WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Eleven drivers have at least one Sprint Cup victory and are locked into the Chase for the championship. Marcos Ambrose wants to make it an even dozen.
Next stop, the Cheez-It 355 on Sunday on the road course at Watkins Glen. A win would earn the Australian his first berth in the Chase and give Richard Petty Motorsports a second car in NASCAR’s version of a postseason. Aric Almirola drove Petty’s famed No. 43 to victory in the rain-shortened July race at Daytona.
“This is our best chance. I’ve got to get in,” Ambrose said Friday. “It would make our year. We’re excited.”
Ambrose has established himself as the latest master of the speedy 2.45-mile road course in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. In the past three years he has won twice, outdueling Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch in the final laps in both 2011 and 2012.
A year ago, Ambrose won the pole, led 51 laps, and was the car to beat before pit strategy helped spoil his day as Busch prevailed for the second time at The Glen, besting Keselowski.
Ambrose is in his fourth season driving the No. 9 Ford for the Petty organization, and his current deal with RPM is up at the end of the season. He said Friday he hasn’t even given the future a thought, though there has been speculation he might return to Australia.
Danica Patrick crashes
Danica Patrick crashed in final Sprint Cup practice Friday at Watkins Glen but walked away, was treated at the infield care center, and released.
Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet careened straight into a tire barrier coming out of the chicane at the top of the high-speed esses, crumpling the left front end.
“In the Carousel (turn after the chicane) there is so much load on the left front there that I guess that was the go spot for it,” said Patrick, who will have a second engine change before Cup qualifying today. “What a terrible day. It has been a record horrible day, I’m pretty sure.”
Patrick was 32nd in the first practice and 36th in the final session.