Marcos Ambrose makes Aussie history

August, 16, 2011

Let's face it, the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen had just about everything.

We had a first-time winner, courtesy of a pass in a three-car battle during a green-white-checkered finish. Cars were flipping or on fire, as just about everybody with a stake in the wild-card chase had a rough day. There was even a rain postponement! OK, maybe that part wasn't nearly as good.

Or, as my friend, former researcher and one of the voices of ESPN's "SportsNation" Matt Ketaineck said, "That was the best last lap in NASCAR history."

That being said, there's little questioning how exciting the racing has been this season. And if you think the races are boring, there's a good chance you're never going to like stock car racing, or maybe just anything in general.

There are so many storylines off this race that simply can't be broken down statistically, whether it's if Cup cars should race on rain tires (trust me, you wouldn't want to see it) or if Boris Said should pay a home visit to Greg Biffle.

But what I can break down for you is Marcos Ambrose's winning effort for a much-overdue victory, among other tidbits coming out of my homeland of upstate New York.

From the land Down Under

After three Nationwide Series wins, a blunder last year at Sonoma and three top-3 finishes at Watkins Glen, Ambrose finally got himself in Victory Lane in the Cup series.

In doing so, he became the first Australian-born driver to win a Cup race, and just the fourth foreign-born driver to win in NASCAR's top series. See the ol' accompanying list.

But wait, there's more! The Tasmanian driver now has four wins across the three NASCAR national touring series -- in Cup, Nationwide and Trucks. That's the second most in NASCAR history among foreign-born drivers, which brings me to …

Trivia break! What foreign-born driver holds the record for most NASCAR national series wins?

Feels like the first time

After having no first-time winners in the Cup series last year, Ambrose became the fifth first-time winner this season.

That's the most first-time winners in a season since 2002, when Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and Johnny Benson each got their first Cup win.

Ambrose also is the fourth driver this year to get his first Cup win after waiting more than 100 races, joining Regan Smith, David Ragan and Paul Menard. This is the first season in Cup history with four such drivers.

Trivia break! Who is the only other driver to get his first career Cup win at Watkins Glen?

Viva variety!

I wrote about this briefly after Menard won at the Brickyard, but we now have 15 different winners this season, with some notables still in the dark.

The Cup record is 19, last done in 2001, but this is the second fastest we've reached 15. In 2003, we had 15 different winners in the first 21 races. This year, we needed a whopping 22.

With drivers such as Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer still looking for a win, expect this note to come up again.

Trivia break! In 2001, there were a record-tying 19 winners. Who won the season finale in New Hampshire to become the 19th winner?

Trivia break answers

1. Canada's Ron Fellows has six wins.
2. Steve Park got his first win at the Glen in 2000.
3. Robby Gordon was the 19th different winner.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.


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