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Kurt Busch, who won at Sonoma in June, crashed early and finished 38th. He wasn't alone: Denny Hamlin, who entered the day 11th in points, also crashed and finished 36th; five-time Watkins Glen winner Tony Stewart, who ran up front all race, was taken out on the final lap in the chicane and finished 27th; and Paul Menard, also in the hunt for a spot in the Chase, brought out the race-changing caution when he crashed on the 86th lap and finished 32nd.
The top 10 drivers in the standings and the two drivers with the most victories in 11th to 20th place earn spots for the 10-race Chase.
Keselowski never got the chance to challenge for the win on the final lap. The race ended with a caution as David Reutimann and David Ragan crashed violently entering the second turn, with Ragan slamming head-on into the guard rail and Reutimann's car bouncing hard off the barrier and sliding upside down across the track.
Ambrose was on a conservative pit strategy all day despite threatening weather -- the race was postponed by rain Sunday and more was in the forecast. He passed Truex for third on turn one, a 90-degree right-hander, of lap 73 and moved up to the bumper of Keselowski.
Ambrose then outbraked Keselowski going into the first turn on lap 76 and set his sights on Busch. He moved within three car lengths on lap 80 as the two encountered lapped traffic and closed to Busch's back bumper in the chicane with eight laps to go.
"Plenty of time to get him. Go get him," said Ambrose's crew chief, Todd Parrott.
Ambrose got the chance he wanted when Menard, running 14th, blew a tire and crashed on lap 86, bringing out the final caution.
That set up the frantic dash to the finish of what turned into a 92-lap race and spoiled the day for Kyle Busch, who led 49 laps. He was in the catbird seat for 18 straight circuits when Menard crashed.
"The last couple of laps I was getting away from him (Ambrose)," said Busch, who moved into a tie with Carl Edwards for the top spot in the standings. "The last thing I wanted to see was a caution -- knew it was going to come down to one corner and I messed up."
Hamlin brought out the third caution of the race on lap 67 when he zoomed at high speed straight through the first turn and slammed head-on into the tire barrier that borders the paved runout area.
Hamlin, who started at the rear of the field after a crash in qualifying and was all the way up to 11th, was not injured. But the stoppage jumbled the running order as Jeff Gordon gave up the lead to pit for the final time, giving Kyle Busch the lead again with Keselowski alongside him in the front row and Ambrose and Montoya in the third row.
"I had no brakes," Hamlin said. "I was trying to do everything I could. Just nothing you can do."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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