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Marcos Ambrose survives the madness

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- This one was worth the wait.

It was worth the wait for drivers and spectators who endured an extra day at Watkins Glen International because of bad weather.

It was worth the wait for winner Marcos Ambrose, whose frustration of coming close at road course Sprint Cup races had reached the point that the word "choke" had crept into the back of his mind.

Monday's finish, one of the wildest all season, was worth the wait for everyone. First there was runner-up Brad Keselowski, broken left foot and all, jamming his No. 2 Dodge between Kyle Busch and Ambrose for the lead on the green-white-checkered restart with a light rain starting to fall.

Then there was Ambrose getting around Keselowski for the lead.

Then there was all hell breaking loose.

Let's recap: Boris Said got into the back of David Ragan, sending Ragan into a retaining wall that launched his car back onto the track and into the path of David Reutimann, whose car went upside down with pieces flying everywhere and into another retaining wall.

Then there was Tony Stewart losing control a few turns later to start another chain-reaction wreck that forced NASCAR to throw the caution that secured the win for Ambrose.

Then there was Greg Biffle, Ragan's teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, throwing a punch at Said through Said's car window in the garage, and there was Said calling Biffle a "scaredy-cat" and promising to go to Biffle's house and kick his you-know-what.

Then there was a postrace dispute inside the NASCAR hauler -- from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the crew chiefs for Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers and Ragan -- about the official order of finish.

Earnhardt lost his plea to get 14th instead of 15th, but he still moved up a spot in the standings to ninth and put some distance between himself and 11th-place Clint Bowyer.

"Points are points," said Earnhardt, who is 36 points clear of Bowyer. "They're real important."

Heck, yeah, they are.

So are wins, and Ambrose put himself in position for a wild-card spot with his. He improved from 23rd to 22nd in the standings, only one point out of the top 20 necessary to be eligible for a Chase wild card.

He still likely will need a second win to qualify, especially with Keselowski in 14th with two wins, and Denny Hamlin and Paul Menard at 12th and 15th with one win apiece.

But Ambrose wasn't worried about the standings or the Chase on this day. This was about vindication for all the close calls he's had on road courses, for losing last year's race at Infineon Raceway because he turned the motor off and stalled on a hill under caution trying to conserve fuel at the end, for finishing third, second and third in his past three trips to The Glen.

This was about proving wrong those who criticized his move from JTG Daugherty Racing after last season to a Richard Petty Motorsports team that at the time was on the verge of shutting its doors if it hadn't found a partnership at the 11th hour.

This was about proving the Aussie really does deserve to be in NASCAR's top series.

"There were times I was sitting at a boardroom table and I was the only one that was there," Ambrose said as he recalled the upheaval at RPM near the end of last year.

"Just a dream day. The sacrifices we all made to get here ... the Petty family, my family to get here, to be a contender in the Cup series. To finally get to Victory Lane is a dream come true."

Ambrose doesn't often show a lot of emotion. He denied time and time again after last year's debacle at Infineon Raceway that it wasn't that big of a deal.

But it was obvious on this day it was.

"I come from halfway around the world, dragging my kids and wife with me," Ambrose said. "I kept telling them I was good. Until you win in the Cup series you can't put that stamp on it."

Put the stamp on Ambrose. He's for real, particularly when it comes to road courses. There's not a better driver in NASCAR at making left and right turns. Carl Edwards, tied with Busch for the points lead, said Ambrose is good enough to win a Formula One championship.

"I've got no idea," Ambrose said when asked how good he is. "But it feels pretty good to be in Victory Lane."

The first victory easily could turn into another. Ambrose is that talented.

And as he noted, getting the proverbial monkey off your back, "sometimes, it clears judgment."

The only thing that could have made this one better was if team owner Richard Petty, back home in North Carolina with his ailing wife, Linda, and his children had been here to celebrate with him.

"I flew the kids home yesterday," Ambrose said. "It was the little one's first day at school. I was desperate to be there for her, and this kind of makes up for it."

The win makes up for a lot that has happened to the driver who in 2006 left the comforts of the V8 Supercar series in Australia to pursue his dream of being in NASCAR.

"The fans out there who have supported Richard Petty and this whole team through the turmoil last year, I can't thank them enough," Ambrose said as he talked about RPM shrinking from four cars to two. "We're gonna go onward and upward from here. It's a proud day.

"No one realizes how much everybody puts in to try to get to Victory Lane, and when it actually happens it's almost a surreal moment."

Robbie Loomis, the executive vice president of RPM, realizes. He spent tireless hours working to find financial partners and sign Marcos Ambrose to replace Kasey Kahne in the No. 9.

There were times when Ambrose had to question whether it was the right move, but Monday's win ended all that.

"This time last year I didn't know what I was going to be doing," Ambrose said. "I didn't know if I was going to be on a Cup team."

If NASCAR ran all of its races on road courses, Ambrose might be the defending champion instead of Jimmie Johnson.

"You know he's the man to beat before they ever unload the cars [here]," Keselowski said . "He's damn good. If you're going to lose here, that's the guy to lose to.

"He's a cut above right now. I expect him to stay that way with his experience level for quite some time."

That Ambrose had to wait a few years longer than he should have made this one all the more sweeter.

That rain forced everyone at The Glen to wait an extra day to see all the excitement and drama which came with Ambrose's win made NASCAR's argument not to use rain tires make a little more sense.

"I don't know about you guys, but I don't think racing gets any better than that on a road course," Keselowski said. "Two passes for the lead [on the green-white-checkered finish]. ... It was pretty awesome to watch and cool to be a part of."

Yes, it was worth the wait.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DNewtonespn.