Australian Marcos Ambrose has claimed his second NASCAR win with a repeat victory in his first Nationwide Series start of the year, on the road course at Watkins Glen International in New York state.
Ambrose, who claimed his first NASCAR victory in the same race last season, was the class of the field but had to get tough to overtake the series' dominant driver of the past two seasons, fellow Toyota racer Kyle Busch.
Ambrose started from the outside of the front row alongside polesitter Kevin Harvick who led early.
On lap 13 Ambrose made his move to take first place from Harvick, holding the lead until making his first pit stop for fuel and tyres on lap 19.
Ambrose was clearly the pacesetter throughout today's 82-lap race aboard the #47 STP-backed entry of JTG Daugherty Racing, moving up the order and making his final pit stop just past half-race distance on lap 45.
At the restart after that final visit to pit lane Ambrose was in fifth place, but quickly moved forward and in only a handful of laps was on the back on race leader, and current Nationwide Series points leader Kyle Busch.
The Tasmanian probed for a weakness but the versatile Busch resisted everything Ambrose had to offer until lap 64 when he, by his own admission, 'dive bombed' the American entering the 'Bus Stop' section of the Watkins Glen circuit.
The two didn't touch, but Busch avoided contact and ran through the chicane, coming to a complete halt to avoid a penalty.
Unimpressed by the move, Busch got back to second and was well placed to pounce in two subsequent restarts.
But Ambrose jumped away each time to notch his second NASCAR career win since leaving V8 Supercar racing in Australia to chase a career in NASCAR in 2006.
On the slow-down lap, Busch let Ambrose know he wasn't thrilled by the passing manoeuvre by giving the STP car a whack on the way past.
Ambrose owned up to a bit of risk taking. "Yeah, I just didn't have to top end speed to make a classic pass on him," the Aussie explained afterwards. "I knew I was going to have to bomb him somewhere to try and get the win. He wasn't going to make a mistake on his own, I was going to have to force one on him.
"It's Kyle Busch we're talking about and he's going to race you hard, so I just tried to throw the element of surprise in. I came from a fair way back on him, maybe a car length and a half on him, and just bombed it in there and I knew that it was a high-risk move, but it was one that was needed to try and win the race.
"It's just an awesome day for us. We're all really proud. STP - two wins in two years. It's just awesome.
"I was worried [at the restarts]. You know, it's Kyle Busch, and he doesn't give you an inch and I had Carl (Edwards) behind me too and I bumped into him earlier at Turn One, so I had my hands full.
"But those guys are fair. They race really hard but it's just awesome.
"Awesome to be alongside them, awesome to compete against them and awesome to beat them."
We get it, Marcos... it was an awesome day.
The only downer came when Ambrose was doing his victory doughnuts on the narrow front stretch and thumped the rear quarter into the wall!
This season Ambrose is focussing on cutting it in the top level of NASCAR, racing full-time in the Sprint Cup Series for the first time this season.
Tomorrow morning Australian time (TUES), he'll will start from fourth grid spot in the Sprint Cup race postponed from Sunday due to rain.
Ambrose set the fastest time in both the Sprint Cup practice sessions held at Watkins Glen at the weekend aboard his regular #47 JTG Daugherty Racing entry.
Ambrose currently sits 18th in the Sprint Cup Series standings and is the highest ranked first year driver in the championship. He has five top 10 finishes so far this season.
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