Busch Edges Keselowski for Glen Win
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 11, 2013 | 4:27 P.M. EST
Kyle Busch drove to victory Sunday at Watkins Glen International, holding off Brad Keselowski's last-lap charge to win the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. (Photo: Getty Images)
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Kyle Busch didn’t yell, didn’t scream and didn’t even say anything on his radio immediately after winning Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.
He just sighed.
"I was just trying to take it all in," Busch said after two years of disappointment at this track.
Two years ago, he led on the final restart with two laps to go and finished third. A year ago, he led the final lap before he ran through oil in Turn 1 and slid off course. He got back on track but made contact with Brad Keselowski and spun. That left Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose to duel for the win. Busch finished seventh.
Sunday, Busch again led on the final lap and Keselowski shadowed him.
Would Keselowski race him clean? Would there be another incident? Would Busch lose again?
"All those thoughts ran through my head," Busch said after his 27th career Cup victory. "I really had no clue. It was just, 'Run as hard as you can, drive your car, try not to worry about what’s behind you, whatever happens, happens and we’ll deal with it.' I commend Brad for doing a better job this year at bringing home a cleaner race."
Keselowski, who is fighting for a spot in the Chase and remains winless this season, said last year’s finish didn’t impact how he raced Busch on Sunday.
"I don't think Kyle would agree with this, but ... I felt like last year was a racing deal," said Keselowski, who moved four spots to eighth in the points. "He went off the track, I filled the hole when he came down. If I would have wrecked him today, in my mind it wouldn't have been a racing deal, it would have been just wrecking and there's a huge difference.
"When somebody blocks you, that's different. When somebody runs off the track, pulls down in front of you, that's racing. When you just run into the back of someone and drive them head first into the wall, that's (bad) racing and I just don't like it."
It doesn’t mean Keselowski wasn’t thinking about getting to Busch’s car.
"There’s always temptation," he said. "There’s a level of respect and a code of honor you have to have as a man."
They didn’t make contact. That didn’t mean that last lap was easy for Busch.
"I couldn’t get away from him," he said. "My car wouldn’t turn through the corners as well as I needed it to. I just couldn’t get the front tires to bite. He could catch me through the corners. The braking zones and exiting the corners, I felt I was really strong on and could get away from him."
Busch said the key on that last lap was the "launch" he got off the "Carousel," and how that set him up for Turns 6 and 7. Busch said if Keselowski could have been closer going into Turn 6, he could’ve possibly passed Busch.
That they were in position to reprise their duel was because of a caution that altered the race.
Busch made his final pit stop on Lap 59. Crew chief Dave Rogers planned to have Busch pit on the next lap, but his engineers noticed cars sliding around the track and worried that there was fluid on the track and it might create a caution.
On a road course, teams want to pit under green because they won’t lose a lap. Rogers called Busch in a lap early.
The caution waved on Lap 61 when Aric Almirola crashed into the tire barriers in Turn 5. Marcos Ambrose, who had led 51 laps to that point, had not stopped. He made his pit stop under caution and restarted 12th, behind those who had pitted before the caution.
That was too much for Ambrose to overcome. He struggled in traffic and later had a mechanical issue with his car. His day ended when he wrecked in the esses. The two-time defending race winner finished 31st.
His misery had company.
Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon both fell out of the top 10 in points. Gordon wrecked early in the race and lost several laps for repairs. He finished 36th. Gordon dropped to 13th in the season standings and is 15 points out of 10th, the final automatic spot for the Chase.
Kahne finished 34th. He was hit from behind by Matt Kenseth late and wrecked.
"I just lost control of my car and I guess somebody was outside of me," Kenseth said. "I guess it was Kasey. That part is my fault."
The result dropped Kahne to 12th in the season standings, three points out of 10th.
Others had a better day.
Martin Truex Jr., who won at Sonoma in June, placed third. Carl Edwards finished fourth and Juan Pablo Montoya placed fifth. Jimmie Johnson placed eighth but clinched at least a Wild Card in the Chase. He’s now made the Chase all 10 years it has existed.
Max Papis, driving in place of the injured Tony Stewart, overcame a spin after being hit by Greg Biffle to finish 15th. The team is expected to announce its driver for next weekend’s race at Michigan on Monday. Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, also said that Stewart should be released from the hospital by Monday, if not Sunday night.