Tuesday, Nov 28
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Let's start with two assumptions.

First, anyone with two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories this season is going to make the Chase.

Yes, I know there are theoretical scenarios that could knock Kasey Kahne, Sunday's winner at Pocono, out of the top 12. But those prospects are so remote that they won't stop Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis from taking risks in the next five races to try to accumulate victories before the Chase starts September 15 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The other two-win drivers, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, are even more firmly ensconced in their provisional Chase positions.

Second, no driver without a win is a lock to make the Chase, not even Clint Bowyer, who's currently second in the standings. A victory is the NASCAR Sprint Cup equivalent to a golden parachute. If you don't have one, and you go into free-fall with a couple of DNFs, there's nothing to prevent you from landing in non-Chase territory with a resounding splat.

For argument's sake, we're going to say that any driver in the top 15 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with fewer than two victories is one the Chase bubble. Here's how I handicap their respective chances of qualifying for NASCAR's 10-race playoff:

Clint Bowyer. Points position: second. Points behind leader: 77. Points ahead of 11th place: 101. Victories: 0. Best chance for a win before the Chase: Richmond. Probability of making the Chase: 98 percent. The chances that Bowyer will miss the Chase are slim and none, but as long as Slim is still in town, the possibility has to be acknowledged. The Michael Waltrip Racing cars aren't as fast relative to the competition as they were last year, but that doesn't mean MWR can't find what Mark Martin calls "the missing piece" to the setup of the Gen-6 cars that's already well known in the Chevy camp. Bowyer can post mediocre finishes and still make the Chase. What he has to avoid are disasters. Accordingly, he and savvy crew chief Brian Pattie are likely to play things very close to the vest over the next five races. Task No. 1 is making the Chase. Afterwards, you can ramp up your program and try to win the title.

Carl Edwards. Points position: third. Points behind leader: 84. Points ahead of 13th place: 100. Victories: 1. Best chance for a win before the Chase: Bristol, Atlanta. Probability of making the Chase: 96 percent. No, Edwards is not shoo-in, despite his lofty position in the standings and the early-season victory he notched at Phoenix. Only an unmitigated catastrophe, however, could drop Edwards below 12th place and out of at least a Wild Card spot. The Ford camp is still searching for the complete package with the new Gen-6 car, but Edwards has shown speed in qualifying, even if he hasn't converted excellent starting spots into quality finishes of late. But he's running fast enough to qualify for the Chase.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Points position: fifth. Points behind leader: 116. Points ahead of 11th place: 62. Victories: 0. Best chance for a win before the Chase: Michigan, Atlanta. Probability of making the Chase: 88 percent. Junior is one win away from solidifying his claim to a Chase spot, but he's also one really bad finish away from nail-biting time. The most encouraging sign for the No. 88 team came Sunday, when Earnhardt was grousing about a fifth-place finish. All he really needs to grab a Chase spot is a respectable finish next Sunday on the road course at Watkins Glen and the sort of steady, consistent performances in the final four races that have become commonplace for Earnhardt and crew chief Steve Letarte this year.

Jeff Gordon. Points position: ninth. Points behind leader: 170. Points ahead of 11th place: 8. Victories: 0. Best chance for a win before the Chase: Watkins Glen, Bristol. Probability of making the Chase: 75 percent. Gordon made a statement Sunday at Pocono, where he got his runner-up finish the old fashioned way -- he earned it. Clearly, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champ was delighted with the speed in his car, and that bodes well for the final five races before the Chase field is set at Richmond. Last year, Gordon dealt with the pressure of having to come from behind to clinch a Chase spot at Richmond, and that experience should help him again this season. The X factor for Gordon is the miserable luck that has prevented him from stringing good finishes together this season. As precarious as his position is, Gordon can't afford any more calamities.

Greg Biffle. Points position: 10th. Points behind leader: 173. Points ahead of 13th place: 11. Victories: 1. Best chance for a win before the Chase: Michigan. Probability of making the Chase: 60 percent. After a strong start to the season, Biffle's NASCAR Sprint Cup program has drifted into mediocrity. Despite a 10th-place run Sunday at Pocono, his average finish over the last five races is 20.0, and his career average at next Sunday's venue, Watkins Glen, is 23.8 -- even factoring in last year's sixth-place result. Biffle is on the cusp between a top-10 guaranteed Chase spot and a Wild Card, but he and crew chief Matt Puccia need to steady the ship to avoid the continued erosion of the Biff's points position.

Tony Stewart. Points Position: 11th. Points behind 10th place: 5. Points ahead of 13th place: 6. Victories: 1. Best chance of a win before the Chase: Watkins Glen, Richmond. Probability of making the Chase: 80 percent. Stewart has no weak tracks in the mix before the Chase field is set, and he thrives on the high stress of performing under intense pressure, as he proved so dramatically in winning the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup title. The Stewart-Haas cars have improved their handling and balance in recent weeks, and Stewart heads next Sunday to Watkins Glen, where he's a five-time winner. Don't let recent glitches at the Glen fool you -- Stewart is up to the challenge.

Brad Keselowski. Points position: 12th. Points behind 10th place: 7. Points ahead of 13th place: 4. Victories: 0. Best chance of a win before the Chase: Watkins Glen, Bristol. Probability of making the Chase: 40 percent. To qualify for the Chase on points, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion likely will have to pass Biffle, Gordon or Kahne over the next five races, as well as jump ahead of Stewart. Keselowski is 46 points behind Matt Kenseth in seventh place, and finishing ahead of Kenseth by an average of more than nine points a race hardly seems likely. Therefore, Biffle, Gordon and Kahne are the only realistic targets. Another option for Brad is a win, which could come at any of the next five tracks. We like Keselowski at the Glen, where he's finished second in the last two races, giving us one of the highlights of the 2012 season with his last-lap battle against Marcos Ambrose.

Kurt Busch. Points position: 13th. Points behind 10th place: 11. Victories: 0. Best chance of a win before the Chase: Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta. Probability of making the Chase: 60 percent. But for an impatient moment at New Hampshire, Busch would be comfortably in the top 10. Crew chief Todd Berrier has provided speedy cars just about everywhere, and Busch has exhibited no qualms about driving them to the limit of their performance capacity. Collectively, 11 of Busch's 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup wins have come at the last four tracks in NASCAR's regular season -- Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. The Chase is his oyster, if Busch can stay patient enough to find the pearl.

Martin Truex Jr. Points position: 14th. Points behind 10th place: 15. Points ahead of 15th place: 9. Victories: 1. Best chance of a win before the Chase: Watkins Glen, Atlanta. Probability of making the Chase: 50 percent. The MWR cars haven't had the speed of the Hendrick or Stewart-Haas cars of late, and that should concern Truex, whose closest pursuer for a provisional Wild Card spot, Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman, is only nine points back with five races left. Truex, however, got through his problem track -- Pocono -- with a respectable 15th-place finish, and he's optimistic about his chances at the five remaining tracks before the Chase field is set.

Ryan Newman. Points position: 15th. Points behind 10th place: 24. Points behind second provisional wild card: 9. Victories: 1. Best chance of a win before the Chase: Michigan, Richmond. Probability of making the Chase: 60 percent. The collaboration between Newman and crew chief Matt Borland has achieved critical mass, as Rocket Man's win at the Brickyard might suggest. Driving the same chassis he used at Indy, Newman charged to a fourth-place result at Pocono, establishing himself as a man on the move. Statistically, Richmond is Newman's best track among the five remaining before the Chase. He has 13 top 10s in 23 starts there and may need another to secure a berth in the Chase.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart underwent surgery on his right leg early Tuesday morning, Aug. 6 after suffering a broken tibia and fibula in a sprint car crash Monday night, Aug. 5 at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Stewart did not sustain any other injuries.

The surgery served as a preliminary procedure to stabilize and clean the Grade 2 injury. A second surgery will be necessary. In the meantime, Stewart will remain hospitalized for observation.

Stewart was leading the 30-lap American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) feature when a lapped car spun in front of him. Stewart hit the lapped car and flipped.

Stewart’s injury will prevent him from competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event Aug. 9-11 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Veteran racer Max Papis will serve as the interim driver for Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet at Watkins Glen. Papis tested the No. 14 Chevrolet on July 30 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga.

Papis has made 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, with a career-best finish of eighth in 2009 at Watkins Glen. He has competed in Formula One, Indy car, sports cars and other NASCAR divisions, including the Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series and Canadian Tire Series. He is a three-time CART race winner and a seven-time winner in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, which includes a Daytona Prototype victory at Watkins Glen in the 2004 Sahlen’s Sports Car Grand Prix. Papis won the 2004 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship with co-driver Scott Pruett and is a two-time winner of the prestigious Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona (2000 and 2002). Papis, 43, is from Como, Italy, and is a political science graduate of Milan University. He resides in Mooresville, N.C., with his wife, Tatiana, and sons, Marco and Matteo.


No. 15 PEAK/Duck Dynasty Toyota Camry crew chief Brian Pattie circles Watkins Glen on his Sprint Cup Series schedule each year - and with good reason. Pattie has won in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series at the upstate New York road course.

Pattie’s first win at Watkins Glen came in 1999 with Ron Fellows in the No. 87 truck in the Camping World Truck Series. He followed that up with back-to-back Nationwide Series wins with Fellows in 2000 and 2001. Pattie won in the Sprint Cup Series with Juan Pablo Montoya in 2010.

Since joining MWR as crew chief of the No. 15 Toyota, Pattie and driver Clint Bowyer have never finished outside the top-five at a road course. The pair scored a win at Sonoma Raceway in 2012, a fourth place finish at Watkins Glen in 2012 and a fifth place finish at Sonoma in June. 

BOWYER ON DUCK DYNASTY: “Being a guest on an episode of Duck Dynasty with Willie and the boys was probably one of the biggest things I’ve done outside of a racecar since I got in this business. I had absolutely no idea the reach that show has. I spent my whole life working hard and making sacrifices to become a racecar driver and to be known as a good racecar driver. Now I’m just the guy with the camouflage limo that was on Duck Dynasty. (laughs). I think it’s great that PEAK and Duck Dynasty came together to create this paint scheme and have some fun with it. I’m excited to race it and I’m hoping to get my first win of the season in that hot rod.”

BOWYER ON PATTIE: “I used to hate going to Watkins Glen, but with the team I’m with now - I love going there. Pattie is so good at race strategy and calling races. He builds a fast car. Together we’ve been able to make good decisions, get the car handling the way we need to and keep getting better until the checkered flag. I think that’s been the key difference from where I’ve been to where I’m at now with a new crew chief. Watkins Glen has always been a track where I struggle to get speed right off the truck, but by the end of the weekend we were in the top-five last time. Hopefully we can continue to improve on that. We were fast at Sonoma and I think we’re going to be fast again this weekend.” 


Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series resume at Watkins Glen International doesn’t completely tell the story of his eight career starts at the road course in Upstate New York.

Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), has notched an impressive seven top-10 finishes in those eight starts at The Glen. One of those top-10s was his 2008 victory and, when adding his average finish of 9.0 along with his 159 laps led, Busch’s record is quite dazzling at the site of Sunday’s 355k at The Glen.

But while Busch’s record is impressive at The Glen, he won’t soon forget the two that got away from him.

In addition to Busch’s 2008 win there, he came agonizingly close to his second Sprint Cup win on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course his last two visits there. In 2011, after leading three times for a race-high 49 laps, Busch found himself in a three-wide situation on a late restart with Brad Keselowski and eventual race-winner Marcos Ambrose. Busch was forced to fall back and had to settle for a second-place finish after an otherwise dominant day by the M&M’s team.

Then, last year, Busch again found himself in the lead as the white flag flew at The Glen. But oil on the racetrack slowed him dramatically on the last lap as, again Keselowski and Ambrose closed in on him entering turn two, and Keselowski made contact with Busch, sending him spinning. Busch recovered to finish seventh, but it was another bitter pill to swallow at The Glen when he yet again had victory within his grasp.

While he has proven his worth over the years on road courses, in general, Busch will understandably be looking for redemption Sunday after being so close to winning at The Glen in 2011 and 2012.

Also, with just five races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship field is set, Busch sits sixth in the standings and in a much better position than a year ago, when he was 15th and battling to crack the top-10 in points and the chance to make NASCAR’s playoffs. But with two wins thus far and a solid points position, a third win this season would add precious bonus points in the initial Chase standings if Busch and the M&M’s team can close the deal Sunday in the New York’s Fingers Lakes region.


Start spreading the news. I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it. New York, New York.” Like the familiar refrain made famous by Frank Sinatra, Jimmie Johnson would sure like to be a part of something in New York this weekend – victory lane. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits its second and final road course of the season at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International this weekend.

Johnson has never won at the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course. It is one of five of the 23 tracks that the Sprint Cup Series visits where Johnson has yet to win.  Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the others.

He does have six-top 10 finishes in 11 starts at the track in the sport’s top series. He also has competed there in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, when he famously went off course in 2000, as well as with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series for Bob Stallings Racing in 2010.

While his numbers are respectable at the facility – he even earned the pole position in 2009 – he’d certainly “like to wake in that city” to find he’s “king of the hill, top of the heap,” like the song says. To do that, however, he’ll need to be ahead of 42 other competitors Sunday coming off the final turn at the New York State track, where anything can happen and usually does.


Michael Annett may not be as well known for his road course racing as his Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose, but he's also not one to be overlooked going into the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International this weekend.


Annett continues his efforts to improve on road courses. Earlier this year, he joined several other Ford drivers at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Last month, he attended a road course school at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.


Annett has four starts at the 2.45-mile road course. His average finish is 17.2 and he earned his best finish of 11th at Watkins Glen last year. With 12 road course starts under his belt in the NNS, Annett has shown improvement in his last few road course races. While the finishing positions may not always match the effort, the team is optimistic heading into Watkins Glen.


Comments from the No. 43 Pilot Travel Centers Ford Mustang driver Michael Annett:


"We still have some work to do to master the road courses, but I feel like we have a good shot at a solid finish this weekend. We were running in the top-five at Road America earlier this year and finished 11th at Watkins Glen last year. I've also been able to get some practice at two different courses this year. Watkins Glen is a really fast track, a little different than Road America, but we've got some good notes to work off of from last year."


Comments from Crew Chief Philippe Lopez on Watkins Glen:


"Watkins Glen is a really fast road course, and we'll really have to make sure the car is stable and we don't use up all of the brakes at the beginning of the race. Fuel Mileage will be a key player this weekend, and our Roush Yates Engines have been the best on the track when it comes to fuel mileage. If we can take care of the car the whole race and work the strategy right, we should get a solid finish this weekend.


"Even though Michael is not known for his road course racing, he has done pretty well on them the last couple of road course races we've had. We didn't get the results at Road America this year because of getting caught up in a wreck on a green-white-checkered finish, but we were running in the top-five before the wreck. We finished 11th at Watkins Glen last year, so it should be a good weekend for our team."



After a two-week hiatus, Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) returned to action in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) on Friday night at Iowa Speedway. The Pork Be Inspired 150 was the second of two combination NKNPSE and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West races at the 0.875-mile oval this season. TSM fielded five entries for the race, full-time competitors Austin Dyne, Dylan Kwasniewski and Kenzie Ruston along with part-time competitors Brandon Jones and Ben Rhodes. Ruston led the way for TSM, finishing fifth in the NKNPSE and seventh overall, with Rhodes eighth in the NKNPSE and 10th overall, Kwasniewski finished ninth in the NKNPSE and 12th overall, while Jones and Dyne got caught up in an accident and finished 19th in the NKNPSE, 29th overall, and 21st in the NKNPSE, 31st overall, respectively.


Kenzie Ruston's day started off well at Iowa Speedway as she qualified in the 10th position for the Pork Be Inspired 150. She battled her way up to the sixth position during the first segment before bringing her No. 34 AccuDoc Solutions Chevrolet down pit road in the eighth position for the halfway break. During the break, her TSM crew changed four tires and made adjustments for the final segment. Ruston was able to maintain a top-10 position throughout the final segment in her No. 34 AccuDoc Solutions Chevrolet and brought her car home in the seventh position overall, placing her fifth in the NKNPSE.


"The car was great all night at Iowa Speedway," said Ruston. "In the first segment I worked on getting all of the track position I could so we would have a good starting spot for the second segment. My team at Turner Scott Motorsports did a great job of preparing the car and making adjustments during the break. We had several late-race restarts and were able to bring the No. 34 AuccuDoc Solutions Chevrolet home in seventh. So overall it was a very good night for my AccuDoc Solutions team."


Making his fourth career NKNPSE start this past weekend at Iowa Speedway, Ben Rhodes qualified his No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy 15th to start the 150-lap race. The NASCAR Next driver wasted no time working his way to front, finding himself in the 2nd position at the two-thirds mark of the East-West event. Rhodes would hold onto his top-5 position until having a tire issue on the restart at lap 108 causing him to drop to the back of the pack. Rhodes would rebound from the tire issue andhang on to finish 10th overall in the event, and eight in the NKNPSE. This finish marked Rhodes third top-10 finish in his first four starts in the series.


"I would like to thank my Turner Scott Motorsports team for all the hard work they put into the Alpha Energy Solutions Chevy this weekend," said Rhodes. "The car felt like we had a tire going down after the restart late in the race and we just couldn't drive it like we did at the beginning. We stayed on the track and our Turner Scott Motorsports Chevy eventually came to us. I am looking forward to making my next East Series start at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in September."


Dylan Kwasniewski and his Rockstar Energy/Royal Purple team returned to Iowa Speedway, after finishing second overall and being credited with the NKNPSE win in the June event there. Kwasniewski led the first practice session and placed 14th in final practice before qualifying seventh for the 150-lap race. Kwasniewski moved into the top five by the second lap but fell back to seventh before the mid-race break. In the second half of the race, Kwasniewski battled a loose-handling race car, slipping back to 12th overall by the race's conclusion, placing him ninth in the NKNPSE and allowing him to maintain his top spot in the points.


"This wasn't our best night," stated Kwasniewski. "We started the weekend off well, but our car just wouldn't turn in the corners, especially in the second half of the race. I still have to thank my Turner Scott Motorsports team for all the hard work and thank Rockstar and Royal Purple for their support. Despite not having the night we wanted, we still only lost two points from our lead in the standings, so I'm happy about that. We're looking forward to going road-course racing at VIR in a few weeks."


Brandon Jones also made his second start at Iowa Speedway in the Pork Be Inspired 150. After qualifying 22nd for the 150-lap event, Jones spent the early part of the race working his way through the field. By lap 43, he had moved his No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet into the 14th position and on lap 59 he worked his way into the 13th position. At the halfway break, Jones was in the 13th position and received four tires, fuel and a tear-off. On lap 98, Jones was battling for position when he made contact with another competitor. Unfortunately, the contact sent Jones and his No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet to the garage for the remainder of the race. He ultimately finished the race in 29th, and 19th in the NKNPSE.


"We had a good night going in the Rheem Chevrolet," said Jones. "We started in the 22nd position and were very methodical about working our way through the field. We came in for the break and had a good restart position, but unfortunately we ended up wrecking and one of my teammates got caught up in it. I just can't thank the guys back in the Turner Scott Motorsports K&N shop enough for all of the hard work they put into this Rheem Chevrolet."


Austin Dyne qualified 31st for the race at Iowa Speedway, having most recently raced at the 0.875-mile track previously in June. Dyne quickly worked his way through the field, finding himself in the 19th position at the halfway break. During the break Dyne's No.99 KMC Wheels team changed 4 tires, added fuel and made adjustments to his TSM Chevy. After the restart, Dyne held onto his top-20 position until Lap 98 when he was involved in a multi-car accident. The KMC Wheels Chevy suffered irreparable damage and Dyne was credited with a 31st place finish overall, which placed him 21st in the NKNPSE.


"Tonight was a tough night for this KMC Wheels team here at Iowa," said Dyne. "We got caught up in an accident after the break that ended our night early. It's a shame because this KMC Wheels Chevy was really dialed in and we were making our way to the front. I've got to thank my Turner Scott Motorsports team for the hard work; we're all looking forward to getting back on the track in a few weeks at VIR."


TSM will return to action in the NKNPSE at Virginia International Raceway for the Biscuitville 125 on Saturday, August 24. TSM's three full-time entries, Dyne, Kwasniewski and Ruston, will compete in the event.



Phoenix International Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber announced today that ServiceMaster Clean and ServiceMaster Restorewill be the title sponsor of the track’s November NASCAR Nationwide Series race.  The ServiceMaster 200 marks the first race entitlement for ServiceMaster in NASCAR.

The ServiceMaster 200 will be the featured event for the third day of PIR’s November race weekend.  With the Nationwide Series title on the line, the green flag will drop on the ServiceMaster 200 at Noon EST/ 2 p.m. MST on Saturday, November 9.  

“We are delighted to welcome ServiceMaster to Phoenix International Raceway as the title sponsor of our Nationwide event,” said Sperber. “We are tremendously proud to be associated with such a great company.”

“The ServiceMaster 200 is an exciting opportunity for ServiceMaster to engage with the customers we serve each day,” said Eric Eurich, vice president of marketing for ServiceMaster Clean. “Phoenix International Raceway is a model for delivering best-in-class racing experiences. We share that passion and believe this race sponsorship will communicate the company’s breadth of services and a commitment to the complete customer experience.”

As the official sponsor of the yellow flag caution period for International Speedway Corporation  and PIR, track personnel and the track-drying equipment display the ServiceMaster Clean brand which can be seen frequently cleaning the race track, removing debris, and drying the track quickly and professionally in order to restart the race.

Not only are ServiceMaster Clean and ServiceMaster Restore market leaders in cleaning and disaster restoration with more than 60 years of experience but also are business units of the ServiceMaster family of brands. ServiceMaster is one of the world’s largest residential networks, featuring other household names such as Terminix, TruGreen, American Home Shield, Merry Maids, Furniture Medic and AmeriSpec.


Aric Almirola showed improvement in his road course skills earlier this season at Sonoma Raceway when he finished eight spots better than his previous best finish. This weekend, Almirola looks to continue that progression at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. He will be driving the No. 43 Smithfield Ford this weekend and leaning on teammate and two-time winner at the Glen, Marcos Ambrose.


Almirola scored his best Sprint Cup road course finish at the New York track last season. He also tallied his career-best road course finish in the NASCAR Nationwide series at the Glen with an eighth-place finish in the 2011 event.


No. 43 Crew Chief Todd Parrott won the last two events at Watkins Glen with Ambrose at the helm and has compiled one pole, four top-five finishes and five top-10 finishes in 15 starts.


Comments from Smithfield Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:


"You can't compare Watkins Glen and Sonoma at all. Sonoma is like the Martinsville of road courses, and then when you go to Watkins Glen, it's like Charlotte. It's just so much faster. The speed that we carry at Watkins Glen is unbelievable. It's a fun road course. It's just extremely fast. Sonoma is really slow and technical. Watkins Glen is wide open.


"I enjoy road racing. I wish I was better at it. Everyone enjoys something they are good at. The better I get at road racing, the more I learn from Marcos, the more I enjoy it. Going back to Watkins Glen, I'm really looking forward to seeing the difference from last year. Each time I go to a road course, I get a little more comfortable, so track time will be really important to do well in the race. My goal is to learn as much as I can, stay on the track and beat my best finish there."


Comments from Smithfield Ford Fusion Crew Chief Todd Parrott:


"Aric has shown a lot of improvement on road courses this year. We had a really good test at Sonoma where he logged a ton of laps. That carried through for the race, and he posted his best finish at the track. The key for him will be to get some good track time during practice, and having a teammate like Marcos (Ambrose) will really help us. We will be able to lean on the No. 9 team with our setups and then dial them in for Aric. If he can get a good rhythm for the race, I'm confident he will do well on Sunday."



The past two years, Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 Stanley Racing team of Richard Petty Motorsports have closed down Watkins Glen International while celebrating in Victory Lane. Ambrose is the defending two-time winner at the road course in Upstate New York and is looking for a three-peat this weekend.


Ambrose looks to be the first driver since Denny Hamlin to three-peat at the same track. Hamlin accomplished the feat in 2009 and 2010 at the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.


With five total NASCAR wins at Watkins Glen, Ambrose is always a threat at the track. He has three wins in the Nationwide Series at The Glen to go with his two Cup victories. In Sprint Cup competition, Ambrose will be making his sixth start at the track. His average finish is second in his five previous starts and has lowest finish is third.


Ambrose will welcome Canadian Tire on the hood of the No.9 this weekend.


Comments from Stanley Ford Fusion Driver Marcos Ambrose:


"Obviously, we feel like we are contenders each time we go to Watkins Glen, and this weekend is no different. I just know what I want in the car, and we have been fortunate enough to get that feel in our Stanley Ford Fusions the past two races. That allows me to race up front, and I have a lot of confidence. Watkins Glen is a really fast track, and I really enjoy it. I know what I need to do to be there at the end.


"Last year was a really great finish. It was stressful, but a lot of fun to battle against Kyle and Brad the last few laps for the win. We were dealing with the elements of the track having oil on it, and we were all sliding all around. It led to an exciting finish, and I'm happy that we came out on top.


"We have had a tough season this year, but this race can very quickly turn it around and put us in contention for a wild card berth in the chase. That's what our goal is right now. We haven't given up, and this entire crew keeps fighting hard. I'm proud to be associated with this Richard Petty Motorsports team, and hopefully, we can continue our streak at Watkins Glen this weekend."


Comments from Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer on Ambrose at The Glen:


"This is a track where Marcos makes it very easy on me. He knows what he wants in the car all the way down to the steering wheel and shifter ball. It's just a matter of listening and making the changes Marcos wants. It's really fun to work a road course with him. You learn so much. He just doesn't care what others are doing. He really is the leader in the Cup garage when it comes to setting up a car here.


"I feel that this is a weekend that can really turn everything around for us. We can climb into the top-20 in points and be there for a wild card berth. This team has been in that position the last two years, and hopefully, we can be in position again. Then, we can go for more wins and hopefully make the chase."




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