Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

Marcos Ambrose hopes to take road (course) to Chase

SONOMA, Calif. — Marcos Ambrose wants nothing more than to break a four-race Hendrick Motorsports winning streak in NASCAR Sprint Cup, and his best shot comes today on the road course at Sonoma Raceway.

A win could earn the Australian his first Chase for the Championship berth and solidify his future at Richard Petty Motorsports. Ambrose's deal with the organization is up at the end of the season.

"I'm in a renewal year with Richard Petty for 2015," Ambrose said. "I'm not really thinking about myself here. I just want the best for RPM. They have decisions to make. … I want to make sure that RPM are on the right path, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I help them do that."

Ambrose is in his fourth season driving for Petty, and his two career Sprint Cup victories are with the team, both on the road course at Watkins Glen, N.Y.

He seeks his first victory at Sonoma, where Ambrose is always considered a favorite. Ambrose, who qualified 23rd on Saturday for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, has five finishes of eighth or better in six starts at the 1.99-mile track.

"We know that the race here this weekend and in Watkins Glen, the two road races, are our best chance to win a race this year," he said. "That will automatically lock us into the Chase. Clearly there's a lot to race for at these two tracks for us. We've put a lot of energy and effort into Sonoma."

Ambrose is 23rd in points with 11 races left to set the Chase field. To be one of the 16 drivers, he'll likely need the berth that comes with a regular-season victory.

But standing in his way is the Hendrick juggernaut, which has been unstoppable since Jimmie Johnson won the Coca-Cola 600 on May 25 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since then, Johnson has three victories, and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has one.

The all-time record for consecutive car owner victories is 16, by Carl Kiekhaefer in 1956. The Hendrick organization won six consecutive races in 2007 for the modern record. And Jeff Gordon is the leader at Sonoma with five wins. He hasn't finished lower than ninth at Sonoma since his 2006 victory.

Ambrose, considered one of the best road-course racers in NASCAR, still likes his chances.

"My talents are really good on road racing in these big, heavy stock cars," he said. "It suits my style, suits the way I like to drive a race car. I get a lot of good feedback for the wheel. I think it's a natural skill set for me."

Since Petty took over sole ownership in 1993, Ambrose's two wins for the team match Bobby Hamilton and Kasey Kahne, and Ambrose is one top-10 finish from tying Hamilton's mark of 28. But Ambrose solely has his eye on the Chase.

"There's pressure building, there's a chance to lock yourself into the Chase, which would make your season, you get a chance to win a Sprint Cup race, which you don't get to do very often," Ambrose said. "What I do this weekend is not try to think about it, be normal, try to relax leading into this week. The more you think about it, the worse you tend to go."

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