After this coming weekend’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to perhaps the final “wild card” race of the regular season at the Watkins Glen International road course.
The Cheez-It 355 at the Glen on Aug. 10 could be the last big opportunity for teams not currently locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup to steal a regular season win and make the 10-race playoff run.
In the most recent “wild card” earlier this month at Daytona, Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola won a rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 to become the 11th different driver on the Chase Grid.
Now, RPM is focusing on getting its road racing ace, Marcos Ambrose (pictured, from 2013), into the Chase. Both Almirola and Ambrose are among a group of Chase hopefuls that will be testing today and tomorrow at the Glen.
Other Cup drivers involved in the two-day session are Richard Childress Racing rookie Austin Dillon, JTG Daugherty Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger, and Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr.
Additionally, RCR Nationwide Series driver Ty Dillon is getting seat time in a Cup car after winning last Saturday in the NNS race at Indianapolis.
Among the four currently winless Cup drivers involved in the test, only Austin Dillon would make the Chase if it started now. He’s four points up on Kasey Kahne for the 16th and final spot on the Chase Grid.
But while Austin Dillon can possibly make it on points, it’s win or bust for Ambrose (22nd in Chase outlook, 48 points behind Dillon), Allmendinger (24th in Chase outlook, 93 behind Dillon), and Truex (25th in Chase outlook, 94 points behind Dillon).
One would assume the Glen would be right in Ambrose and Allmendinger’s wheelhouses. Ambrose has won two of the last three Sprint Cup races on the New York road course, while ‘Dinger earned two Nationwide Series road course wins last year and the Sprint Cup pole position this past June at Sonoma.
But Truex has performed well at the Glen in his Cup career, too (three Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in eight starts). He also won last year at Sonoma for Michael Waltrip Racing.