Road course racing is a thrill ride. The NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen International lived up to the hype.
Brad Keselowski won the race one year ago, and he sat on the pole for the Zippo 200. He led multiple times throughout the race, but greed got the best of him. During a heated battle with Kyle Busch, the No. 22 slid through the grass. He didn’t lose much physical ground, but a mental setback was now in play. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion finished fourth.
Though Keselowski’s car was exceptionally good, everyone recognized Marcos Ambrose as the frontrunner. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver entered the event with two things on his mind: gaining momentum for the Cup event and winning. The extra track time would aid his quest for a spot in The Chase for the Sprint Cup. Oh, and a win is a good cherry on top.
After various scuffles with both Busch and Joey Logano, Ambrose led the field to the checkered flag. The win is his fifth NNS road course victory, making him the new record holder. It’s also his fourth-straight NNS win. As the celebration went on, the question rose: can he win on Sunday? It’s obvious he has the skills to get it done, but the competition level in the top tier is vastly greater. He’ll have to pull off a flawless run to claim a coveted spot.
On the top of Nationwide regulars, Trevor Bayne definitely tops the headlines, and not for a good reason. The No. 6 was involved in many incidents today, conjuring negative responses from fellow drivers and fans. He didn’t understand what he was going wrong. Although it was hard to watch, his road course tactics earned him a thirteenth-place finish.
It was a gorgeous day for a race at Watkins Glen, and the road course format is even more glorious. Will we see more thrills and spills Sunday afternoon?
Point Standings after the Zippo 200
1. Chase Elliott (–)
2. Regan Smith (-12)
3. Elliott Sadler (-13)
3. Ty Dillon (-13)
5. Brian Scott (-45)
6. Trevor Bayne (-48)
7. Brendan Gaughan (-151)
7. Chris Buescher (-151)
9. Ryan Reed (-182)
10. James Buescher (-185)