Looking for a “wild card” tonight at Bristol? Try Marcos Ambrose

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When Marcos Ambrose narrowly lost out to A.J. Allmendinger earlier this month at Watkins Glen, it appeared that he had also lost out on his best opportunity to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But the Australian, 44 points behind 16th on the Chase Grid, may be in line for a second chance tonight at Bristol Motor Speedway.

He’ll be starting 10th tonight in the Irwin Tools Night Race, and while Ambrose has never won on NASCAR’s most infamous half-mile, Bristol is still the road racing ace’s best oval track.

He’s claimed more Top-5 finishes there than at any other Cup track outside of the Glen, where he’s won twice in his Cup career.

In 11 Bristol starts, he’s picked up three Top-5s, the most recent of which came in March with a fifth-place finish. His six Top-10s there also equal the amount of Top-10s he’s gotten at both the Glen and Sonoma, the only two road courses on the Cup calendar.

“It’s a track and race that really proves how much mettle you have as a driver,” Ambrose said of Bristol going into this weekend. “That’s played into my hands. I can really muscle the car and race with it. I just enjoy this track, the challenge and am looking forward to Saturday night.

“I feel we have a good chance. This team gave me a good car in March, and we had good strategy. We know what we need to do. Our cars have been good here. We have had decent finishes, a few Top-Five results and now just looking to get that win. If you are in it in the final 100 laps, you have a chance to win.”

Additionally, he and Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Aric Almirola – who clinched his spot in the Chase by winning a rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 in July at Daytona – have both shown strength on short tracks overall this year.

Almirola finished third in the spring at Bristol, and then later this past March at Martinsville, Ambrose earned another fifth while Almirola came home eighth.

It may take a little luck over the course of 500 laps, but Ambrose can certainly provide one more Chase surprise with three races left in the regular season. Keep an eye on him this evening.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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