Third win at the Glen not to be for Marcos Ambrose

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For Marcos Ambrose, Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen could be classified as “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.” Unfortunately for the Australian road-racing ace, the Good, Bad and Ugly parts happened in precisely that order.

Let’s start with the Good: Ambrose started on the pole in his quest for a third consecutive victory at the Glen, and as expected, was the dominant driver for the first two-thirds of the race.

But things went Bad on Lap 60, when the caution came out after his teammate Aric Almirola blew a tire on his car and then went off into the tire barriers at Turn 5. That was a rough twist of fate for Ambrose, who had yet to make a green-flag stop before the incident with Almirola.

Forced to pit under yellow, he was shuffled all the way back to 14th for the subsequent restart while eventual race winner Kyle Busch – who had pitted prior to Almirola’s crash – rose to the lead.

Stuck in traffic, Ambrose had only made minimal progress when things got Ugly on a restart with six laps left in the 90-lap event.

Going up through the esses, Ambrose appeared to slide out of the groove and up into the path of Max Papis, who then made contact with Ambrose that sent him slamming into the retaining wall.

His day now completely ruined, Ambrose removed and threw the steering wheel against the side of his No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford before sliding out of the car. He then ripped off his helmet and HANS device and chucked those in as well before being safety workers brought him away from the scene.

Ambrose believed something had broken on his car, and he felt that made him susceptible to getting caught in an accident after the green came out.

“I just couldn’t get going on the restart,” he said. “I thought something was wrong. I was talking to the guys on the radio and we decided to stay out there just to see if it was gonna be driveable, but it wasn’t.

“I was in the way heading up the hill and got dumped by somebody. I’m not sure who it was and I just ended up in the fence.”

After leading a race-high 51 laps, Ambrose was forced to swallow a 31st-place finish while Busch managed to turn back a last-lap assault from Brad Keselowski to win.

Still, Ambrose praised his team for a “strong showing.”

“It wasn’t our day, but we’ve had plenty of good days here,” he said. “We just need to reflect on this and we’ll wake up tomorrow and just press on and go to the next one.”

Penske: No room for Patrick in Indy 500 lineup. Ganassi? OK

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Roger Penske has no room in his Indianapolis 500 lineup for Danica Patrick.

“The Captain” has a hunch where Patrick’s Indy comeback will take her in May – with Chip Ganassi.

“I sent him a note and said, `Congratulations. Danica better be driving your car at Indy because unfortunately she’s not driving for us,”‘ Penske said, laughing.

The 35-year-old Patrick said this week she will race only in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 next year and then she will walk away from racing. Patrick is the only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick ran the Indy 500 from 2005 through 2011. Her highest finish was third in 2009, and she was the first woman to lead laps in the race when she paced the field for 19 trips around the Brickyard as a rookie.

Penske has a full field for Indy with Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and 2017 series champion Josef Newgarden racing as fulltime entries and three-time winner Helio Castroneves returns on a one-shot deal to try and win a fourth.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the likely ride at Indy. Ganassi has room to field additional cars – he’s scaling down from four full-time cars to two next year – and would give Patrick a car capable of winning. Ganassi said Friday he has met with Patrick and called her “Danica Double” a great idea.

Penske said Patrick and Ganassi, who has Ed Jones and IndyCar great Scott Dixon in his lineup, would be a perfect pair.

“I think that’s a great seat for her,” Penske said Saturday. “That’s a great team. They’re the ones that’s always been competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to continue to go back to open wheel. That’s going to be terrific for the sport and there’s going to be a lot of interest around the country.”

Patrick was highly marketable early in her career even though wins were rare. She won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 2013, but finished 24th in the standings the last two seasons. She won her only IndyCar race in 2008, in Japan. Patrick never scored a top-five finish in NASCAR and had only seven top 10s (though she led laps at the Daytona 500) in 189 career starts.

Penske, a 16-time winner as a car owner of the Indy 500, said Patrick would return to IndyCar a better driver.

“I think she’s going to come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR,” he said. “I think she’s going to be someone that, in a good car, is going to pick it up. She’s got plenty of time to practice.”

Team Penske won the owner championship Saturday in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series. Sam Hornish Jr., who won three IndyCar titles and the 2006 Indy 500, said the sport would welcome back Patrick.

“She’s probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she’s done the last five years,” Hornish said.

Patrick has not revealed the team she’ll race for but surely a package deal with the same team and same sponsor for the biggest races in motorsports would make her again racing’s most marketable driver.

“I think it’s a great way for her to say, hey, I’m here, I’ve done it, I’m going to go back to the two biggest races and see if I can’t get out on top,” Penske said.

Penske can win a NASCAR championship with Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup race.

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