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Now or never for Stewart and Ambrose at Watkins Glen?

By admin | August 5, 2014

 By Richard Allen

Marcos Ambrose and Tony Stewart currently sit 17th and 19th respectively in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. And believe it or not, both go into this weekend with a legitimate shot at making the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff despite the fact that the two drivers have a combined total of ten top-10 finishes 21 races deep into the season.

So why with five races remaining before the cutoff in Richmond is this their last best chance for making NASCAR’s version of a playoff?

Quite simply, these drivers have not really shown the ability to run up front on any of NASCAR’s more conventional tracks so a road course or a restrictor plate track are all that remain to give them hope. Since the three plate races held on the part of the schedule leading up to the 26th race cutoff for the Chase are already in the books, this weekend’s affair on the Watkins Glen International road course is the last of the non conventional races before the cut is made.

And both Ambrose and Stewart have to be regarded as some sort of favorites coming into Sunday.

 Marcos Ambrose

Ambrose is a road course specialist who happens to have a full time ride with Richard Petty Motorsports. The former Australian V-8 Super Cars star has won twice on the right and left hand turns at Watkins Glen. He has compiled five top-5 finishes in only six starts on the track located in upstate New York.

But simply finishing in the top-5 won’t be good enough for Ambrose.

Under the new Sprint Cup system, 16 drivers will make the first cut for the Chase. Having a win trumps a position in the standings with no win. Currently, there are eleven drivers who have a win and qualify for the Chase. A total of eight drivers without a win outrank the Aussie in the standings so he is not likely to get in on points.

Ambrose needs a win in the Glen on Sunday if he is to make the 2014 Chase.

Tony Stewart

Similarly, Stewart also likely has to have a win on Sunday to make the playoff. And a win is entirely possible on the road course for this driver who cut his racing teeth in sprint cars on Midwestern dirt tracks.

Stewart has garnered a total of five victories at WGI in 14 career starts, the last coming in 2009. The driver/owner has also scored seven top-5s here. But like Ambrose, simply posting a top-5 won’t be enough. He is even further behind than his foreign counterpart in terms of his relationship to other drivers without a win.

Both drivers have clearly shown the ability to do what is necessary this weekend. However, there is always the liklihood that a NASCAR race on a road course will come down to fuel strategy. So just being faster than everyone else might not be good enough. It could very likely come down to who can save the most gas during the day.

For better or worse, NASCAR has created a system which allows one good race to negate and entire season of poor results. both of these drivers have a legitimate shot at cancel 21 bad races out with one good run at WGI.

When the leaders of the sport instituted this system, they wanted teams and drivers to take risks. Marcos Ambrose and Tony Stewart have to do that this Sunday or they will likely be on the championship sidelines during the final ten races of the season.

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4 Responses to “Now or never for Stewart and Ambrose at Watkins Glen?”

  1. Sue Rarick Says:
    August 5th, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    On the plus side does anyone really care?

    It all boils down to one race in Homestead and if my driver isn’t one of the 4, I will find something else to do that day.

    Been a Race fan since the 1950’s but recently I feel less connected to Nascar with each new year.

  2. Bill B Says:
    August 6th, 2014 at 6:54 am

    Nice to see you back Rich. It’s been a while.

    It’s hard to believe that Stewart is behind Ambrose in the points.

    You also have zeroed in on the biggest problem with the new chase format… there is no way anyone should be able to wipeout subpar performance with one good performance. Oh well, it is what it is. I can choose to watch or not.

  3. Russ Says:
    August 6th, 2014 at 7:32 am

    I wonder. Think it is absolutely Ambrose’s last chance this year. But Stewart still has the Hendricks connection which gives him some shot at any of the oval tracks remaining.
    But it is kind of a so what thing isn’t it?

  4. Pokey Says:
    August 6th, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I don’t think Tony is recovered from his leg injury yet. The combination of injury and Tony’s age mean he may have a lot of trouble just getting to 50 wins. That said, I hope he does manage to pull this one out.
    Ambrose is Ambrose. He should be able to win this race hands down with his V-8 racing experience. The Glen is the closest track to producing the racing he is best at. But, Ambrose has proven that he is way to aggressive on any track and the big dogs don’t put up with too much of that. I hope he goes back to V-8 racing before long.