Sunday's finish was perfect, really.
"It was absolute chaos at the end," Marcos Ambrose said.
What wasn't to like?
"I'm proud to be part of one of those races," Brad Keselowski said.
In a time where NASCAR is stuck on a never ending search to improve "The Show", there wasn't a single dose of contrived excitement during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' final lap and a half tour around the turns of Watkins Glen. For just a brief moment, all you could think about was who could scramble back to the start/finish line first on a track slickened by oil, pebbles of rubber and trackside dirt. There were no Chase graphics to look at, no points to consider and no career moves hanging in the balance.
Instead, the race had boiled down purely and completely to NASCAR at its best: race 'em hard, beat up the fenders and use every inch of the track. The reward for the winner? Some maniacal shouting mixed with fervent fist pumping all topped with the sweetest of champagne sprays.
Oh, and a claim that you had won a race with a final lap that will be replayed for years to come.
That's just what Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose - the order of the top-3 as they took the white flag - could see they were in for after Busch's lead evaporated on a track suddenly slickened with oil. It's a situation where NASCAR would typically have thrown a full-course yellow flag - a call that would have ended the race immediately had Busch taken the white flag.
Boy, what a drag that could've been.
NASCAR made the right call Sunday to let the field finish the race - even after it became fairly obvious as the leaders started the final lap that the track surface had been oiled down. They even made the right call to keep the field green when Kyle Busch spun off the nose of Brad Keselowski in turn two.
It was the right call primarily because it was NASCAR's only call - NASCAR's track spotters weren't sure if the smoking No. 47 car was indeed laying down oil when asked by the race's director on the second-to-last lap - and because the conditions of a road course could permit a race like that to finish without a full course yellow stopping the action.
Had NASCAR thrown the yellow flag as Busch slid wide in turn one, they would have been lambasted for ruining the end of a good race and showing favoritism to Busch at the first sign of trouble. Had they thrown it when Busch spun in turn two, they would have been criticized for being too quick on the trigger and, again, ruining the finish. Instead, they let what road courses offer compared to ovals work for them.
In the case of Sunday's race, the spacing the leaders had gained over the rest of the field. When Busch's incident occurred, there was ample time for spotters to warn drivers in case Busch had not righted the ship and brought his No. 18 home to a seventh place finish. Busch, of course, did that just before the rest of the pack arrived.
It also doesn't hurt that road courses like Watkins Glen offer many more run-off areas than a typical oval, and that 3,400-pound race cars have a higher propensity to slide than spin when turning on a mostly flat corner.
So with Busch out of the way and NASCAR's track officials unable gain full confirmation of fluid on the surface, NASCAR literally could do no more than sit and watch the finish play out. Fortunately, the amount of oil on the track was just enough to cause some havoc but not end to send the race into complete disarray with a massive pileup or vicious crash.
Did NASCAR get lucky on their no-call? No doubt.
But knowing what they knew as Ambrose and Keselowski had us watching in awestruck disbelief, it's obvious NASCAR made the best move possible by making none at all.
HOT: Seriously, how many times have you watched that finish this week? It's one of those rare NASCAR moments that gain wide appeal. Even my mom and girlfriend, noted believers in nap time when NASCAR is on the tube, enjoyed seeing the replay.
The best part, in my opinion, were the consecutive slide jobs Keselowski and Ambrose pulled after running through the dirt into the carousel turn. Lesser drivers would've easily found the outside barrier in that situation. Great, great stuff.
NEUTRAL: I sure would've loved to hear Kyle Busch's thoughts on the matter, but his ability to not spout off was the smarter one. That said, it's a good example of how corporate influence has neutered the sport.
HOT: Brad Keselowski finished second in both races this weekend and was asked afterward what led to such a good weekend. His answer was a sign of sheer confidence.
"I got good cars. I don't know. Just things are clicking," Keselowski said. "If I knew what it was, I would have gone after it a long time ago. Sometimes things just go well. You don't sweat why, you just enjoy it. That's where I'm at."
Look out, Chase contenders.
NOT: Both Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing cars - including pre-race favorite Juan Pablo Montoya - ended up in the Watkins Glen garage thanks to mechanical failure. I'd bet this hasn't been a fun week in that shop.
NEUTRAL: Jeff Gordon may have complained afterward about NASCAR allowing the race to continue with oil on the track, but it ultimately made a big contribution to his Chase hopes. Had NASCAR thrown the yellow, Gordon would've been back in position where at least one more race win was mandatory in the next four races if he wanted to fight for the title thanks to a Kyle Busch Watkins Glen win. Instead, Gordon remains in the one-win fight for 12th where a second win for him could move the pressure elsewhere.
HOT: The finishes of Clint Bowyer (4th), Sam Hornish Jr. (5th) and Regan Smith (9th) are all in deserve of praise. Bowyer, in a year most thought he'd take a step back after the move to Michael Waltrip Racing, is all but locked in the Chase.
NOT: You don't see Tony Stewart make mistakes like the one that lead his crash from second place very often. It was reminiscent of Jeff Gordon spinning by himself while leading Watkins Glen with less than three laps left in 2007.
HOT: Some guy named Jimmie Johnson is the new Sprint Cup points leader. Are you ready for his transition to "Six-Time"?
FINAL: In Formula 1, road course corner workers have the option of displaying a red and yellow flag that indicates fluid is on the surface. Could that work in NASCAR in last-lap moments like this? It'd be a way of giving warning, but not ending a battle for the win.
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Busch
- Marcos Ambrose
- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series