Will this be Marcos Ambrose’s last stand for 2011?
Ambrose, arguably one of the most talented road-course racers, has been a Watkins Glen International fan favorite ever since he arrived at this track. With some of the most impressive stats of any current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Ambrose leads the charge with 3 straight wins in the Nationwide Series (although he won’t race this year), and has finishes of third, second and third in the most recent Cup races at the track.
There is no question he will be another favorite to win this year, as the Sprint Cup Series visits Watkins Glen once more. The farther he gets into his Cup career, the more questions he faces about logging that first road-course win.
“I’ve been no worse than third here my three times,” Ambrose said Friday. “Naturally, you want to win and win badly. But I don’t think there’s any added pressure. I actually feel more relaxed here. I know what I need from the car and what I need to be a contender.
“I know that we have a chance to win. I feel good about standing up and driving my team forward on weekends like this.”
As we approach Richmond International Raceway in the next couple of weeks, there will be more and more discussion on who will make the Chase and who will finish just outside the Chase, something Ambrose hopes he can avoid at all costs.
Currently sitting 23rd in points (just outside the Chase window), a victory at the Glen would push his name back into the possibility range.
“We just have got to be smart and tune the car as good as we can and hopefully be close off the truck,” Ambrose said.
NASCAR is fortunate enough to have two different road courses, with two different personalities. When Ambrose was asked about the differences between Sonoma and Watkins Glen, Ambrose replied, “Sonoma is like a bullring. You’re in everybody’s face all day and you have to knock them around to try to pass. You’re bouncing off curbs. There’s not a lot of banking in the corners. It’s all about forward drive and trying to pass without damaging the car too much.
“Here, it’s more about finesse. It’s about managing tires. It’s about carrying momentum around the whole track. You need to carry a lot of momentum through the corners.
“You really have to manage your stuff for the first half of the race to give yourself a chance at the end. Everyone picks up a gear at the end of the race because you have to. This is NASCAR. It’s serious business. You have to be super aggressive. The end of the races is the most frantic part of the day.”
What caught me off guard more than anything was the fact that Ambrose made the comment that the days of the road-course ringers are over.
“The regulars know how to do this,” he said. “They know how to get you out of the way if they get the chance.”
As stated before, Ambrose is undoubtedly the “favorite” to win, but he also has more to lose than any other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.