NASCAR: Stakes high for road course master Ambrose
No NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has been more dominant than Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen since the Australian road course maven debuted there in 2008.
He has won two of the last three races at the seven-turn track nestled in Central New York's Finger Lakes region and has only missed the top three once -- after a tire went down last year.
"Obviously I'm very comfortable at a road course, and I just love Watkins Glen," Ambrose said. "I love the area, the track and going to Victory Lane there."
Ambrose enters the race as one of the prohibitive favorites, but more is at stake than a win for the driver who has never claimed victory at a Sprint Cup event outside The Glen. Under the current championship format, he can all but assure himself of a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time with a victory.
"The pressure, it's really not any heavier, it's just part of the business," Ambrose said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive." "You go to certain tracks where you know you have a chance more than others and it's just one of those weekends where you just want to make the most of it."
Some may point to Ambrose's 31st-place finish at Watkins Glen last year to dampen his victory hopes, but the finish doesn't tell the whole story. Ambrose led 51 of the first 61 laps, until an inopportune caution forced him back to 12th on a restart. He wrecked with five laps remaining.
The former V8 Supercar champion's success at The Glen extends past the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Ambrose captured the checkered flag in three consecutive Nationwide races from 2008-10. In fact, he will participate in Saturday's Zippo 200 at the Glen to prepare for Sunday's start.
"I am really thankful to STANLEY for allowing me the opportunity to race in the Nationwide Series and giving me another opportunity to win there," Ambrose said. "We have had a good record in this race and at this track. I'd love to win again. It will also give me and my pit crew more time on the track as we hope to sweep the weekend."
Nationwide Series hits the road
Right or left?
NASCAR Nationwide drivers get to make both turns this Saturday in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International (2:15 p.m. on ABC) in their second road course race of the year, and the first in a back-to-back stretch that also includes Mid-Ohio next Saturday (2:45 p.m. on ESPN).
Watkins Glen's layout makes it an especially unique track. The course combines high-speed straightaways with quick turns.
"Watkins Glen has so many fast corners," said Brendan Gaughan, the winner of this season's first Nationwide road course event at Road America. "The bus stop, basically a corner built into chaos. You have to let the car roll as hard as humanly possible. It is a place on that course where you can't gain that much position, but you can lose a ton. Many other road courses are much more speedway fast, motor-wise, while the Glen is faster with corner speeds."
Gaughan and the other Nationwide regulars will face stiff competition at the Glen from Sprint Cup contenders, including three-time Watkins Glen winner, Marcos Ambrose, last year's victor Brad Keselowski and the all-time winningest driver in the series, Kyle Busch. If Ambrose takes the checkered flag on Saturday, he will match Terry Labonte's record of four Nationwide victories at the course.
"As a driver, it's fun to get away from the oval tracks every once in a while and really challenge your true driving skills," said Elliot Sadler, who currently ranks third in the Nationwide Series point standings. "Road course racing can definitely be physically and mentally exhausting, but if you have a fast car, it can quickly bring back the memories of flying around a track in a go-kart."
NASCAR Wire Service