Busch nabs first Glen win to sweep road courses

Kevin Cole
Kyle Busch raises the Jim Riesbeck Cup over his head in Victory Circle at Watkins Glen International after his third road course win of the season.

Kyle Busch continued his amazing 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season on Aug. 10 as he led 52 laps of the 90-lap race en route to his eighth Sprint Cup victory of the season at Watkins Glen International. 

Busch held off former Glen winner Tony Stewart and Saturday’s Nationwide Series winner Marcos Ambrose over a final six-lap stint following a massive accident in turn 11, which halted the event for nearly an hour.

With the victory, Busch clinched the No. 1 spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup following the event at Richmond International Raceway, the 26th race of the season.

“To be able to come out here to Watkins Glen and start up front from the pole and just being able to have a good run here today makes it even that much more fun,” Busch said following the race.

Meanwhile, finishing a close second for the second consecutive week was fellow Joe Gibbs Racing driver Tony Stewart, who has won four of the last six races at The Glen. Since 2004, Stewart has finished no worse than second, and he knew it was going to take more than just a faster car to get by his teammate in the end.

“I’m not sure we were going to be fast enough to get by Kyle,” Stewart said, adding,  “He had a really, really good car today, and he was fast in all the right spots he needed to be fast in.”

Meanwhile, it was an all -around exhilarating weekend for Australian Marcos Ambrose.  Just a day after capturing his first career Nationwide Series victory (see page 17A story), Ambrose methodically used a combination of well-timed passes and pit strategy to work his way from 43rd on the grid into the final podium spot in third place.

“Just a great weekend all around,” Ambrose said at the end of the day.

“I thought yesterday was great, but when I’m lining up there on that red flag and I realized where I was, I was behind Tony and in front of all those other great drivers.  It was just a real thrill.”

The event began under partly cloudy skies with Busch leading the field to the green flag. The Las Vegas, Nev. native led the opening lap until outside polesitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. snatched the lead from Busch, to the cheers of the large crowd.

They raced 48 laps without a caution until debris left from Sam Hornish Jr’s skirmish in the turn 10 sand trap drew a caution flag. At that time, several of the front-runners, including Earnhardt, Ryan Newman and Ambrose relinquished track position to take four tires and fuel.

Following the restart, Busch and Stewart led the pack, and at one point, swapped the lead momentarily before making their final pit stops on lap 55.

Using pit strategy to regain some lost track position; Earnhardt, who led a total of 33 laps, regained the lead.  His strategy, however, took a huge blow when Newman spun his Kodak Dodge and stalled in turn one.

Earnhardt eventually lost several positions in the running order due to a third pit stop to ensure his car could make the distance on fuel.

Following the restart, Busch, followed by Stewart, easily pulled away from the competition.

A massive nine-car pile-up on the exit of turn 11 began when David Gilliland and Michael McDowell made contact on the exit of the turn. 

Gilliland’s car slammed into the conveyer style tire wall protecting the armco barrier.  The car snapped back into oncoming traffic and collected the cars of Bobby Labonte, Joe Nemechek, Max Papis, and Hornish, who spun and made heavy contact with the giant sand barrels at the end of the pit wall.

None of the drivers were seriously injured, but Labonte, who was taken to a local hospital for evaluation and then released said, “That was a superspeedway-type wreck. I’m sure I’ll be sore tomorrow.”

Following the 43-minute red flag period for the cleanup, Busch used a perfect restart to pull away from Stewart, while Ambrose pressured Stewart for the second position.

In the end, it was all Busch, as the Sprint Cup Series points leader extended his points lead over Carl Edwards, who now sits second in series points following a ninth place finish.

The win is the first for Toyota at The Glen and it clinches Busch’s spot in the season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Next up for the series will be the Michigan International Speedway where back in June, Dale Earnhardt Jr. picked up his first, and thus far, only victory in 2008.  

Kyle Busch leads the way toward turn 11 in the Aug. 10 Centurion Boats at The Glen.