If Kyle Busch was to take home the checkered flag in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International for the second consecutive year, he knows not only will he have to top the 42 other competitors Sunday afternoon, but recent history shows he’ll have to best two fellow racers in particular – Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski.
A quick look into the last three races at Watkins Glen is quite telling as to why the trio will be the favorites this weekend at The Glen. In those three events, Busch, Ambrose and Keselowski have combined to lead a whopping 240 of a possible 270 laps, with Ambrose taking home wins in 2011 and 2012, and Busch winning the aforementioned 2013 edition. Moreover, Keselowski finished third in 2011 behind Ambrose and Busch and in the runner-up spot the last two races there.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), beat Keselowski one year ago in the 355k at The Glen, as he notched his second win at the legendary road course, in dramatic fashion, no less. In all, Busch has an impressive seven top-10 finishes in his eight career starts at The Glen. Add an average finish of 8.1 along with his 188 laps led and Busch’s record is quite dazzling at the site of Sunday’s 355-kilometer race.
But while he is the defending Sprint Cup winner there, Busch won’t soon forget the two previous races that got away from him as he battled for the win against a familiar cast of characters, to no one’s surprise.
After Busch’s inaugural Sprint Cup victory at The Glen in 2008, he came agonizingly close to his second win on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course in his 2011 and 2012 visits there. In 2011, after leading three times for a race-high 49 laps, Busch found himself in a three-wide situation on a late restart with Keselowski and eventual race-winner Ambrose. Busch was forced to fall back and had to settle for a second-place finish after an otherwise dominant day by the M&M’s team.
In 2012, Busch again found himself in the lead as the white flag flew. But oil on the racetrack slowed him dramatically on the last lap as, again, it was Keselowski and Ambrose who closed in on him entering turn two. Keselowski made contact with Busch, sending him spinning. Busch recovered to finish seventh, but it was another bitter pill to swallow with yet another Watkins Glen victory within reach.
Busch’s 2013 Watkins Glen victory served as redemption, of sorts, after coming agonizingly close in 2011 and 2012. A third victory at The Glen would continue to solidify Busch and the M&M’s team as the favorite each time the series visits New York’s Fingers Lakes region, and Busch knows he’ll likely have to deal with Ambrose and Keselowski, yet again, to secure another Glen win.