Marcos Ambrose falls short of earning Chase berth at Watkins Glen, but still has a chance with 4 races left

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Marcos Ambrose went for the weekend sweep, but in the end, he got the brush-off from A.J. Allmendinger.

In perhaps both Ambrose’s best and last chance to make the Chase – and potentially competing in the last road course race of his NASCAR career – Ambrose came up short, finishing second to Allmendinger in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.

Ambrose won Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at WGI and was the overwhelming favorite to win Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.

But Allmendinger engaged in a tight but clean finish, particularly on the final two laps of the race following a final caution and resulting restart, got ahead of Ambrose and went on to his first Sprint Cup career win.

To his credit, Ambrose was quite cordial about being the first loser.

“First of all, congratulations to AJ,” Ambrose told ESPN. “He really deserved that win because I was giving it everything I had to rattle his cage. He withstood the pressure and congratulations to him.

“We had a great day on the Stanley Ford. We had a little mistake on pit lane, I half-stalled leaving the box and I think that was the difference today between winning and second place.”

No one had to tell Ambrose the significance of Sunday’s race. Had he won, as he had done twice previously in Cup races at the nearly 2.5-mile twisting road course, Ambrose would likely have punched his ticket to the expanded 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup, which begins five weeks from now.

Instead, Ambrose remains on the outside of the Chase looking in.

While he mathematically moved up to 16th in the Sprint Cup standings, there are four drivers behind him in the rankings that have at least one win this season, meaning they’d vault over Ambrose to make the Chase: Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Ambrose’s Richard Petty Motorsports teammate, Aric Almirola.

For Ambrose to have any chance to make the final 16 without earning a win, he’d have to climb to at least 12th position after Richmond to sneak into the Chase only on points.

Unfortunately, Ambrose is still 42 points behind the current 12th-place holder,Greg Biffle, with four races left. While it’s not an impossible task to reach 12th, it definitely won’t be easy – if Ambrose can do it at all.

That leaves Ambrose back to square one: His only other chance to make the Chase is to do so on an oval at one of the four remaining pre-Chase tracks: Michigan this coming Sunday, Bristol, Atlanta and the final Chase qualifier at Richmond next month.

“We put a lot of effort into this race, knew it was our best shot at the Chase and it was this close,” Ambrose said. “I’m pretty disappointed just because there’s so much to win, so much effort, but congratulations to AJ.”

ESPN reported that Ambrose’s crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, planned to question NASCAR about the final restart – believing it may have been improper – Ambrose downplayed the impact such a query might bring.

“It didn’t change the outcome of the race,” Ambrose said. “We raced each other to the line and he was the winner.”

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Final Rolex 24 results by class

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For the third time in four years, Wayne Taylor Racing is victorious in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Kamui Kobayashi drove the team’s No. 10 Cadillac for the race’s final three hours, and won by more than a minute over the No. 77 Mazda of Oliver Jarvis. Loic Duvall finished third in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac.

Joining Kobayashi in victory lane were co-drivers, Regner van der Zande, Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe.

Here’s a look at some of the winners in the other classes:

LMP2: 

The No. 81 Dragonspeed ORECA crossed the finish line first in the five-car LMP2 class, with Ben Hanley winning by two laps over the second-place Mathiasen Motorsports entry driven by Gabriel Abury. Nic Minassian finished third in the No. 18 Era Motorsport entry.

Dragonspeed’s winning team also included co-drivers Colin Braun, Harrison Newey and Henrik Hedman.

GTLM:

For the second consecutive year, BMW RLL took the GLTM class honors, as Jesse Krohn took the checkered flag in the team’s No. 24 BMW M8 GTE. Krohn was joined by co-drivers John Edwards, Augusto Farfus and Chaz Mostert.

Porsche Teammates Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy finished second and third, respectfully.

GTD:

The Andrea Caldarelli took the class honors in the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Paul Miller Racing, finishing ahead of Marco Mapelli and Mirko Bortolotti.

Caldarelli’s co-drivers included Bryan Sellers, Corey Lewis and Madison Snow.

Click here for full race results by class

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