Kyle Busch tagged his victory at Watkins Glen “Rowdy’s revenge.”
After Busch was punted last year by Brad Keselowski coming to the final lap after leading 43 circuits, the two drivers raced clean to a one-two finish on Sunday.
With two laps to decide the race and the drivers lined up side-by-side, Keselowski could have taken advantage of Busch again. The thought certainly crossed Busch’s mind.
“I really had no clue,” Busch said. “It was just run as hard as you can, drive your car, try not to worry about what’s behind you, whatever happens, happens and we’ll deal with it.
“You know, I commend Brad for doing a better job this year at bringing home a cleaner race.”
Busch acknowledged that Keselowski kept growing in his rearview mirror. Try as he might entering the corners, Busch’s “car wouldn’t turn” and he “just couldn’t get the front tires to bite.” That’s where Keselowski made up the most ground.
Where Busch had the advantage was in the braking zones and exiting the corners — particularly the carousel of Turn 5.
“What saved the race probably for us was just the launch I got out of the carousel,” Busch said. “I got about a two-length gap on him getting down into turn 6, kept it about a half-car gap through 6, and then on 7, he was on me.
“If he was any closer getting into 6, he probably could have out-broke me and probably doored me or whatever and been able to pass me. It was fun, and glad it worked out the way it did — for me, anyway.”
That wasn’t the case last year. Busch entered the race 15th in the points standings coming after a crash at Pocono and two engine failures. A victory at the Glen would have provided Busch with a wild card for the Chase. While Sunday’s win was “a relief,” Busch said, “nothing ever makes up for” losing.
“I’ll never get the trophies at my house,” Busch said. “I won’t have the win that it took to get into the Chase for last year. You know, nothing makes up for lost things or things taken from you.”
Although Keselowski didn’t get the win here last year, either — that went to Marcos Ambrose — he ended up winning the Sprint Cup championship while Busch wasn’t even a contender. On Sunday, Keselowski said the opportunity was there to wreck Busch, but he “had enough drama” for one day.
“I’ve had a career full of drama,” Keselowski said with a laugh.
“You cause it all,” replied Martin Truex Jr., who finished third.
“See, that’s what everybody says,” Keselowski said. “I feel like I’m innocent.”
“Some of the things you say and do . . .,” Truex said. “What do you expect?”
All joking aside, Keselowski said the "drama" on Sunday started when he spun out on Lap 13 while running seventh. He started from the back of the field and after two pit stops cycled out to the top 10, where he remained in contention the rest of the race.
As for the incident last year, Keselowski sloughed it off as “a racing deal.”
“If I would have wrecked him today, in my mind it wouldn’t have been a racing deal, it would have been just wrecking and there’s a huge difference,” Keselowski said. “When someone blocks you, that’s different. When somebody runs off the track, pulls down in front of you, that’s racing.
“Those are all just racing deals. When you just run into the back of someone and drive them headfirst into the wall, that’s (B.S.) racing, and I just don’t like it.”
While Keselowski and Busch agree on very little, that’s one opinion they share.
“You try to race as best you can, as clean as you can and get the win for yourself and not by moving people out of the way,” Busch said. “That’s where the real talent comes in. There’s not much talent in driving through somebody and then taking a checkered flag that way.”
On Sunday, Busch ran a clean race. He led the final 29 laps for his third win of the season and the 27th victory of his career. And unlike last year, Busch, who is now fifth in the points standings, doesn’t have to worry about missing the Chase.
“It was certainly beneficial to win a race here before the Chase starts to get some more bonus points,” Busch said. “I feel like we’re in a good position to make the Chase.”
One singular sensation
When Kurt Busch and AJ Allmendinger come to Watkins Glen, it’s with the understanding that given the right circumstance, either driver can win.
While both racers hail from single-car teams without teammates to rely on for additional data, each has enough road racing prowess to make up what they lack in depth.
That was clear Sunday. Busch started 13th and rose to fifth. He then maintained a presence among the top 10 through most of the day. After finishing ninth, Busch gained two positions in the point standings and is now 11th.
Allmendinger, who continues to audition for a full-time ride, put on a show Sunday. He started fourth and was running third when the No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Toyota ran out of gas on Lap 58.
“Out of fuel, man,” Dinger radioed the crew. “Damn it, we were that close.”
Fortunately, as Allmendinger coasted to the pits, the No. 43 wrecked to bring out the caution. Allmendinger restarted 32nd, avoided the wrecks and salvaged his first top-10 finish of the season — and the first for the No. 47 crew.
“I thought it was really good,” Allmendinger said after finishing 10th. “I thought our car was solid. We just ran out of fuel. I don’t know if we miscalculated the number or we just got a little short. The reading was a little bit shorter than we had the first run.
“It wasn’t quite as good as I hoped. I was fighting tight. But I thought for sure we had a top-four car. On the long run, the car was really good. It saved the rear tires. Don’t want to say we gave one away, but we gave a chance at one away.”
Kasey Kahne, last week’s winner at Pocono, wasn’t happy about his day ending in a wreck caused by Matt Kenseth:
Headed to Joe Gibbs racing to talk to whoever will come out front #that‘s4
3: Consecutive finishes of second by Keselowski at the Glen. He has finished every lap raced in his four career starts and improved his average finish to 6.5.
6: Positions that Tony Stewart dropped in the points standings after missing his first race in 521 starts.
31: Race finish for Ambrose, who led 51 laps but wrecked with six circuits remaining.
Max Papis spun early after contact with Greg Biffle, dropped to the rear of the field and fought back for a 15th-place finish subbing for the injured Stewart.
“I felt that we were definitely in bound to have a top-10 finish,” Papis said. “Really glad that Greg Biffle came over and apologized when he turned me around he said it was totally his mistake. I think that really cost us a solid top 10. Beside this I drove the wheels off the car every lap. Super proud of keeping the seat of Smoke as warm as I could. I felt I did a pretty good job and I’m proud of myself.”