Marcos Ambrose beat Kyle Busch to claim his second NASCAR Nationwide Series career victory at Watkins Glen.
For the second year in a row - and in his only Nationwide Series start of the season to date, Ambrose scored victory at the very venue of his maiden NASCAR win a year ago. A bold move with 18 laps remaining at the hardest braking point of the 2.45-mile track gave him the lead and eventually the victory.
Before that, the race had been looking like a fuel-mileage event, and the fastest cars of the day had to find their way back to the front of the field into the closing stages.
Busch was the first to do so after his team gave him a quick final stop, where he was able to get by Ambrose. A few laps later, though, and while in the lead, he had his rear-view mirrors full of the red Toyota of the Australian.
The former V8 Supercar champion made a late dive on to the inside of the points leader under braking for the bus-stop chicane on lap 64, catching Busch off-guard to retake a lead he had held earlier. Busch could not even make the corner, taking evasive action to cut across it after taking notice of Ambrose's car on his inside.
Busch had further shots at Ambrose in two restarts but instead of putting him under pressure, he ended up fighting to maintain second into Turn 1 with Carl Edwards.
It even took a brave move from Busch to pass his championship rival on the outside into the Esses, and although he was able to close to within a few tenths of Ambrose initially, the leader responded by bringing the gap up to over a second and hold it to the flag.
"I had to surprise him," said Ambrose about his pass for the lead over Busch. "I didn't have the straight-line speed to really attack him. If I had waited for the last ten laps I don't know if I would've been able to make the pass.
"I had to surprise him and I surprised myself. It was an early move and I knew I had to do it then because the element of surprise was there and it got the win for us."
After Ambrose crossed the chequered flag Busch showed the race winner how he felt about the move by making contact with the side of his car on the Esses. The championship leader was left frustrated once again with another second place, which sets a new Nationwide Series record for the most consecutive top-two finishes with ten.
"I think he was a little aggressive getting into the bus-stop, but you've got to do what you've got to do to win," said Busch about Ambrose's move. "I felt like it was a really, really late move and if I would've went through there with him I would've wrecked. So I had to do what I had to do to preserve my car and save myself.
"I never saw [Ambrose]. I heard him and I heard him in the grass of wherever he was. I had to turn left, I couldn't keep going through the bus-stop. We had the second-best car today and I was trying to hold him off. Didn't have enough to do it unfortunately."
Carl Edwards finished third and didn't gain anything on Busch in the championship, with a 212-point gap now separating the two. The former Nationwide Series champion led the race for 25 laps by running out of sequence in the pits, but he didn't have enough speed to keep up with the battle up front in the end.
Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick, who set a new track record in qualifying, got shuffled back with the different strategies, but he managed a fourth place in the end ahead of former race-winner Ron Fellows and Cup regulars Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle and David Ragan, while Brad Keselowski and Scott Speed rounded out the top-ten.
The final caution of the day came out when Robby Gordon retaliated against Joey Logano for an incident earlier, putting him into the barrier at the exit of the carousel.
The 19-year-old's Toyota broke a fuel line in the crash and caught fire, causing a lengthy final caution that allowed all the front-runners to finish the race without an extra stop, as some of them were right on the edge of their fuel-mileage.
"You can't fix stupid; stupid is forever," said Logano about Gordon following the incident.
"The caution came out and he decided to put me into the fence and set my car in flames. That was real nice, you know.
"You remember that stuff but I tell you, eventually it's going to turn around and bite him because he races everyone the same way like that. I don't know if this is the one place he thinks he can run good and he decides to beat the hell out of everybody. What goes around comes around."
Gordon escaped punishment for the incident and amazingly was given the free pass during the very caution caused by his final run into Logano as there was no video evidence to back up Logano's remarks. He was classified 14th and on the lead lap.
Pos Driver Make Laps 1. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 82 2. Kyle Busch Toyota 82 3. Carl Edwards Ford 82 4. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 82 5. Ron Fellows Chevrolet 82 6. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 82 7. Greg Biffle Ford 82 8. David Ragan Ford 82 9. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 82 10. Scott Speed Toyota 82 11. Boris Said Ford 82 12. Steve Wallace Chevrolet 82 13. Dave Blaney Chevrolet 82 14. Robby Gordon Toyota 82 15. Jason Leffler Toyota 82 16. Jason Keller Ford 82 17. Justin Allgaier Dodge 82 18. JR Fitzpatrick Chevrolet 82 19. Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 82 20. Michael Annett Toyota 82 21. Morgan Shepherd Chevrolet 82 22. Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet 82 23. Sean Murphy Dodge 82 24. Jeffrey Earnhardt Chevrolet 82 25. Danny O'Quinn Jr Chevrolet 82 26. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 82 27. Michael McDowell Dodge 82 28. Tony Raines Dodge 82 29. Paul Menard Ford 80 30. Eric McClure Ford 80 31. Chris Cook Chevrolet 79 32. Justin Marks Toyota 76 33. Joey Logano Toyota 69 34. Denny Hamlin Toyota 68 35. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 51 36. Matt Carter Ford 50 37. Brian Vickers Toyota 31 38. Mark Green Chevrolet 28 39. Mike Wallace Chevrolet 23 40. Antonio Perez Dodge 22 41. Tom Hubert Chevrolet 14 42. Kris Szekeres Chevrolet 9 43. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 4