THE STARTING GRID:
#18-Kyle Busch became the first Sprint Cup driver to win three NASCAR-sanctioned road races in the same season with a convincing victory at Watkins Glen. Starting on the pole after qualifying was rained out for the fifth time in 2008 and the second year in a row at the track, Busch momentarily lost the lead to #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr., his only real competition, on lap 2 and clipped the grass as his car started off loose. Despite his crew’s concerns about his engine and a hastily-chosen experimental carburetor designed to aid his fuel mileage, Busch had better pit strategy than #88-Earnhardt, Jr., retook the lead during pit stops, and hardly looked back, leading a race-high 52 laps. Even teammate #20-Tony Stewart did not have anything for Busch, and Busch actually let Stewart lead a lap with 37 to go before promptly reclaiming it. With the win, his eighth of the season, Busch also secured the top berth in the standings when the Chase kicks off in September.
1) #18-Kyle Busch THE WINNER!
2) #20-Tony Stewart Running defensively despite his year-long winless skid, he only made one daring move to the front when he cut to the inside on the frontstretch and gained five spots on the opening lap from his 9th place starting spot. He faked coming onto pit road under the first caution on lap 47, but stayed out along with the rest of the top 14 as the Hendrick cars of #88-Earnhardt, Jr., #24-J. Gordon, and #48-Johnson pitted with the others. Teammate #18-Ky. Busch let him lead a lap with 37 to go, after which he let him by coming into turn one on the following lap. Led 1 lap.
3) #21-Marcos Ambrose (R) A career weekend for the driver who ran so strong in his Cup debut at Infineon, he and the Wood Brothers team exceeded even the highest of expectations. He claimed his first career Nationwide race with a Watkins Glen victory on Saturday and, despite starting last in the Cup race due to the owners points rankings, was the fastest car in the day’s first practice session and in Sunday’s race itself. His car rocketed up through the field, climbing up to 31st by lap 10, and was running 0.4 mph faster than leader #18-Ky. Busch on lap 34. He had a scare with 35 to go when he reported a he might have a loose wheel, but fortunately pitting to get his lugs tightened with 33 to go put him on sequence with #18-Ky. Busch and the rest of the leaders. In the final run to the checkers, he was unable to get a good enough restart to challenge #20-Stewart for 2nd and, not wanting to take out a Chase driver, did not force the issue and picked up his best career Cup finish. The race also marked the best finish for the Wood Brothers since Ricky Rudd's runner-up effort at Infineon in 2005.
4) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Narrowly avoided disaster on lap 12 when he locked his brakes racing #9-Kahne for 15th coming into turn one, his car swinging wide but still remaining under his control before he got back onto the track. He led momentarily with 33 to go and remained on-sequence with the leaders for the remainder of the race. In that final run, he found himself running behind Infineon rival #21-Ambrose, but did not lay the bumper to #21-Ambrose and followed the #21 to the finish line, picking up his best finish since Infineon. Led 2 laps.
5) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Fresh from re-signing with Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated and Bass Pro Shops for 2009, he had an outstanding and steady run that was his best since Loudon. What began as about an eighth-place run became a top five in the closing laps.
6) #29-Kevin Harvick NO NOTES
7) #48-Jimmie Johnson The fastest car in Happy Hour over #7-R. Gordon and #21-Ambrose and the driver who nearly won Saturday’s Nationwide race, he ran second to first #88-Earnhardt, Jr., then #18-Ky. Busch before, on lap 42, he slowed coming off turn nine at the back of the course with a cut left-rear tire that may have gone down when he clipped the grass off that corner a few laps earlier. He pitted that lap, then pitted again with the leaders with about 32 to go, and rallied back into the top 10. Led 2 laps.
8) #11-Denny Hamlin Despite struggling with some brake problems, he had a solid top 10 day as he pitted with teammates #18-Ky. Busch and #20-Stewart throughout the day.
9) #99-Carl Edwards Climbed up to the top 5 by the first round of pit stops around lap 19, pitted with Roush-Fenway teammates #16-Biffle and #17-Kenseth in the early going, and was 3rd with 38 to go when he pitted so he could make it the rest of the way, but was hampered by a slow pit stop. His was the only car to make a move to the left through the turn one runoff area to avoid hitting the stalled #12-Nemwan with 13 to go.
10) #2-Kurt Busch NO NOTES
11) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Almost went a lap down to leader #88-Earnhardt, Jr. with an early pit stop on lap 17, but the gamble paid off when no cautions fell in the race’s first half. He raced up to 12th with 24 to go, then up to 9th in the final 10 laps.
12) #17-Matt Kenseth Ran a conservative, but effective race by pitting with Roush-Fenway teammates #16-Biffle and #99-Edwards, a run which got him back into the top 12 in points after #07-Bowyer struggled.
13) #01-Ron Fellows After scoring an emotional victory in the Nationwide race in Montreal, he had a solid run which, though not a top 5 run like he had going at Infineon, was nevertheless very respectable. He was one of several cars who nearly made contact with the stalled #12-Newman in turn one with 13 to go before the third caution was thrown for it.
14) #9-Kasey Kahne Ran as high as 2nd during the final round of stops before pitting with 30 to go.
15) #19-Elliott Sadler NO NOTES
16) #26-Jamie McMurray NO NOTES
17) #31-Jeff Burton NO NOTES
18) #83-Brian Vickers Came perhaps the closest to colliding with the stalled #12-Newman with 13 to go when he swerved very hard to the right to avoid contact.
19) #5-Casey Mears NO NOTES
20) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) The highest-finishing rookie for the fifth time this season (as #21-Ambrose is not attempting the full season), he started the race off roughly when he spun on lap 16 while racing under #96-Jones in turn one, but didn’t hit anything. He was also very loose in the Inner Loop with 22 to go, but managed to save it.
21) #16-Greg Biffle NO NOTES
22) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Determined to pick up his first road course victory, he was very strong in the early going, passing #18-Ky. Busch for the lead as the two entered the Inner Loop on lap 2. Running a strategy along with his Hendrick teammates that opposed #18-Ky. Busch and the other Gibbs cars, he led the race whenever the Gibbs cars pitted. Unfortunately, he stayed out far too long during the last of these runs and, when he failed to come onto pit road when #28-Kvapil ran off course with 27 to go, was trapped by the caution and was forced to give up more than 30 spots on pit road. Led 33 laps.
23) #07-Clint Bowyer Fell back in the early going and was unable to get those spots back, ultimately dropping him from the top 12 as #17-Kenseth took his spot.
24) #45-Boris Said For the second year in a row, his No Fear Racing team was washed out of the field by the rain and again found a ride in the field by taking over for Kyle Petty in the #45 machine. He was forced to start in the back as a result and, despite gaining a handful of spots in the early going, was unfortunately never a factor in the race itself as he was mired in traffic.
25) #00-Michael McDowell (R) After running up as high as 13th with 40 laps to go, his race was marred by his involvement in the tremendous wreck that took place with 8 to go that brought out the race’s fourth caution and only red flag. After he and #38-Gilliland made contact racing for position the backstretch with 8 to go, he slipped up into #38-Gilliland again coming off turn 11, sending #38-Gilliland nearly head-on into the outside wall’s tire barrier. The right-rear of his own car slammed the same tire barrier as he came off the corner, crumpling his quarter-panel. He and #38-Gilliland were called to the NASCAR hauler after the race to discuss the incident, which was reportedly just a product of hard racing.
26) #12-Ryan Newman Found himself in third in the late going after being mired in traffic for much of the day and was still running in that spot when he suddenly spun off turn one with 13 to go, then stalled with the back of his car hanging out in front of traffic. Several cars, including #11-Hamlin, #99-Edwards, #48-Johnson, #01-Fellows, and #83-Vickers came extremely close to hitting him in the driver’s door at that time, but fortunately none of them did before the third caution of the day was thrown seconds later for him. He was pushed back to pit road by teammate #77-Hornish, Jr., who had stopped for him at the entrance of the corner. He returned to the track during the caution period, but prolonged the yellow when he stalled yet again on the backstretch heading into the Inner Loop. Though he avoided damage in the fourth caution and only red flag of the race, his car was unable to re-fire yet again after he stopped to avoid contact.
27) #7-Robby Gordon On the opening lap, he immediately cut to the inside going into turn one and looked like he was going to pass four cars when he was forced to jam on the brakes, causing a minor bottleneck when #84-Allmendinger and #66-Riggs were forced to slow behind him. Fortunately, no one made contact, but he was strangely unable to contend for even a top 20 finish. On lap 36, he ran off the course in turn one for a moment and, at one point, he lost a lap, but fortunately received the Lucky Dog under the third caution with 13 laps to go.
28) #15-Paul Menard NO NOTES
29) #24-Jeff Gordon Despite being aided by excellent track position offered by his points ranking, he only ran as high as 3rd in the early going behind teammates #88-Earnhardt, Jr. and #48-Johnson before his car became very loose. Unfortunately, his radio was also unplugged, preventing him from communicating this to his crew. When the first cycle of pit stops began around lap 19, his crew actually had to have NASCAR black flag him on lap 29 just to get him onto pit road on lap 30. There, they attempted to bring in a backup radio, but the effort also failed. The crew wound up giving him an extended stop under the first caution on lap 47 as they worked under the back of his car adjusting the track bar. His car still handled poorly after that and he bounced off #96-Jones in the Inner Loop with 21 to go. To add insult to injury, his car spun coming into turn one on the final lap, dropping him from 23rd to 29th as he got going again.
30) #6-David Ragan Was forced to start in the back after having to roll out a backup car after an undisclosed incident.
31) #41-Reed Sorenson Spun by himself in turn one on lap 19 but, like #10-Carpentier and #96-Jones before him, did not hit anything nor bring out a caution. Received the Lucky Dog under the second caution. Sustained comparatively-minor damage in the fourth caution and only red flag of the race when he could not slow down fast enough and hit the stopped #78-Nemechek, crumpling the right-front of his car.
32) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Brought out the first caution of the day on lap 47 when, on the previous lap, his car slid off course from turn 10 and drove through the gravel trap, spilling plenty of gravel in turn 11 as he returned to the track. He had perhaps the most spectacular role in the fourth caution and only red flag of the day when, just after #43-B. Labonte, #22-Blaney, and #55-Waltrip drilled #38-Gilliland, he locked his brakes and spun hard to the right before slamming driver’s side-first into the sand-filled plastic garbage cans at the end of pit road, unleashing a huge cloud of sand which ultimately brought out the 40-minute red flag. Fortunately, he, like the others in the incident, was uninjured and even continued onto pit road and into the race with largely cosmetic damage, determined to hold off #00-McDowell for the final spot in the top 35.
33) #44-David Reutimann Spun out of 35th by himself coming into turn one on lap 4 when he wheel-hopped racing behind #84-Allmendinger and #28-Kvapil. He got back onto the track without bringing out a caution.
34) #66-Scott Riggs NO NOTES
35) #8-Aric Almirola Tumbled back through the field from the 15th starting spot to 33rd by lap 10.
36) #28-Travis Kvapil Struggled around last place for most of the day, then brought out the second caution of the race with 27 to go when he ran off course coming out of the Inner Loop, popping a wheelie in the bumpy gravel before leaving a long trail of gravel through turn nine.
37) #96-P.J. Jones Took over driving duties for the #96 team in a one-race deal after J.J. Yeley left the team with Nationwide regular Brad Coleman taking over the ride for the rest of the season. His day turned out to be quite challenging as he first spun with #10-Carpentier in turn one on lap 16. Though he avoided damage in that incident, he later banged doors with #24-J. Gordon with 21 to go and was spun into the outside wall in turn 11 by #77-Hornish, Jr. on the next lap. Though the rear of his car was crumpled badly, he did not bring out a caution.
38) #78-Joe Nemechek Received the Lucky Dog under the first caution after losing a lap during the first string of 46 green-flag laps, but was unlucky in being involved in the fourth caution and only red flag of the race when, while racing #70-Papis through the smoke after #43-B. Labonte collided with #38-Gilliland, #70-Papis slammed #38-Gilliland into a spin that put the rear of #38-Gilliland into his path. He then collided with #38-Gilliland and slid sideways just before a slowing #41-Sorenson bumped into him, damaging the right-front of #41-Sorenson. One of his crewmen jumped on the hood of his car when the caution finally came back out, slugging the sheetmetal down with a large mallet.
39) #55-Michael Waltrip Was forced to start at the back of the pack due to an engine change, where he had a quiet run until 8 to go during the fourth caution and only red flag when he rear-ended the trapped #22-Blaney into #43-B. Labonte the second #43-B. Labonte collided with the stopped #38-Gilliland off turn 11. His car continued down the frontstretch and after a small fire ignited beneath his engine, he spun and stopped in the runoff area off turn one.
40) #38-David Gilliland Sustained the worst damage in the fourth caution and only red flag of the race when, after making contact with #00-McDowell as they raced down the backstretch with 8 to go, he was knocked by #00-McDowell into the outside tire barrier off turn 11. His car spun 90 degrees clockwise just in time to be hit hard in the right-front by #43-B. Labonte, launching his car off all four wheels and scooting it down the track just before #70-Papis slammed his right-front and #78-Nemechek hit him in the rear in rapid succession, sliding his car even further down the track. Fortunately, despite all this, he was unhurt and got out of the car very quickly.
41) #22-Dave Blaney Was taken out in the fourth caution and only red flag of the day with 8 to go when he squeezed between #43-B. Labonte when #43-B. Labonte collided with the stopped #38-Gilliland and #55-Waltrip, who spun his wrecked machine into the outer pit wall.
42) #43-Bobby Labonte Sustained serious damage in the fourth caution and only red flag of the day with 8 to go when he was unable to avoid the disabled car of #38-Gilliland and slammed #38-Gilliland hard with the left-front of his car just as he was rear-ended by #22-Blaney and #55-Waltrip who were right behind him. His car was instantly knocked into a spin by #22-Blaney and he hit the outside barrier just outside pit road, where he came to a stop. He climbed from his car soon after the wreck, gingerly holding his ribs, but was reportedly not seriously injured in the crash.
43) #70-Max Papis (R) Yet another car involved in the fourth caution and only red flag of the day, he could not find his way through the smoke of #43-B. Labonte’s first collision with #38-Gilliland and wound up himself slamming into the right-front of #38-Gilliland, his crippled car turning hard left and slamming into the outside wall a few feet down the track. Though uninjured, he did take a while getting out of the car and said that he was “broken in my heart” after being unable to finish the race.
DID NOT QUALIFY: