As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves towards the second-to-last race prior to the Chase for the Sprint Cup cutoff at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the AdvoCare 500, the series saw one of the wildest finishes of 2012. The Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen produced another new winner on the year and jumbled the battle for the Chase for the Sprint Cup wild-card as the series visited Watkins Glen on Sunday.
Australian-born Marcos Ambrose, a noted road racing expert, maneuvered his No. 9 machine around Brad Keselowski on the last lap of Sunday’s event to claim his second-career Sprint Cup win, defending his victory in the same race a year ago. The event was filled with drama as Kyle Busch, seeking his second victory of the year and the chance to lock in a wild-card position, was spun on the final lap by Keselowski after Busch hit oil on the track and slowed dramatically.
The oil on the racing surface caused Keselowski and Ambrose to slide around the track as they raced back to the checkered flag. Ambrose gave Keselowski a slight tap as the two raced toward turn 10, allowing the No. 9 to move past and hang on for the win. Ambrose’s win now makes him wild-card eligible and continued solid runs, could become a serious factor in the battle for the playoffs.
The ending of the race was not the only dramatic racing of the day, as several contenders for the wild-card experienced up-and-down days. Kasey Kahne, who leads the wild-card chase with his two wins, spun earlier in the event but managed to rebound for a 13th-place finish. Ryan Newman was able to bring home an 11th-place finish, which moved him into the second wild-card spot. Jeff Gordon, who entered the day holding onto the second wild-card courtesy of his win last week at Pocono, spun from the oil on the final lap, relegating him to a disappointing 21st-place finish. This caused him to fall two spots in the standings, behind both Newman and Busch, all three with one win.
Carl Edwards currently sits 12th in points, behind Kahne but ahead of Newman. This is important as the series moves to Michigan for the next race. Michigan is the home track for Roush-Fenway Racing, and all RFR teams historically run well at the 2.5-mile speedway in the Irish Hills. An Edwards win could move the Missouri-native into one of the coveted wild-card spots as the series moves towards Atlanta’s AdvoCare 500, the second-to-last event prior to the Chase cutoff. AMS will play a crucial role in determining the Chase lineup, being a track where all wild-card contenders have had various levels of success.
The current wild-card standings following Watkins Glen are below:
Position Driver Points Points Back Wins
11. Kasey Kahne * 653 --- 2
12. Carl Edwards 650 -3 0
13. Ryan Newman** 644 -9 1
14. Kyle Busch 638 -15 1
15. Jeff Gordon 634 -19 1
16. Paul Menard 629 -24 0
17. Marcos Ambrose 600 -53 1
18. Joey Logano 587 -66 1
*currently holds the first wild-card position
**currently holds the second wild-card position
NASCAR night racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2012. Reserve your AdvoCare 500 tickets now. For more information, call the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (877) 9-AMS-TIX, (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.