The words "last chance qualifier" are ones mainly used at dirt tracks across the country during big races. It comes after the heats are run, and the drivers that didn't make it during those runs get one final opportunity to make the big show. Miss that race, and the night of action for many drivers comes to an end.
Some have many opportunities to make it into the Chase because they are strong everywhere, others look at the schedule and know where their strengths are, plus where they need to improve. And then there's drivers where despite being good at many tracks, they know sometimes there's only one shot they have to make an impact. That kind of race is their own "last chance qualifier."
For Marcos Ambrose, that time has arrived.
The next race on the schedule is in Watkins Glen, New York, at the famed road course that has seen endurance races and some sports car events as well. NASCAR has been coming here for years, and it has played in the favor of many great drivers. Most recently, over the last three seasons, Ambrose has shown to be a dominant driver. Two of those races, he's put the No. 9 Stanley Ford in victory lane. Last year, he had the opportunity to become the third driver to win three consecutive races at the track, only to have a late wreck end that hope.
With this year's Chase focusing solely on winning, his best chance to get into the Chase is at this track. His record here speaks for itself.
At the same time, he and his team know that track time and effort need to help get them in the Chase. Ambrose is entered in the Nationwide race as well at the Glen this weekend, a race he has won on three different occasions. Any edge he needs to get ahead of his competitors, he's taking to try and get his Chase spot.
Already this year there were rumors of Ambrose's future in NASCAR. This season is the final year of his contract at Richard Petty Motorsports, as he's only signed one-year deals for the last few seasons. With teammate Aric Almirola signing a multi-year deal before 2014 started, his future is secure with the team. Ambrose, however, is a different story as no talk of him returning has been discussed or mentioned.
There's a possibility that Ambrose could be going back to sports car racing, just like Juan Pablo Montoya went back to Indy Car, but there is no certainty.
A win Sunday could change that, but only if it happens. The clock is ticking on Ambrose's chances to make the Chase, and the countdown could read all zeroes when the checkered flag waves at Watkins Glen on Sunday.