Watkins Glen, NY (Sports Network) - NASCAR is on the road course again this
weekend, with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series competing at Watkins Glen
Sprint Cup Series
Cheez-It 355 at the Glen - Watkins Glen International - Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Marcos Ambrose has figured out Watkins Glen International quite well over the
Ambrose, who excels at road course racing, has won the Sprint Cup Series race
at Watkins Glen the past two years. If Ambrose takes the checkered flag in
Sunday's event here, he will join Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon as those drivers
who have scored three wins in a row at this 2.45-mile course. Martin started
on the pole and won at Watkins Glen each year from 1993-95. Gordon's three
consecutive victories here came from 1997-99.
"We feel like we are contenders each time we go to Watkins Glen, and this
weekend is no different," said Ambrose, who is in his third full season as
driver of the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. "I just know what I
want in the car, and we have been fortunate enough to get that feel in our
(cars) the past two races. That allows me to race up front, and I have a lot
of confidence. Watkins Glen is a really fast track, and I really enjoy it. I
know what I need to do to be there at the end."
Denny Hamlin is the last driver who recorded three victories in a row at the
same racetrack. Hamlin won the fall race at Martinsville in 2009 and then
scored a season-sweep there the following year.
Ambrose has run so well at Watkins Glen that he has finished no worse than
third in his first five Sprint Cup races here. The Australian also won three
straight Nationwide events at this course from 2008-10.
One year ago, Ambrose prevailed at Watkins Glen after a frantic last-lap
battle with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. Ambrose was running in third
during the final lap. Busch led the way, but as his car was leaking oil, he
slid off the track before Keselowski made contact with him. Busch spun around,
allowing Keselowski to take the lead.
Ambrose then caught up with Keselowski, as the two were running side-by-side
for the lead. Ambrose bumped into the rear of Keselowski and took the top spot
away from him in turn nine. After the race had ended, many drivers reported
that oil leaks were present throughout the track, causing them to slide and
even spin out.
"Last year was a really great finish," Ambrose recalled. "It was stressful,
but a lot of fun to battle against Kyle and Brad the last few laps for the
win. We were dealing with the elements of the track having oil on it, and we
were all sliding all around. It led to an exciting finish, and I'm happy that
we came out on top."
Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, has finished second to Ambrose
in the last two races at Watkins Glen.
"The biggest thing I remember about last year's race (at Watkins Glen) was
that it was really hard racing on a great racetrack," Keselowski said. "Those
last couple of laps were a huge roller coaster for me. We went from thinking
that we were going to finish second -- a solid run for us -- to having a shot
at the win over the course of those last couple of laps to, ultimately,
"But what was so cool about that race is that Marcos and I were able to beat,
bang and lean on each other without getting out of the car and wanting to
fight or yell. We gave the fans a good show. We raced hard for our teams.
That's what was most important."
Ambrose's win at Watkins Glen last year put him in contention to make the
Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He had moved up to fifth in the wild
card standings. Ambrose did not qualify for the Chase, as he finished the 2012
season 18th in points.
Right now, Ambrose sits 22nd in points. He is seven points behind 20th-place
Jeff Burton. Ambrose has just three top-10 finishes this season. His best
finish is seventh, which came in the first road-course race this season on
June 23rd in Sonoma, Calif.
"We've had a tough season this year, but this race can very quickly turn it
around and put us in contention for a wild card berth in the Chase," he said.
"That's what our goal is right now. We haven't given up, and this entire crew
keeps fighting hard."
Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Cheez-It 355 at
Zippo 200 at the Glen - Watkins Glen International - Watkins Glen, N.Y.
The Nationwide Series will join the Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Watkins
This will be the second road-course race for Nationwide in 2013. When the
series ran on a road course for the first time this season on June 22 at Road
America In Elkhart, Wis., Regan Smith entered that event with a comfortable
58-point lead. Smith had won the week prior at Michigan.
Since Michigan, Smith has finished no better than eighth. He finished 32nd at
Road America after being spun around onto the gravel during the final lap.
Smith comes to Watkins Glen, which is located roughly 75 miles south of his
hometown of Cato, N.Y., second in the point standings. Sam Hornish Jr. and he
are both 14 points behind leader Austin Dillon.
"Our team ran really well at Road America, but we just didn't have the finish
we wanted," Smith said. "I know we can take what we learned there and use it
at Watkins Glen. It will be another wild race for the Nationwide Series.
Everyone saw how crazy things got at Road America. I don't think you will see
the same type of aggressive driving, because the Glen is much faster, but you
can bet some tempers will flare."
Smith has two Nationwide starts at Watkins Glen, finishing 19th in 2005 and
23rd in '06. He has competed in four Sprint Cup races here, placing ninth in
last year's event.
Dillon has finished no worse than 12th in the last seven races, including a
10th-place run at Road America. He claimed the points lead two races ago at
Indianapolis. Nationwide will run its third and final road-course event of the
season next week at Mid-Ohio.
"I think if we can leave these next two road-course races on the schedule with
top-10 finishes, we will be in good shape for the rest of the season," Dillon
said. "Our team has made a lot of progress in our road-course program, and we
have built a new road-course car to bring to Watkins Glen International, which
I am excited about."
Dillon finished 23rd in last year's Nationwide race at Watkins Glen.
Forty-one teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Zippo 200 at the
Glen. Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are those
Sprint Cup regulars competing in this race. Keselowski won last week's event
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