the track, and though a caution on Lap 164 bunched the field and enabled him to make up lost ground, Earnhardt couldn’t mount a challenge to Johnson’s dominance after that.

On a later stop, Earnhardt lost time getting to his pit stall when he had to slow behind Mark Martin’s Chevrolet. Earnhardt conceded that the issues on pit road, particularly the first one, may have changed the outcome of the race.

“Yeah, if you really look at the race as a whole, they did cost us a little bit, at least the mistake I made missing pit road completely. We had the lead, gave up the lead. Jimmie had the lead and was able to take advantage of that clean air when it counted.

“If I had not given up that track position, had a smart enough race to keep the lead when it counted right at the end, we might have won the race. It would have been hard to get by us, just like it was (hard) to get by Jimmie.

“I think missing the commitment cone was a big factor in us not finishing one spot ahead of where we are. But the other pit stop wasn’t that big a deal. I came on pit road about as hard as I could. The 14, Mark, was running maybe five, 10 miles an hour slow in the first couple of (pit road timing) segments. I don’t know that cost us a ton of time.”

Chase drivers Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards were casualties of bad luck and a broken part, respectively. Busch was caught two laps down after an early green-flag pit stop that preceded the second caution on Lap 164. He finished 21st and dropped to ninth in the standings, 55 points behind Kenseth.

Edwards, who entered the race fourth in points, took his car to the garage on Lap 377 with broken hub, finished 35th and plummeted seven spots to 11th in points, 65 out of the lead.