Ambrose Suddenly In Wild Card Picture
BROOKLYN, Mich. – You could say Marcos Ambrose did himself – and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fans – a big favor by winning at Watkins Glen Int’l for the second consecutive season.
Ambrose’s Aug. 11 victory gives him a shot at his first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup appearance.
He also became the sixth different winner among drivers ranked 11th through 20th in the points standings, adding yet another dimension to the pursuit of two “Wild Card” berths in this year’s Chase.
The Australian still has work remaining. His second career victory pushed him to 17th in points and fifth among “Wild Card” eligible winners. Ambrose likely needs at least one more victory but should be among favorites this week at Michigan International Speedway.
Ambrose won the Coors Light Pole for the repaved track’s June race at 203.241 mph and finished ninth.
Kasey Kahne, twice a winner this year and 11th in points, remains the holder of the first Chase “Wild Card.” Ryan Newman (13th) provisionally holds the second and final spot, which was previously held by Pocono winner Jeff Gordon (15th). Kyle Busch (14th) was poised to match Kahne’s victory total until spinning from the lead on The Glen’s final lap. Ambrose and Joey Logano (18th) are the remaining eligible winners.
Here’s how the “Wild Card” derby shapes up in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400:
- Kahne has won once at Michigan (2006) but finished 33rd in June
- Newman counts two victories at MIS (2003-04) and finished 15th in the track’s first race
- Busch is the defending winner of the Pure Michigan 400 but was 32nd in June
- Gordon, a two-time Michigan winner, finished sixth in June
- Ambrose’s top-10 finish in June was his first at Michigan
- Logano’s best Michigan finish is seventh. He was 35th in the year’s first trip to MIS
The “Wild Card” picture may be clarified this week but nothing will be decided. No “at-large” driver can clinch a Chase berth. And it’s possible another driver will toss his helmet into the “Wild Card” ring.
Carl Edwards, in 12th, remains a viable candidate – especially at MIS. He was a “quiet” 11th in June but has a pair of wins, most recently the ’08 Pure Michigan 400. With nine top fives and 12 top 10s, Edwards has an average Michigan finish of 8.4.
He also is solid in many Loop Data categories: series-high 723 Quality Passes, second-most laps in the top 15 (2,391, 81.4%), third-most Fastest Laps Run (178) and fourth-best Driver Rating (104.7).
An Edwards victory would give Roush Fenway Racing 12 wins at Michigan, breaking a tie with the Wood Brothers for most all-time at the two-mile track.