NASCAR ran it’s twenty-third consecutive Cup race at Watkins Glen last weekend, drawing the usual huge crowd. Championship leader Kyle Busch emphasised his ability to win on any kind of track as the 23-year old scored his eighth Sprint Cup victory of the year and led team-mate Tony Stewart to a one-two sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. Busch has now won a total of twenty races this year in all three of NASCAR’s primary categories and is very much American stock car racing’s man of the year.
Dario Franchitti with his Pole Award at Watkins Glen
An excellent third at Watkins Glen was Australian Marcos Ambrose who came through from the back of the forty-three-car field to score his best result so far in the Sprint Cup series. Ambrose withstood a closing attack from Juan Pablo Montoya who also ran a strong race to finish fourth.
Watkins Glen, New York, Marcos Ambrose celebrates with a burnout
In Saturday’s second division Nationwide race (formerly the Busch series) Ambrose underlined the increasingly international nature of NASCAR as he won the race in convincing style. Two-time (2003 & ‘04) Australian V-8 Supercar champion Ambrose has been racing in NASCAR the past two and half years and came close to winning the Nationwide race in Montreal the previous weekend before finally enjoying a clean race at the Glen to score his first NASCAR win. Ambrose soundly beat top Sprint Cup drivers Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick who finished nose-to-tail in second, third and fourth.
8-10 August, 2008, Watkins Glen, New York Dario Franchitti leading the pack at the start.
Right with them in fifth place was Dario Franchitti who qualified on the pole and enjoyed his best NASCAR race to date. After losing his regular Cup ride with Chip Ganassi last month, Franchitti is hoping to keep his hopes alive for a career in NASCAR by running a handful of Nationwide races for Ganassi.
“I don’t have any obligation to the guy,” Ganassi said referring to apparent performance clauses in Franchitti’s contract which the Scotsman failed to achieve. “But I like him. He’s a good guy and I’m doing what I can to help him. He did a great job at the Glen. That was exactly what he needed and what everyone in NASCAR needed to see.”
Many top Cup drivers and teams run the Nationwide races when the two divisions are paired on the same card so they can get more miles, more experience and more data to translate to their first division Cup cars. The result is the superstars from the Cup series tend to dominate the races they run, making it an even harder row for the less-renowned drivers and smaller teams who toil all year in the Nationwide series.
Franchitti will run only three or four more Nationwide races this year in one of Ganassi’s cars. If he’s to continue in NASCAR as the recent influx of international competitors finally begin to make their marks on American stock car racing Dario must produce more results like his good show at the Glen last weekend.