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.”