Ambrose second in NASCAR thriller

Marcos Ambrose had to settle for second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International after a tough fight for first place. Photo / AP
Marcos Ambrose had to settle for second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Watkins Glen International after a tough fight for first place. Photo / AP

Australia's Marcos Ambrose has narrowly missed out on claiming his third NASCAR victory at Watkins Glen in New York, finishing second behind AJ Allmendinger in Sunday's Spring Cup race.

The Tasmanian crossed the line just 1.16 seconds behind Allmendinger, marking his sixth podium finish in seven starts at the track.

The pair fought side-by-side in the final stages of the 90-lap race, swapping the lead on a number of occasions before Allmendinger made the winning pass on turn six with just over one lap left.

"First of all, congratulations to AJ," Ambrose told ESPN.

"He really deserved that win because I was giving it everything I had to rattle his cage, but he withstood the pressure."

The decisive closing laps were interrupted by three restarts, the first of which came with nine laps remaining.

Allmendinger got the jump on Ambrose, but Jimmie Johnson was bumped in the first turn and his No. 48 spun around, collecting two other cars and precipitating a caution.

The race restarted again with five laps left, and both Ambrose and Allmendinger were banging against each other through the esses before the former V8 Supercars driver took the lead in the chicane.

But Allmendinger wasn't done, regaining the lead on the next lap as he outbraked the Australian into turn one before a crash involving Denny Hamlin caused another red flag with four laps left.

The race was stopped almost an hour-and-a-half just past the midpoint after a violent five-car crash involving Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell.

Newman, McDowell and Alex Bowman were treated in the infield care centre and released.

The dramatic race was somewhat overshadowed by the absence of three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart, who pulled out after he struck and killed a sprint car driver at an event in nearby Canadaigua, New York.

Regan Smith drove Stewart's car instead and finished 35th after having to start from the back of the 43-car field and getting caught in a late accident.

Allmendinger offered his condolences to the victim's family after he won, saying "we're a community here, we're thinking about you."

The triumph gives Allmendinger an almost certain spot in the championship-deciding Chase for the Sprint Cup, which this year is being held under a new playoff-style format. With only 16 places available in the Chase, Ambrose needs a win at one of the next four races for a berth, or will otherwise have to rely on his points tally.

-AAP

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