Marcos Ambrose is 49 points behind 16th-place Greg Biffle in the Chase standings and recognizes that even if he doesn’t win Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International, a strong finish could mean closing the gap with four regular season races to go.
But the Richard Petty Motorsports driver, who has won two of the last three Sprint Cup races at the Glen, acknowledges that he and his No. 9 team are going for the checkered flag.
“We’ve gotta be careful because we’re 17th in [overall] points and if we can get away with a Top-5 and get closer – I think you’ve gotta be about 13th in points to feel like you’ve got a shot to make the Chase – then we can say, ‘It’s been a solid day.’ But really, we’ve come here to try and win,” Ambrose said this morning before the first Cup practice session got underway at WGI.
“At the same time, winning is very, very difficult in this series so you have to be proud of putting [good] effort in. So, for me, if I have a good day, drive the very best I can, and get out of here with a Top-5, I’ll take it as a decent day. But we’ve really come here to win.”
As one of the top road racers in the series, Ambrose is receiving extra attention this weekend as he seeks to win and join teammate Aric Almirola in NASCAR’s post-season.
But in regards to dealing with additional pressure, Ambrose said all he can worry about is driving the car.
“You know that it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “You know that there’s gonna be 10-12 guys out there that have got a serious shot to win the race. You just know going in that it’s not gonna be a cakewalk. It’s just gonna have to be a big grind to get the victory.”
In addition to testing at the Glen last month, Ambrose will be getting extra track time this weekend by competing in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
However, considering Ambrose’s successful Cup record at the Glen, one could argue his appearance in Saturday’s Zippo 200 is more about gathering confidence going into what will be a critical Cup race for him on Sunday.
As Ambrose himself noted, he can’t carry over a lot from the Nationwide car to his Cup car anyway.
“[The Nationwide car has] got a different set of rules – they carry the same tire, so tire pressure maybe,” he said. “[But] even the brakes are different on a Nationwide car because you’re just not going as fast and don’t need to slow it down as much.
“There’s very little you can cross over. It’s just fun to have a second race here; I’ve won three Nationwide races in a row [at Watkins Glen] and I’m gonna try to make it four.”