In a rare NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance, Marcos Ambrose dominated the Zippo 200 at The Glen at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Saturday, leading 48 of the 82 laps that made up the race en route to his fourth-consecutive win out of the series events he’s entered at the track. Despite the dominating performance, Ambrose stressed in victory lane that the win didn’t come easily.
“I had my tongue hanging out all day,” he said.
Sprint Cup Series regulars dominated the race and took the entire top-five of the finishing order. Kyle Busch finished second, the Team Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski were third and fourth, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Those same five drivers made up the top-five of the running order most of the race.
Keselowski and Logano started on the front row and swapped the lead back and forth before Keselowski settled into the lead on lap 10. For the first few laps, Ambrose and Busch battled for the third spot. That battle got physical and both drivers spun on lap six, dropping outside the top-10.
Because of their loss of track position, Ambrose and Busch headed for pit road for fresh tires during the first caution of the race on lap 11, and then pitted for fuel only during the green-flag cycle of stops that got underway just before lap 20. As a result, Ambrose was cycled back to the lead and Busch in second and the two restarted up front after the next yellow flag on lap 26. Logano had gotten off pit road ahead of Keselowski during the green-flag stops to wind up third on the restart following the lap 26 caution. When the race returned to green, he took second from Busch and ran second to Ambrose for much of the remainder of the race.
“We were the car to beat,” Logano said. “We were good on the short run, better than Marcos.”
Ambrose led the remaining laps, with the exception of laps here and there when other drivers led before pitting during a cycle of green-flag stops. For much of the remaining distance, as Ambrose and Logano ran first and second, Keselowski and Busch battled for third and fourth.
Soon after a restart following a caution that came out with 24 laps remaining, Keselowski got off-course racing Busch for third and Busch was able to take sole possession of the spot. Keselowski lost a few spots but quickly got back up to the fourth position. Busch got by Logano to take second with six laps remaining.
“Monster Energy Camry was good, probably good enough (to win),” Busch said. “Just never had track position.”
Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott was the highest finisher among Nationwide Series championship-eligible drivers, finishing sixth. Elliott overcame a pit road penalty from early in the race when his pit crew went over the wall too early for the first pit stop. He was up to seventh for a restart following the second caution of the race on lap 26 and was the highest-running series regular for much of the remainder of the event.
With the top-10 finish, Elliott expanded his lead over second-place driver Regan Smith. Heading into the race, Elliott had a scant two-point lead over Smith, but Smith struggled on pit road throughout the race and then got caught up in a battle with Dylan Kwasniewski on the track. He wound up finishing 17th.
Elliott Sadler finished seventh, Ty Dillon was eighth, Paul Menard ninth, and Brian Scott finished 10th.