Johnson wins after late gaffe by Ambrose
Then his own bizarre gaffe cost him the win.
Ambrose stalled his engine while trying to conserve gas late in Sunday’s race at Infineon Raceway, where his car came to a stop while leading with six laps remaining. He restarted and tried to re-claim his position at the front of the field, but NASCAR ordered him back to seventh place and Jimmie Johnson inherited the lead.
Johnson then cruised to his first career road course win, while Ambrose had to settle for a disappointing sixth-place finish.
“My bad,” the Australian said. “I’m disappointed. It’s NASCAR’s house and I’ll always play by the rules. I don’t agree with it, I don’t like it and that’s only because I lost the race because of it.
“I had the motor turned off trying to save a bit of fuel and just had trouble getting it fired again. That’s it.”
It was yet another cruel defeat for Ambrose, a road racing ace who has fallen short of victory several times in NASCAR because of various reasons.
He was spun by Robby Gordon while leading the Nationwide Series race at Montreal in 2007, and last year was passed by Carl Edwards in the final turn at the same track. Although he has two career Nationwide wins on the road course at Watkins Glen, he’s winless in the Cup Series despite three top-three finishes in five career road course races.
“I feel bad for him,” Johnson said. “It was definitely a gift kind of handed to us.”
The four-time defending series champion won for the fourth time this season, but first since Bristol in March—a 10-race drought that had many wondering why Johnson was “slumping.”
Aside from ending the slump, Johnson more importantly added a road course victory to his resume and knocked Sonoma off the list of five active Cup tracks where he had never been to Victory Lane.
Although Johnson led 55 of the 110 laps, it was Ambrose’s race to lose at the end.
Ambrose, who led 35 laps, had a comfortable lead over Johnson when Brad Keselowski’s spin brought out the late caution. Instructed by crew chief Frank Kerr to conserve fuel in case the race went into NASCAR’s version of “overtime,” Ambrose began flipping his motor on and off at various points around the race track.
Unable to get it restarted at one point, his Toyota stalled and Johnson led a handful of cars around him. NASCAR ruled Ambrose failed to “maintain reasonable speed” and dropped him to seventh, where he had blended back into line after re-firing his motor.
Robby Gordon finished second for his highest finish of the season, and series points leader Kevin Harvick was third. Defending race winner Kasey Kahne finished fourth and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five.
Janesville native Travis Kvapil finished 24th, and Cambridge native Matt Kenseth was 30th.
Kanaan wins IRL Iowa 250
At Newton, Iowa, Tony Kanaan overtook fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves with 10 laps left and held on to win, erasing three crash-filled years of history at the speedy short oval.
It was the first victory since 2008 for Kanaan, who last took won in Richmond. Kanaan ran into contact in each of his first three starts at Iowa, but he zipped past Castroneves on lap 240 and cruised to victory.
Castroneves finished second and E.J. Viso was a career-best third. Danica Patrick finished 10th.
Dario Franchitti, a two-time winner in Iowa, had mechanical issues with 50 laps left and finished 18th, losing his points lead to Power in the process.
Kanaan started the race 15th, but he moved up quickly and took the lead about halfway through the race. Franchitti took the lead away from Kanaan with a quick pit stop 70 laps from the finish, but his quest for a third win in three starts at Iowa fell apart soon thereafter.
Castroneves leapfrogged Franchitti for the lead, and Franchitti soon went back to pit row when his gear box got stuck. It was the worst finish of the year for Franchitti, who dropped to third in the points race behind Power and Scott Dixon.
“I was shifting from sixth down to fifth and came up with a box full of neutrals,” Franchitti said. “We had a winning car today, but it wasn’t anybody’s fault.”
That left the race up to Kanaan and Castroneves, and Kanaan easily moved past his close friend Castroneves to pick up his 14th career IndyCar Series win.
“I should be happy, but with 10 laps to go it slipped right through my hands,” Castroneves said.
Target Chip Ganassi teammates Dixon and Franchitti set the early pace, and Kanaan worked his way through the traffic in short order. Kanaan then hit his “push to pass” button and did just that, zooming past Franchitti for the lead just before the halfway point.
Kanaan had never run finished higher than 14th at Iowa before Sunday’s win, but he felt confident in his setup despite a sh
Last updated: 2:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012