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Ambrose Loses on Strategy, May Need Watkins Glen Win to Enter Chase

Ambrose found himself out front for a bit, but strategy ultimately took him out of contention at Sonoma.
Ambrose found himself out front for a bit, but strategy ultimately took him out of contention at Sonoma.
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

When NASCAR comes to a track that requires both turning left and turning right, without hesitation one of the first drivers that is considered for victory is Marcos Ambrose. He has two wins at Watkins Glen, but at the Sonoma Raceway victory has slipped away on numerous occasions, most famously when his car stalled going uphill while saving fuel.

In a way many people feel this track owes him a victory, and he was ready to capture that win on Sunday.

Late in the running, Ambrose was in the lead, but pit strategy suddenly went the wrong direction for the No. 9 group. Drivers like Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, and others used a three-stop strategy to make up the 110-lap race, while Ambrose and his group were on a two-stop run. The multitude of cautions ultimately that fell late led to his doom.

Tire wear began showing it's effects as Ambrose could not put his Stanley Ford into the corner as hard as he normally would be able to, and the competition took advantage. The fresher tires ended up being the best call, and Ambrose would fall to finish eighth.

So now what could it take to get Ambrose into the Chase?

In theory, as good as the Richard Petty Motorsports group has been on the 1.5-mile tracks or bigger, realistically the best opportunity for Ambrose to get back to victory lane will be at Watkins Glen. A year ago, he was the dominant car on the 7-turn course, only to get mired in traffic and end up being caught up in an accident heading up the hill in the S-turns. It was a big heartbreak because he was trying to become just the third driver to win three in a row at the track, matching both Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon.

It statistically is his best track, and realistically could be his lone chance to get in the Chase.

Unfortunately, it will be August when NASCAR visits the Glen, so until then RPM will be working on their oval program to possibly get Ambrose into the Chase before the series turns right again. That first test comes Saturday night at the Kentucky Speedway.