Nearly flawless Ambrose wins Nationwide race at Watkins Glen

JOHN KEKIS AP Sports Writer Published:

Associated Press

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- With The King atop the pit box at Watkins Glen International, Marcos Ambrose wasn't about to disappoint.

The aggressive Australian dueled early with Kyle Busch to fall off the pace in the NASCAR Nationwide race, then was flawless the rest of the way Saturday, holding off a hard-charging Busch at the end to win the race for the fourth time in his last four starts.

"It's just something special. I'm just so thrilled for the guys," Ambrose said. "I had my tongue hanging out the whole day. There was nothing left. I tried to hold him back. Another lap and I would have been in trouble."

Ambrose raced to three straight victories at the track from 2008-2010, then missed the 2011-2013 events after failing to find a sponsor.

Ambrose's future in NASCAR with Richard Petty Motorsports remains in doubt, and he desperately needs a victory in Sunday's Sprint Cup race to have any chance of making the Chase for the championship.

"There's a lot at stake, a lot of stuff going on in my mind," Ambrose said. "If I can repeat my performance today, I'll be happy."

At least Ambrose will start from the front row alongside Jeff Gordon, so the catbird seat will be up for grabs as soon as the green flag waves.

"Maybe this will give him a little more incentive," Petty said. "He's just unreal. He's doing his job, for dang sure."

Joey Logano finished third, followed by Penske teammate and polesitter Brad Keselowski. Matt Kenseth was fifth as Sprint Cup drivers dominated on the speedy 2.45-mile road course.

Points leader Chase Elliott finished sixth, Ty Dillon was eighth, and Regan Smith had a difficult race and came home 17th. That boosted Elliott's lead in the standings to 12 points over Smith and 13 over Dillon and Elliott Sadler, who was seventh.

Ambrose led 48 laps of the 82-lap race for his fifth Nationwide victory, all on road courses and a series record.

Tony Stewart ready to heat THINGS UP IN SPRINT CUP SERIES RACE TODAY

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Tony Stewart didn't compete at Watkins Glen International last year, breaking his leg in a sprint car accident in Iowa just days before the Sprint Cup race at a track he'd dominated for a decade.

Stewart broke two bones in his right leg and was sidelined for the remainder of the season as his streak of consecutive starts in Cup ended at 521.

"I still deal with pain every day, but that's something that's not even going to probably go away by the end of the year," Stewart said this week trackside in Iowa at the Knoxville Nationals to mark the one-year anniversary of his crash. "The reality of it is there might be a point where it will never totally go away, but it doesn't keep me from doing what I love to do."

Smoke is back at Watkins Glen in need of a win, and the weatherman is cooperating. The forecast for Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at The Glen is sunny with temperatures in the mid-80s.

That means Stewart will be in his element.

"I like it when it gets hot and slick. It kind of plays into our hands," said Stewart, who qualified 13th. "This is the part of the year when the temperatures are at their highest, and we tend to pick up. I think we can handle the slicker conditions sometimes a little better than some of the guys around us.

"A lot of guys panic because they know it's going to get slick. I get excited when I know it's going to get slick."

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