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NSCS: Throwback Thursday – 2012 Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen

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RIDGELAND, Miss. — As the Sprint Cup Series heads to New York to take on Watkins Glen International for this weekend’s running of the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, the time has come for another edition of “Throwback Thursday” and for this week’s edition we’ll take a look back at the 2012 Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen, one of the most exciting finishes in recent memory at Watkins Glen.

Juan Pablo Montoya led the field to the green, but it would be Kyle Busch that would take the early lead and lead the first 26 laps after starting on the outside of the front row. While Busch led, Marcos Ambrose and Jimmie Johnson battled for position within the top 10 and Jeff Gordon struggled with his No. 24 car early on.

The first caution of the day came out on lap 25 courtesy of Jamie McMurray cutting down and tire and getting into the wall in a single car accident, leaving McMurray to limp his No. 1 Chevrolet back around to the pits. Also under that caution period, Kurt Busch found trouble as the left rear wheel fell off of his machine and he spun off track between turns 10 and 11 and Busch also had to limp his tripod of a car back to the garage.

Brad Keselowski took over the lead on the ensuing restart and would lead the next 11 laps until Ambrose took his turn at the front of the field on lap 39. During Keselowski’s stint up front, the polesitter Montoya saw his day take a turn for the worst as he broke something in the front suspension and his chances of winning were gone.

Keselowski retook the lead just seven laps later, providing some foreshadowing on what was to transpire later in the race. Keselowski’s second stint up front lasted 11 laps before Busch and Carl Edwards took their turn up front during the second caution period of the day that started on lap 59 due to Denny Hamlin losing an engine in his No. 11 car and oiling down the track.

Of course on the restart, Keselowski was back to the front of the field, this time for 15 laps, which included another caution for oil, this time for the No. 49 car on lap 65.

With Keselowski out front, the rest of the field scrambled for position behind them and Ambrose made one of the more daring moves, taking the field three-wide into treacherous Turn 1 on the lap 69 restart.

The final caution flag of the day flew just three laps later and this time, it was Tony Stewart going for a spin off of the final turn. Stewart managed to miss getting hit by any other cars, but his No. 14 Chevrolet was not as lucky as he backed it into the guardrail at pit entry to cause some pretty significant damage to the car.

The final restart on lap 74 saw Keselowski lose the lead after getting split by Busch and Ambrose in Turn 1 as Busch took the lead and looked to be on his way to the win. However, the racing gods had something even more entertaining in mind as the field took the white flag.

Unbeknownst to the leaders, Bobby Labonte had laid oil down on the track ahead of the leaders and as Busch led Keselowski and Ambrose down through Turn 1, Busch slid in the oil, allowing Keselowski to close. From that point, Keselowski got into the rear of Busch, which sent Busch spinning into the guardrail, ending any chance he had at the win.

Keselowski assumed the lead through the esses thanks to Busch’s spin, but Ambrose was hot on his tail looking for his second straight Watkins Glen win. Keselowski was able to hold off Ambrose up the hill and through the Inner Loop, but as the two drivers came through the Outer Loop, Keselowski slowed due to the oil at the exit of the turn, causing Ambrose to get into the rear of his car. That allowed Ambrose to make the pass for the lead as they headed for the final two turns of the race.

As they came into the next to last turn, Keselowski put the bumper to Ambrose, sending him sliding off track, but the Aussie was able to save it and the two drivers headed into the final turn neck and neck. Keselowski ran through some more oil in that turn, which caused him to slip just a bit and that was the advantage that Ambrose needed as he took over the lead for good and streaked to the finish line for the win.

“I got in oil and slipped up and he’d get by me and then he’d get in oil and I’d get by him and just really good, hard racing. Beating and banging, I think that’s the way racing should be. It’s great to race against guys like Marcos that you can rub on and lean on and they don’t lose their cool and just intentionally wreck you. That’s what racing is supposed to be right there. A good driver with a little bumping and rubbing, but none of that intentional wrecking BS. Marcos is a class act, that’s the way racing should be,” said Keselowski after the race.

“Oh man, it just feels so good to be back in victory lane. Thanks to Sprint, Stanley, DeWalt, Mac Tools, Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports, and everybody that gets us here. Just feels so good. Last year was relief and this year is just pure joy,” said Ambrose. “Just pumped for my team, pumped for Todd Parrott, and it’s just a great day.”

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About David Morgan

David Morgan serves as the Associate Editor at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@damorgan86). A native of Raymond, Mississippi, Morgan has covered NASCAR events all over the United States.

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