Hello from Watkins Glen International where myself and Larry Ott are on hand for the annual NASCAR weekend here.
11 a.m. While Larry was here Friday (check out a cool story on Colden's Glenn Waldron of Greg Biffle's No. 16 Ford team), I arrive for Sprint Cup qualifying on what is a fabulous day in the Finger Lakes.
Marcos Ambrose was fastest in Nationwide qualifying and will start from the pole in the race this afternoon at 2. He set a Nationwide track record with his lap of 122.410 mph. Not a shocker at all -- the road racer-turned-NASCAR regular has won the last two Nationwide races here.
11:29 a.m. Cup qualifying is under way; Jacques Villenueve just visited in the media center (answering some questions in French); Ott interviewed Roxanne Kraemer, a Western New York native who is a series coordinator/technical inspector for the Nationwide Series.
12:19 p.m. Carl Edwards and his crew are thrilled with a very fast lap that puts him atop the speed chart.
1:01 p.m. As the go-or-go-homers (the drivers who have to race their way into the race -- there are 10 drivers for seven spots) start their qualifying runs, Edwards is still on top and in position to be on the pole.
1:26 p.m. Qualifying has concluded and Edwards is indeed the pole winner. His lap was measured at 124.432 mph and clocked in 1 minute, 10.88 seconds
The drivers who failed to make the race are: J.J. Yeley, Dave Blaney and Tony Ave. Max Papis was the last driver to attempt to qualify for the race; he put his No. 13 Toyota in the 28th spot, leaving David Gilliland as the last man in and Yeley as the first man out.
1:40 p.m. After Ganassi Racing teammates Juan Pablo Montoya (starting third) and Jamie McMurray (second) met with the media, Edwards literally ran in and ran out after a brief but good Q&A -- he answered three or four questions before heading back to the track for the Nationwide race.
Edwards' pole is his first since 2008 at Bristol and it comes at a good time as he is 10th in points with five races remaining until the top 12 advance to the 10-race postseason.
Edwards' lap was quite a bit faster than McMurray's (123.814; 1:01.24).
The best line during Edwards' session was him relaying that his super-quick lap time prompted some people to wonder if he had driven straight through the Inner Loop at the end of the backstretch, a spot referred to as the "bus stop" because of its notched-in nature to the infield.
"I heard a couple people were questioning whether I made the bus stop or not," he said. "I thought that was pretty funny - with that lap time, I would have said the same thing."
Edwards was just off the record lap of Jeff Gordon in 2003 (124.580 mph; 1:10.798).
2:03 p.m. National Anthem just concluded for Nationwide race.
It might be interesting to monitor the drivers who race both events here this weekend due to a minor change in the schedule. In years past, things were a little stretched out with Cup qualifying Friday, the Nationwide race on Saturday before the Sunday Cup race. Actually, on first glance the guys who are doing double-duty are having strong weekends in both series. We'll see.
2:41 p.m. This Nationwide race here -- the Zippo 200 -- is always an entertaining event, and we saw a little of why when Kyle Busch raced past Jacques Villeneuve heading into the final turn, Turn 11. Might have had a little contact there.
2:50 p.m. We're yellow for the first time due to some debris. With 20 laps down, Joey Logano leads with Ambrose second. Edwards' Nationwide day is not going well right now -- a long stop in pit road due to some damage and apparently some communication and mechanical problems. As Marty Reid said on the ESPN coverage, "than that, he's fine." Nice.
2:57 p.m. Edwards went back out on the track, then came off -- and went to the garage. Yikes.
3:05 p.m. Speaking of "Yikes," we have a major smash-up coming out of the caution. Jason Leffler went off course wide out of Turn One then came whipping back across the accelerating line of cars, slamming right into Justin Allgaier's car and causing a chain reaction accident not unlike something you might see (hopefully not) on the highway.
In the back of the pack, Tony Raines' No. 34 gets propped up onto another car after getting whacked hard from behind by Billy Johnson in the No. 6 -- with Victor Gonzalez in the No. 05 going into the back of Johnson as if he wasn't even paying attention. It is a 10-car pileup in the Esses and we have a red flag after 23 laps.
3:29 p.m. We hear engines fired up on pit road just outside the media center, and indeed the red flag has changed to yellow. NASCAR just announced the red flag period lasted 25 minutes, 23 seconds.
3:37 p.m. We're back to racing and Kyle Busch has surged to the lead ahead of Ambrose; Edwards is back on the track but very, very slow.
3:40 p.m. Edwards is off the track again and his day is over. Ambrose is hounding Busch up front, a familiar sight here. While Ambrose has won the last two Nationwide races here, Busch has been second.
3:56 p.m. The Nationwide order has been restored -- Ambrose passes Busch as they came upon some lap traffic. Some nice moves by the Australian, as usual.
4:08 p.m. Ambrose came back after his second pit stop to battle with Kyle Busch behind leader Villeneueve; then Ambrose passed Villeneauve (who still had to pit) for the lead as a caution flag came out for apparently some oil on the track. It's 52 laps down, 30 to go.
4:23 p.m. With 26 to go, Ambrose keeps the lead after the restart after challenges from Busch and Brad Keselowski.
4:32 p.m. We have another caution after a piece of debris broke off of Paul Menard's car; Ambrose had a lead of four seconds while Busch just recently got loose and lost a few spots up front. Scoring monitor shows 65 laps down, 17 to go.
4:39 p.m. Back to green after a two-lap caution and Ambrose speeds out again to a big lead.
4:58 p.m. Marcos Ambrose wins his third straight Zippo 200 -- by a ton.
Time to get stories set for Sunday's paper.