WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Sure, Kurt Busch wouldn’t have minded too much if AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose had wrecked each other in the closing laps of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen.
If the two frontrunners had taken each other out, Busch’s third-place finish might well have turned into his second win of the season. But as hard as Allmendinger and Ambrose raced each other — with Allmendinger taking the checkered flag — they kept their cars on course, and Busch had to admire their skill from his front-row seat.
“I really thought they did a phenomenal job to beat the heck out of each other, maintain a pace that didn’t allow me to get close enough,” Busch said. “There was just one moment I had, I wanted to go low on the back straightaway. It would have been three-wide, and my right sides would have been in the grass, and I couldn’t quite make it getting into the bus stop (chicane) to clear those two.
“It was just a phenomenal show. Those two deserve a lot of credit. Allmendinger brought home the trophy, and he deserves it. Ambrose gave everything he could. I was just hoping that, yes, those two would get a bit overzealous, and I’d be able to squeak by them and pick up the win for our team.”
Power failure KOs Gordon
For the first half of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International, polesitter Jeff Gordon looked like a strong contender for the win.
The four-time champion led 29 laps, second only to race winner AJ Allmendinger’s 30, but on Lap 51, the No. 24 Chevrolet lost power and came to a stop on the track. By the time his crew had diagnosed the problem and restored power to the car, Gordon was four laps down and out of contention.
After the race, he still wasn’t sure exactly what had happened.
“I’ve got to get with the team and find out what caused it,” Gordon said. “It looks like we had a battery go dead—two batteries go dead. I didn’t see anything on the volts meter that stood out or anything really going on there that was alarming.
“Everything thing was going along really well. Our Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet was strong. I feel like we were in control there when we were out front. We got a little bit behind on the pit stop sequence, but we were coming back. I was just having a blast out there. It’s just great to be that competitive here at Watkins Glen again, and I would rather these things happen now so we can determine what caused it and make sure it doesn’t happen again, because you can’t have those kinds of things happen once this Chase starts.”
Wreck raises safety issues
During a stoppage after a spectacular wreck sent Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell into Armco barriers on either side of the short straight between Turns 5 and 6 at Watkins Glen, drivers expressed concern over the guard rails in common use at the Glen.
But drivers weren’t in agreement as to what sorts of barriers might be preferable. Watkins Glen has made a number of safety enhancements in recent years, and NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton indicated the process is under constant review.
“It’s a constant improvement process,” Pemberton said during a televised interview with ESPN during a red-flag period that lasted more than an hour while track workers repaired the Armco barriers. “And as you know, many of the places we go to, the facilities, are multi-purpose, and we’re only here one weekend a year—and it’s busy throughout the rest of the year.
“Watkins Glen has made great advancements. You remember Turn 1 and 2 and all that, moved grandstands and fencing and SAFER barriers, and that’s worked quite well for us. But not all places are places for SAFER barriers. There are different types of systems to help slow cars down.”
Typically, Pemberton said, the sanctioning body reviews possible safety enhancements with all venues that host NASCAR events.
“We do a lot of inspections, and we look at places that need improvement, Pemberton said. “And there’s a priority list as far as what turns and what straightaways and things line that that you need to work on. It’s an ongoing process.”