NASCAR Cup Series

Ambrose vs. Keselowski tops memorable NASCAR road course moments

Ambrose vs. Keselowski tops memorable NASCAR road course moments

NASCAR Cup teams return to Circuit of the Americas on Sunday for the first road course race of the season, setting up another opportunity for drivers to bring the excitement.

NASCAR history is full of standout moments on road courses, whether they were drivers winning for the first time or former champions racing door to door before spinning each other out.

These are some of the most memorable moments from past Cup races at road courses.

Marcos Ambrose wins at Watkins Glen

Kyle Busch was in the lead on the final lap at the New York road course when contact from Brad Keselowski sent him spinning in the essess. Keselowski took the lead while Marcos Ambrose moved into second and began to stalk the eventual champion.

What ensued was a fascinating back and forth between Ambrose and Keselowski. Both drivers went off into the dirt in a turn. They both used the bumper to move each other out of the way.

Ambrose and Keselowski were side-by-side entering the final turn and it appeared that they would wreck at any moment. However, they made it through before Ambrose pulled away for his second consecutive win at Watkins Glen.

Tony Stewart wins for the final time

2016 may have been Tony Stewart’s final ride in a Cup car but he didn’t go quietly into retirement — he went out with a win that put him into the playoffs.

Stewart, who missed the first eight races of the season with a fractured vertebra, was credited with leading the final 22 laps. Yet he had to come from behind in a wild final lap.

Stewart struggled with grip getting into corners in the closing laps, which opened the door for Denny Hamlin to make a move. Hamlin got to Stewart’s inside on Turn 7 and took the lead after wheel hopping and making contact.

The race was not over, however, as Stewart chased Hamlin down and dove to his inside on Turn 11. The two racers door slammed before Hamlin hit the wall. Stewart took the lead and scored his 49th Cup win.

Ross Chastain wins at COTA

NASCAR returned to Circuit of the Americas in 2022 after rain and a multitude of crashes disrupted the inaugural race weekend in 2021. This was another opportunity to put on a show at a track where Formula One competes, and Ross Chastain did not let it go to waste.

Chastain was in the lead on the final lap with AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman just behind him. Allmendinger moved Chastain out of the way entering Turn 15 and took the lead. Chastain then bumped Allmendinger in Turn 17 as Bowman dove past them both to take the lead.

Chastain wasn’t done as he hit Allmendinger entering Turn 19 and sent him into Bowman. Allmendinger spun into the gravel while Bowman recovered and got back onto the track. Chastain regained the lead and pulled away to score his first career Cup win.

Kyle Busch wins 2021 Busch Clash

The final year of the Busch Clash in Florida was truly memorable. The top stars in Cup took on the Daytona Road Course and they showed what they were willing to do to win the exhibition race.

The final lap featured Ryan Blaney leading with Chase Elliott in pursuit. It appeared that Elliott would run out of time but Blaney hit the wall as he tried to slow down for the chicane.

Elliott got inside of Blaney in the final braking zone but the two drivers made hard contact. Elliott spun Blaney into the wall and slowed enough for Kyle Busch to move from third into first in the final stretch leading to the start-finish line.

Ryan Blaney wins at the Roval

The Charlotte Roval has been the site of numerous exciting moments, a list topped by its inaugural Cup race.

Martin Truex Jr. was in the lead on the restart with three laps remaining. Jimmie Johnson was second. The seven-time champion sought opportunities to pass as the laps waned.

Johnson made his attempt entering the frontstretch chicane but locked his brakes and spun. He collected Truex and sent him spinning into the outside wall.

Ryan Blaney navigated between Truex and Johnson and took the lead feet from the finish line. He won his first race of the season and first road course race.

Ricky Rudd gets the black flag at Sonoma

Contact between cars is nothing out of the ordinary at Sonoma, especially in the tight Turn 11. Yet contact in the hairpin turn led to one Cup driver receiving a black flag in 1991 and another celebrating the win.

Davey Allison was in the lead at the Northern California road course on the penultimate lap. He entered Turn 11 as Ricky Rudd tried to dive to his inside. Rudd made contact with the right rear of Allison’s No. 28, which sent it spinning. Rudd took the white flag and then led the final lap.

The situation took a drastic turn as Rudd approached the start-finish line for the final time. NASCAR displayed the black flag for Rudd and then waved the checkered flag for Allison, declaring him the winner. Rudd was credited with a second-place finish after receiving a penalty.

“I’ve been racing since ’63 and this is about one of the darndest calls I’ve seen in a long time,” crew chief Waddell Wilson said after the race.

Shane van Gisbergen vs. Justin Haley in Chicago

NASCAR’s inaugural Cup race on the streets of Chicago was ripe with memorable moments. There was Kyle Busch burying his car to the windshield in a tire barrier, Martin Truex Jr. sliding sideways through a corner while trying to pass Shane van Gisbergen, Austin Dillon wrecking while trying to pass for the lead and the multi-car traffic jam on Jackson Dr. after Kevin Harvick and Corey LaJoie spun to block the road.

The most memorable sequence occurred on the restart with five laps remaining. Justin Haley led the field to the green flag with van Gisbergen behind him.

Van Gisbergen dove to Haley’s inside entering Turn 2 and cleared him for the lead. Haley then used the same move entering Turn 3 to take the lead back. Van Gisbergen was not done as he used the crossover in Turn 4 take the lead for good.

While there was an overtime restart that bunched the field, it had no effect on the outcome. The back-and-forth between Haley and van Gisbergen with five laps to go is what determined the race winner and it delivered excitement in a historic race.

Dale Earnhardt wins his first road course race

Entering the 1995 season, Dale Earnhardt had accomplished a staggering amount in NASCAR. He had won seven Cup championships and 63 races. Though he remained winless on road courses. Earnhardt snapped this streak during a memorable finish at Sonoma.

Mark Martin was in the lead with two laps to go. Earnhardt was trying to chase him down, but he slid in multiple turns. Earnhardt kept the No. 3 moving forward and took advantage of Martin getting loose in Turn 6. Earnhardt dove inside and took the lead.

Earnhardt took the white flag and drove a perfect final lap to celebrate a Cup win at a road course.

Kyle Larson comes back to win at the Roval

Kyle Larson was the dominant driver in 2021 as he won 10 races and the championship while leading 2,581 laps. Yet he nearly failed to advance to the Round of 8 of the playoffs due to an unexpected issue at the Charlotte Roval.

Larson started the elimination race 10th but he voiced concerns about voltage issues early in the race. The team changed the battery during a Lap 35 pit stop and then changed the alternator belt after the end of stage 2.

This second stop dropped Larson outside the top 30, but he stormed through the field during the final stage.

Larson worked his way inside the top five before Kevin Harvick brought out the caution by crashing in Turn 1 with under 10 laps to go. Larson took the lead from Hamlin and went on to win his seventh race of the season. This win put him in the Round of 8 and kept his championship season alive.


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