If there were circles on the second Sunday of August within the past two years on Kyle Busch's calendar, one can't blame him for doing this. Having come close to capturing his second NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in 2011 with a third and a seventh in last year's heartbreaker for Rowdy and the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry team, when he assumed command of the lead on lap 62, it seemed a bit like deja vu.
As crew Dave Rodgers mentioned during the NASCAR in ESPN telecast on Sunday, it's easy to be human and wonder what'd happen and if the win was in the cards after their past two close encounters to Victory Lane. On each occasion, Busch would relinquish the lead to Marcos Ambrose, who'd speed away to the winner's circle on each occasion.
At last, that complete effort was there on Sunday, as he finally took the lead and stayed there for the rest of the race. Even when he had a restart that nearly saw Martin Truex Jr. steal race command in the late going, Busch wasn't going to be denied for his third win of the 2013 season. After clambering out of his winning machine prepared by Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch, always the candid driver, noted how it wasn't a "cake walk" to Victory Lane.
"Fun to drive. Not quite as good as it needed to be, I think we could have made it better, but you know, I'm always a perfectionist so I always want to be better," Busch said.
On this day, better was enough to hold off a good, hard charging Brad Keselowski, who overcame an early race spin to place second. The defending Cup champ felt he just simply ran out of laps to score his first win of the year.
"Kyle's car was really good after about five to 10 laps and my car was really good for five to 10 laps," Keselowski said. "If that last run would have been about five laps, I think I could have gotten him. But it was only two or three."
As it is, Keselowski's second straight top-10 effort propelled him back into the top-10 points standings. However, he sits only 25 markers from 13th position, the cusps of being in the playoffs or being "best in the rest of the class" by the checkered flag at Richmond in September. In a trying season, it's safe to say that the driver of the Blue Deuce is closing in on finally scoring that first trip to Victory Lane.
Wrapping up the top-10 running order were Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, and AJ Allmendinger.
While Busch enjoyed the celebration of his second win at The Glen, two-time defending race winner Marcos Ambrose, who led a race-high 51 laps, came up short on his three-peat efforts. A caution involving teammate Aric Almirola on lap 61 changed the entire complexion for the pride of Launceston, Australia, not pitting and winding up on pit road on a caution period that sent him out of the lead and in trouble's way.
Compounding and essentially derailing Ambrose's bid for the win was a car that just lost its handling and appeared to have a broken part on his car that would lead up to his big crash on lap 86, which involved Max Papis, substituting for an injured Tony Stewart, as well as Brian Vickers. Visibly upset, Ambrose flung his helmet at his car, hitting his battered machine before cooling off and composing himself prior to his trip to the infield care center.
"Something was wrong with the car there, I could feel it on the roll around lap, something had broken," Ambrose said. "I just feel sorry for all the guys that got caught up in that mess."
Also getting too much of the action at Watkins Glen included usual race contenders like Jeff Gordon, eliminated from contention in a lap 14 accident, as well as Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Dave Blaney, David Gilliland, Ron Fellows, Tommy Gonzales Jr., Tomy Drissi, and Travis Kvapil. Some of NASCAR's best wound up in crashes that looked more like superspeedway wrecks as opposed to road course incidents.
Kahne and Gordon suffered the most from Sunday's wrecks, as both top finishers at Pocono dropped them out of the top-10 in points. While Kahne has his two wins to make the Chase as a wild card seed, Gordon sits 13th and would be out of the "playoffs" without a win to back him into the battle for the Sprint Cup title. Both drivers were upset with their crashes, with Gordon noting that he had lost the balance of his car's aerodynamics and wound up smacking the wall before spinning head on to the barrier. Gordon would then drive a modified-looking No. 24 Chevy to a 36th place effort.
Meanwhile, Kahne was wiped out in a late race accident and felt that it was "four times too many" to be wrecked by a driver from the Joe Gibbs Racing camp. On Twitter, he expressed his frustration, tweeting "Headed to Joe Gibbs racing to talk to whoever will come out front #that's4," indicating it's the fourth time that he was wrecked by a driver from JGR. It's safe to say that the driver of the No. 5 car was tired of being swept up in a crash once more.
Overall, the race, while competitive in spurts, lacked some quality green flag lead changes. It appeared that NASCAR, which tried to improve on the Gen-6's handling on the road courses, still has some work to do to make its product a lot more conducive to passing opportunities throughout the field during green flag runs. As evident with the progress of this machine in 2013, it's without a doubt that the road course package will soon be perfected with this car.
Michigan International Speedway plays host to the Pure Michigan 400, which will be round 23 of the Sprint Cup season. Defending race winner Greg Biffle looks to three-peat his way into Victory Lane while the Hendrick quartet of Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. look to avoid a repeat of their disastrous June performances with robust August finishes. ESPN carries the coverage live on Sunday, starting with NASCAR Countdown at noon ET/9 AM PT followed by race coverage at 1 PM with the green flag scheduled to wave around 1:17 PM ET.