For the second day in a row, the weather in New York could not have made for a better race day at Watkins Glen. The 43 cars of the Sprint Cup Series would take the green flag to see if a regular, a road ace, or someone in between would enter Victory Lane at the end of the day.
Carl Edwards, who has never finished worse than 19th at the Glen, led the field to the green flag after winning the pole on Saturday morning. Battling a tight condition however, Edwards would lose the lead going into the second lap to former teammate Jamie McMurray, with Edwards falling all the way to fifth.
McMurray managed to pull away from second place Juan Pablo Montoya and the rest of the field, while Marcos Ambrose, who started 11th, was wasting no time making his way up through the top ten.
On lap 15, Montoya was able to take the lead from his teammate, and Ambrose moved into fourth. The No. 42 Target Chevrolet immediately checked out from the field.
Troubles for Jimmie Johnson, who started 10th and had slipped back to the mid twenties with a tire going down, forcing him to pit on lap 16. Scot Speed took his Toyota behind the wall with engine problems just prior to lap 20.
Just after the first round of pit stops of the race ended, caution came out for the first time on lap 29 for P.J. Jones spinning. Montoya had maintained his lead over Ambrose, Edwards, Allmendinger and Kurt Busch.
Edwards and Ambrose battled for second on the restart, allowing Montoya to drive away, but it was Ambrose who ultimately prevailed. Once Ambrose was able to catch the leader, the two began a heated battle for that top spot for the better part of six laps, with Ambrose making the pass on lap 40.
Two laps later, the yellow flag was flown for Bobby Labonte’s stopped car in the inner loop. Brad Keselowski’s car also had damage from contact from the guardrail. The leaders took the opportunity to pit under caution.
It was once again a side by side battle between Ambrose and Montoya on the lap 46, and after Ambrose wheel hopped Montoya was able to take the lead back.
Points leader Kevin Harvick had made a nice rebound from his 20th place start and ran ninth at the lap 50 mark. His teammate Clint Bowyer, who started 40th, had also recovered for a top 15 run.
Ambrose had made decent ground up on the leader when another round of green flag stops came, and Ryan Newman was able to lead a lap before hitting pit road.
On lap 62 the yellow flag flew for debris off of the No. 33 of Bowyer, who took his RCR Chevy to the garage. Barely hanging on to 12th in points ahead of Mark Martin, who led as the caution came out, would prove to be a big points hit for the two time Cup race winner.
Because Martin, David Ragan and Andy Lally didn’t pit under green they were forced to give up the top three spots to make their stops, handing the lead to Montoya.
Trouble immediately after the lap 70 restart as Tony Stewart spun out road ace Boris Said after the two battled side by side within the top ten.
“I don’t really know what he was thinking,” Said told ESPN after being released from the infield care center. “That was just hard racing, double-file restarts. … He was off the track and it looked like he’s trying to get back on. I didn’t quite know he was there. I thought he filed in behind me.
“I’m not going to [complain] and moan about him or say anything bad. I just feel bad for these guys. I don’t know what I could’ve done different. Hopefully he could tell me what I did wrong because I don’t think I did anything wrong.”
The leaders made their final pit stops and Montoya maintaining the lead. Caution came out for the fifth time of the race just after the restart on lap 70. Jimmie Johnson spun by himself in an incident that also collected Denny Hamlin, heavily damaging both cars. Hamlin would go on to finish 37th, while Johnson finished 28th. This was the third time in five weeks that Hamlin has come home with a finish of 15th or worse.
As was the case throughout the day, Montoya was able to pull away from the field while Ambrose battled Kurt Busch for second. He managed the pass the blue deuce with just 14 laps remaining in the race.
The closest battled seemed to be for sixth between points leader Harvick and McMurray, as Montoya continued to drive away from the rest of the field. Montoya was ahead by eight seconds as he took the checkered flag for his second ever Cup victory. Busch was second and Ambrose a disappointed third.
“To come out here today and get the job done the way we did today, it was big,” Montoya said. “I feel more relieved than happy right now. It’s been a really hard road in a way. It’s been a lot of fun; it’s been frustrating.”
"I want to win so bad in the Cup Series, and this was a really good chance for me. It hurts not to win."
A flat tire right at the end of the race cost points leader Kevin Harvick a top ten, as Jeff Gordon was able to get around him.
It was a strong finish for A.J. Allmendinger, who just resigned with Richard Petty Motorsports. He scored his first top five of 2010 by finishing fourth. Last week’s winner McMurray came home with eighth top ten of the year by finishing sixth.
Montoya, who led 74 of the 90 laps run, ended his 113 race winless streak, though it probably won’t help him when it comes to the championship. Just four races remain before the Chase, and Montoya sits 19th, 205 points behind new 12th place in points Mark Martin.
After his disappointing 34th place finish, Bowyer now trails Martin by just ten points. Harvick maintains his points lead and heads into this weekend’s event at the Michigan International Speedway by 185 over Jeff Gordon.
Next up for the Sprint Cup Series is the Carfax 400 at the aforementioned MIS. Coverage of the race begins at one PM Eastern time on ESPN.
Thanks to NASCAR on ESPN, NASCAR.com, FOX News, Examiner.com, USA Today and Racing Reference for the statistics, quotes and information used in this piece. Photo courtesy of SPEEDTV.com.