Road Racers Become Chase Relevant
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
In pre-constant-tinkering NASCAR, road racing aces like Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger would be fading into the real of insignificance at this time of the year.
This year? Thanks to the latest round of rule hammering, one of them could come out of this weekend with a Chase berth.
That’s because this weekend’s race is at the Watkins Glen International road circuit, a place where Marcos has won two Sprint Cup races and three Nationwide races, and Allmendinger has never finished worst than 13th in five Cup starts.
Both are in the top 30 in points so, a win would likely mean they are into the Chase.
Hence, no secret about the good thoughts they are thinking as the weekend begins.
Allmendinger is 25th in points and well within the top-30 requirement to make this year’s 16-driver Chase.
“When it comes to the Chase side of it,” he said, “it would be great to be in the Chase because it meant we won. That is the only way we are going to get in. When it comes to making the Chase to win a championship with our race team right now I am not sure that we are quite in that realm of saying if we make the Chase we can go win the championship. Anything can happen, but I think to come here and if we were to win to get into the Chase would just be great for all of our sponsors and this race team and to help keep building the race team and promoting it. That is the way I look at it.
Ambrose, who is 17th in points in his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford as activities at The Glen begin this weekend, said Friday that, yes, the Chase is an attainable goal.
“I don’t look to make the Chase to make the championship, but when it comes to this weekend I feel like after our test here a couple of weeks ago we had a really good test. I feel like if we do the right things we can be in contention to win the race. I don’t want to make it all or nothing. If we don’t win and we have a great top-five, top-three run, but we don’t win I don’t want that to be a disappointing weekend. But like I said, I think if we do the right things, kind of like at Sonoma we had a good shot to win that race we will have good speed in the race car I believe. We will see what happens.”
“I am the same as AJ (Allmendinger),” Ambrose said. “We both know we have a chance to win this race to lock into the Chase and that is a big thing for our team and would make our year. It is an important weekend no doubt. You have to try to downplay that as best as you can coming in. We are excited. We had a good test up here last week and felt like the car was a repeat of last year and we had a fast car last year too. We have our fingers crossed that it comes off the truck here pretty quick and we can get back down to business and work on starting in the front.”
A win would likely give the Petty team two drivers Chase berths as Aric Almirola already has a victory and is in the top 30 in points (22nd).
Perhaps. Just don’t suggest that to Ambrose, whose future in NASCAR is a subject of lively debate these days.
“I hate to be rude but I am not in the Chase yet,” Ambrose said. “I just haven’t thought about it. It is fairly straightforward. RPM would love to have both cars in the Chase and that is what we will try to do this weekend.”
Beats the heck out of being irrelevant in early August.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org