Juan Pablo Montoya fended off Marcos Ambrose after a race-long battle to claim his second Sprint Cup Series career victory at Watkins Glen.
The Colombian had to wait 113 races and 1142 days to get back to Victory Lane after taking his maiden win at Sears Point in his debut season at NASCAR's top level. This time no fuel calculations came into play and it was all about pure pace as Montoya and Ambrose competed at the front in a two-horse race for victory.
Montoya first grabbed the lead on lap six after starting third, overtaking team-mate Jamie McMurray under braking for the inner loop, opening a massive gap after that as he lapped more than half a second quicker than the rest of the field.
From eleventh on the grid, Ambrose paased rivals by the lap until he reached second place. Once in clean air, he showed his true pace, closing in on Montoya, eventually catching the Colombian after their first green-flag pitstop.
The JTG Daugherty driver put the pressure on and started to dive his nose in, until the pair made contact on the final turn, Montoya managing to stay ahead.
However on lap 41, he was finally able to get by, performing a textbook pass at turn one and pulling away from the Earnhardt Ganassi driver until the second caution of the day five laps later.
On the restart Ambrose initially pulled away but then lost ground as his rear tyres 'wheel hopped' under braking for turn one, dropping to fourth as Montoya retook the lead.
After that and following the final stop for fuel and tyres for the leaders, the former Formula 1 and Indianapolis 500 winner stayed ahead as Ambrose continued to struggle on three further restarts with a misfire. "The carburettor would have a hiccup, I'd blow the tyres off it. It was a drama. It didn't help," said Ambrose.
Following the final restart Montoya finally stamped his authority and pulled away from Ambrose to take a commanding victory by 4.7 seconds.
In another impressive weekend for Chip Ganassi, his teams took victories in the Rolex GrandAm Series, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the IZOD IndyCar series, a first for the racing organisation.
"We executed right and I think we did what we had to all day and we run really smart," said Montoya, who had been close to victory two weeks ago at Indy but lost when his strategy didn't play out in the final stop.
"Yesterday we had a good talk with Chip [Ganassi, car owner]. The last few weeks have been really frustrating for the whole team because we've been so close to victory and it seemed to keep slipping away. And to come out here today and get the job done the way we did today, it was big. To tell you the truth I feel more relieved than happy right now."
Ambrose admitted he had nothing for Montoya in the final stint, although he said his final set of tyres was probably not as good, losing second place to Penske's Kurt Busch on the final lap.
"Just after the last pitstop, we really had nothing for them," said the Australian. "Just lost the balance of the race car and struggled. Congratulations to Juan [Pablo Montoya] -- he had a great race. It was a lot of fun racing there in the middle part of the race. It was neck and neck.
"We're both not running for a championship so there wasn't much left out there. It was a real thrill to compete against a guy like that."
Following Ambrose, Richard Petty's AJ Allmendinger was fourth after a solid race, while polesitter Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five, showing good pace again for Roush Fenway Racing. Behind him Montoya's teammate Jamie McMurray was sixth, making a big stride towards a possible Chase berth.
Five-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart finished seventh after contact with road course 'ringer' Boris Said, who was competing for Red Bull Racing this weekend. Kyle Busch recovered from starting last after an unscheduled stop to fix loose ballast dropped him to the rear of the field during the formation laps. Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon completed the top ten.
Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who recovered from an unscheduled stop for a loose tyre, and Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin were involved in an incident on the final turn 18 laps from the end, when the Hendrick driver spun and was collected by Hamlin. While Johnson was able to rejoin, Hamlin's race was over.
Veteran Mark Martin profited from Clint Bowyer's misfortunes as despite a 19th place finish, he was able to break into the top-12 in the standings, while the Richard Childress racer was only 32nd after mechanical issues that sent him to the garage, finishing a lap down and dropping out of the top-12.
Bowyer's teammate Kevin Harvick was eleventh and continues to top the driver standings with only four races left before the Chase.
Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 90 2. Kurt Busch Dodge 90 3. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 90 4. A.J. Allmendinger Ford 90 5. Carl Edwards Ford 90 6. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 90 7. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 90 8. Kyle Busch Toyota 90 9. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 90 10. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 90 11. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 90 12. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 90 13. Matt Kenseth Ford 90 14. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 90 15. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 90 16. Paul Menard Ford 90 17. Kasey Kahne Ford 90 18. Andy Lally Chevrolet 90 19. Mark Martin Chevrolet 90 20. Brad Keselowski Dodge 90 21. Patrick Carpentier Ford 90 22. Max Papis Toyota 90 23. David Reutimann Toyota 90 24. Greg Biffle Ford 90 25. David Ragan Ford 90 26. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 90 27. David Gilliland Ford 90 28. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 90 29. Elliott Sadler Ford 90 30. Travis Kvapil Ford 90 31. Kevin Conway Ford 90 32. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 89 33. Joey Logano Toyota 88 34. Regan Smith Chevrolet 84 35. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 84 36. Robby Gordon Toyota 72 37. Denny Hamlin Toyota 70 38. Boris Said Toyota 65 39. Joe Nemechek Toyota 54 40. Ron Fellows Chevrolet 46 41. P.J. Jones Toyota 36 42. Michael McDowell Toyota 35 43. Scott Speed Toyota 28