After a wild finish at Watkins Glen and defending his 2011 victory at the track, Marcos Ambrose went from 18th place in the standings to being a possible Wild Card contender for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. With his first win of the season in the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen, Ambrose gained one position in the standings and placed himself into contention for the Wild Card battle.
The Wild Card format allows the two drivers outside of the top-10 in points (within the top-20) with the most wins of this season to gain access to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. At the moment, those eligible drivers are Kasey Kahne in 11th (with two wins) and Ryan Newman in the 13th position (with one win). Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Ambrose and Joey Logano are the other drivers who are looking for their second win to be in contention.
If Ambrose were to find himself in victory lane once again before the Chase cut-off at Richmond International Speedway, he would have the opportunity to steal one of the Wild Cards, and this is exactly what the Richard Petty Motorsports team intends to do.
“We've put the team within earshot of making the race. If we can win one more race, we're pretty much locked into the Chase. Keep winning.” Ambrose said Tuesday during a NASCAR teleconference.
“We're going to go to Michigan, after getting the pole there in the first race, and running top five most of the day, we thought we had a great chance to win that race. Lock ourselves in the Chase, that's really our only focus right now.”
The No. 9 team has only four races to accomplish this goal; however, Ambrose is confident, with reason, heading into Michigan International Speedway this weekend. In June, Ambrose turned in the fastest qualifying time of the season (203.241 mph) and finished in eighth position after leading 15 laps.
“We're really optimistic about this weekend; think we got a great shot at it. Really, really excited about our chances there,” Ambrose said.
“We need to win another race to make the Chase. There's no easier formula than if you're not first, you're last. That's the way we're approaching this weekend and the next three. We have to go out there on full attack mode, really concentrating on car speed, being aggressive in our strategies, to try to get us that next win
Ambrose is also confident heading to the short track of Bristol Motor Speedway in two weeks. In his short track experience in the Cup series, the Aussie has two top-five and five top-ten finishes.
Sunday's win gives him consecutive top-10 finishes in the No. 9 Ford for only the fourth time in his two-year career at Richard Petty Motorsports and only the fifth time in his four-year Cup career.
The mind-set of the RPM team may just be what brings the team to victory lane once again. After winning at Watkins Glen, the team has an added boost of confidence, adding to the positivity Ambrose radiates.
Although making the Chase may be a long shot for the No. 9 team because of the competition against them, the team’s positivity and outlook may be what sets them apart.
"After the lead-up to Watkins Glen it was, 'OK, we're in striking distance.' But we need to make some strikes.
"Part of my chitchat with the team [this week] ... most of our talking, has been about how we're going to make the Chase, what we have to do with the team to get there. That's what we're focused on.''
Ambrose and the RPM team hope to drive to victory lane at Michigan this weekend to put them in contention for the Wild Card and to score the first oval win of his career.