Two-time defending Watkins Glen winner Marcos Ambrose snatched the pole for tomorrow’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen, coming out of the final group of qualifiers to take the honor with a track-record lap of 68.777 seconds in the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.
The next-to-last qualifying group, Group 7, appeared to have made the biggest impact on Saturday morning as Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger and Kyle Busch took the top three overall spots with their laps before Ambrose got his opportunity. But the Launceston, Tasmania native was able to vault over them all and claim his third career Sprint Cup pole.
“I got really loose up through the esses there and came very close to the outside wall coming out of Turn 3, Turn 4, and that got me out of the groove,” Ambrose said to ESPN after his run. “But my guys did a great job – I lost my cool yesterday in practice, because I felt I was behind and we made some great changes coming into today’s qualifying.
“I gotta thank [crew chief] Drew Blickensderfer and all the team at Stanley and Richard Petty Motorsports. They did a great job giving me just the car I needed, and I’m very proud of our day.”
As for Bowyer, who has evolved into a stout road racer himself, he was forced to settle for the outside front row with his lap of 68.929 seconds in the No. 15 “Duck Dynasty”-backed Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
“These road courses have become something that I look forward to,” he told ESPN. “I never would’ve thought I would ever say that. But we’re certainly having fun. We’ve got a good group.
“[Crew chief] Brian Pattie built a really good race car, he’s had a lot of success here and won a lot of races here. I told him, ‘I was gonna be heavy, you’re gonna have to carry me this weekend,’ and he’s been doing a pretty good job of carrying me so far.”
Martin Truex Jr., who is looking to sweep the road courses in 2013 after winning earlier this year at Sonoma, will roll off from the inside of Row 2 tomorrow alongside Allmendinger, who fell to fourth on the grid. Row 3 features Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray, followed by Paul Menard and Brad Keselowski in Row 4, and Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth in Row 5.