Big winner: Marcos Ambrose, who went from third to first on one lap to become the fourth driver to win back-to-back Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen International and put his No. 9 Ford team back in contention for a wild-card postseason spot.
Record book: Ambrose becomes just the fifth driver to win more than one Cup race here, joining quite a nice club that includes Tony Stewart (five), Jeff Gordon (four), Mark Martin (three), Ricky Rudd (two) and Rusty Wallace (two). Martin, Gordon and Stewart have also gone back-to-back.
Sponsor bait: The race might have been without a sponsor, but attendance appeared up from recent years, and the announced attendance (90,000) backed it up.
Deja vu all over again: In last year’s race, Ambrose was first, Keselowski was second and Kyle Busch (who this time went from first to seventh on the last lap) was third.
Most stupefying deja vu: Tony Stewart (who finished 19th) spun out in Turn 11 all by himself. It was perhaps the most surprising unforced error at the Glen since Gordon spun out while leading late in the 2007 race.
The King hath spoken: Richard Petty, car owner for Ambrose, on his driver’s last-lap moves: “You do the best you can, then you try to take advantage of the circumstances. That’s what Marcos did today. He didn’t create none of those circumstances; he took advantage of those circumstances.”
Distracted driver: Last year, Keselowski stopped mid-sentence during his media center news conference because he was watching video of a skirmish between Boris Said and Greg Biffle. This year he paused again because he was watching replays of the final lap (no one could blame him).
Scariest crash: For the first time in recent memory, there was no qualifier for this category. There were just four cautions for 13 laps, two for single-car accidents and two for oil on the track.
Safety schooled: After two hard, multi-car crashes in last year’s race, there was quite a bit of discussion that the Glen needed to do more for safety around the track. The track did, including different fencing and runoff setups.
“They did a great job correcting the issues they found,” said Ambrose. “They actually made the track faster. A lot of the curbs on the inside, they’ve added some concrete in there, so it allows us to run through the Inner Loop a lot faster.”
Points leader update: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was said to be back after two weeks atop the points, but he finished 28th to drop to fourth. Jimmie Johnson finished third to put him in a familiar position: First (up from fourth).
“Whoever the team is, I think they get some much-needed experience with the pressure of the points lead late in the season. It’s just different than leading at any other point in time. I look forward to the pressure on my team and myself,” said Johnson.
Chase update: The top 10 remained the same but were shuffled around. Greg Biffle (now second) and Matt Kenseth (third) switched spots; Keselowski moved up two spots to fifth; Martin Truex Jr. dropped one spot to sixth; Clint Bowyer continued his road-race acing this season (he won at Sonoma) with a fourth-place finish that moved him to seventh; Stewart dropped two spots to eighth; Kevin Harvick stayed in ninth and Hamlin dropped two spots to 10th.
Wild-card update: There are four races to go before the field for the 10-race postseason is set, and the 11th and 12th spots (which go to the drivers with the most wins) had a shake-up. Kasey Kahne is still 11th with his two wins, but the 12th spot is now owned by the one-win driver with the most points, which is now Ryan Newman (he finished 11th and is now 13th in points). Jeff Gordon had held the 12th spot.
Toughest talk/emptiest threat: During the Nationwide race on Saturday, Joey Logano was spun out by Carl Edwards, leading him to pledge over his radio: “If I can get to Carl Edwards, I’m going to wreck him.” Edwards ended up winning (but did acknowledge fault in the incident).
Major sports weekend upstate next year: The Glen’s 2013 date has not been announced, but if it is held on its traditional dates (Aug. 9-11), it will share its weekend with next year’s PGA Championship in Rochester.