New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 24, 2011, New Braunfels, Texas
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Marcos Ambrose returns to site of 2010 blunder
The Associated i
By Noah Trias*
The Associated Press
art os Ambrose has had a year to think about the mistake that (ost him his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.
Now, he's a bit tired of rehashing it.
"I'm try ing to forget about it to be honest with you," Ambrose said. "Races come and you make split-second dec isions out there. It's the closest I've been to winning a race so far and clearly it's on people's mind this weekend, but it doesn't matter."
Ambrose was closing in on that elusive win at Infineon Raceway last June when he stalled his engine while try ing to conserve gas under a late caution. His car came to a stop, and although he eventually restarted and tried to move to his spot at the front of the field, NASCAR ordered him back to seventh place for failing to "maintain reasonable speed" — he finished sixth.
He returns to Sono
ma, Calif., the site of that gaffe, still winless on the circuit. No matter how much he tries to put that unpleasant finish behind him, the affable Australian knows the ciuestions are unavoidable this week.
"We were doing great in the race, we had a good strategy although the way it was running down, I was running out of tires, running out of fuel, and getting ready for a late restart," he said. "I don't need to look back on what happened last year. It is what it is. I couldn't get the motor retired for whatever reason. This year we have a brand new team, brand new chief, brand new sponsor and brand new carburetor, so I should have no issues.
Just looking forward to getting out there and trying to win it."
Not long after his Sonoma mishap, Ambrose said he would leave JTG Daugherty Racing at the end of the season. He's now the driver of the No. 9 Pond for Richard Petty Motorsports. He enters Sunday's race 21st in the points standings, up five spots from his finish last season, but he still hasn't won.
This weekend could be one of his best chances. Long considered one of the top road course drivers in the series, he finished third at Infineon in 2009 to go along with last year's sixth-place showing. That 2009 finish was remarkable. He blew a motor in practice and had to start at the back of the field and forfeit his third-place qualifying position.
Although he describes oval racing as "the pure form of NASCAR," he's not about to shy away from his area of expertise. Courses like Infineon are where he has a chance to shine.
"There's a lot going on behind the wheel. You're obviously changing gears, you're turning left and right, you're managing front and left brake pressure, sometimes you're doing it together. The track is undu-lating and there's a lot of dust that's thrown off by other cars that run across the track," he said. "There's just a lot going on on a road course. You really have to stay very focused on your own car and not really worry about whether a guy is pulling away for a lap
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FINISH W f Inflnaon Raceway
TRACK DETAILS Distance: 1 99 miles
Race distance: 218 9 miles 110 laps Track: Road course
SCHEDULE: Friday, practice (Speed, 3-4 30 p m), qualifying (Speed, 11 p m -1 p.m.), Saturday, practice (Speed, 2:30-5 p.m.); Sunday, race, 3 pm. (TNT, 2-8:30 pm)
NEXT RACE: Coke Zero 400,
July 2, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla
SOURCE NASCAR ~k\
or two. It normally balances out."
Ambrose's best finish of 2010 was at Watkins Glen. He finished third and might have won, but the handling on the last set of tires was off.
He's hoping for a breakthrough at Sonoma, and he won't be the only one who benefits from a victory. Stanley Black & Decker, one of RPM's sponsors, will donate $1 million to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals if Ambrose wins.
"And if I really mess it up and come dead last, we are still going to donate $100,000," Ambrose said.
History suggests Ambrose will be closer to first than last.
"Just when you think you've seen the most of what NASCAR can throw you, something else pops up," he said. "I'm pretty sure my car parked on the side of the hill last year trying to get restarted is one of those moments. Unfortunately, I was the one in that car, out it was a fairly surreal moment."
IN THE PITS
Toyota/Save Mart 350 Site*. Sonoma, Calif.
Schedule: Friday, practice (Spaed, 3-4:30 p.m.), qualifying (Speed, 11 p.m.-1 p.m.); Saturday, practice (Spaed, 2:30-5 p.m.); Sunday, race, 3 p.m. (TNT, 2-6:30 p.m.).
Track: Infineon Raceway (road course, 1.99 miles).
Race distance: 218 9 miles, 110 laps. Last yaar Jimmie Johnson won for the first time on a road course, taking advantage of Marcos Ambrose’s gaffe Ambrose lost the lead when he stalled his engine trying to conserve gas under caution with six laps left.
He restarted seventh and finished sixth.
Last weak: Denny Hamlin raced to his first victory of the year, holding off Matt Kenseth at Michigan International Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also won the 2010 June race at the track.
Fast facts: Jeff Gordon has a Cup-record nine road-course wins, five at Sonoma and four at Watkins Glen.... Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2007 race for his first Cup victory. He also won last year at Watkins Glen. Before joining NASCAR, the Colombian won seven Formula One races, the 1999 Champ Car title and 11 open-wheel races.... Tony Stewart has seven round-course wins, two at Infineon and five at Watkins Glen.... Carl Edwards leads the season standings, 20 points ahead of Kevin Harvick. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is third, 27 points behind Edwards ... NASCAR fined Joe Gibbs Racing crew chiefs Mike Ford, Dave Rogers and Greg Zipadelli $50,000 each for bringing unapproved oil pans to Michigan. They also were placed on probation through the end of the year. Competition director Jimmy Makar and car chiefs Chris Gillin, Wesley Sherrill and Jason Shapiro also were placed on probation.
Next race: Coke Zero 400, July 2, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Online: http://www nascar.com
NATIONWIDE Bucyrus 200 Site: Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Schedule: Friday, practice; Saturday, qualifying, race, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN, 5-9 p.m.)
Track: Road America (road course, 4.048 miles).
Race distance: 202.4 miles, 50 laps Last yean Carl Edwards won the inaugural series race at the track, passing Jacques Villeneuve on a restart with nine laps left. Ron Fellows was second.
Last week: Edwards raced to his fourth victory of the year, beating Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at Michigan.
Fast facts: Villeneuve, the Canadian who won the 1997 Formula One championship, is driving the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge in place of Brad Keselowski. Villeneuve won CART races at the track in 1994 and 1995 ... Ron Fellows will pilot JR Motorsports' No. 7 Chevrolet. Fellows is a four-time Nationwide winner on road courses. The Canadian has Trans-Am and American Le Mans wins at Road America.... Max Papis is driving Kevin Harvick Inc.'s No. 33 Chevrolet.... Stenhouse leads the season standings, two points ahead of Elliott Sadler.
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Reed Sorenson is third, four points behind Stenhouse.
Next race: Subway Jalapeno 250, July 1, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla Online: http://www.nascar.com
CAMPING WORLD TRUCKS Next race: UN0H 225, July 7, Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Ky.
Last race: Ron Hornaday Jr. won at Texas on June 10, racing to his record 48th Trucks victory despite crossing the finish line second. First-place finisher Johnny Sauter was black-flagged because he moved to the inside in front of Hornaday before crossing the start-finish line on the final restart Sauter was dropped to 22nd.
Iowa Com Indy 250 Site: Newton, Iowa Schedule: Friday, practice, qualifying (Versus, 6-7 p.m.); Saturday, race, 8 p.m. (Versus, 6:30-11 p.m.)
Track: Iowa Speedway (oval, 0.875 miles).
Race distance: 218.75 miles, 250 laps. Last year Andretti Autosport's Tony Kanaan raced to his first victory in nearly two years, passing Helio Castroneves with 10 laps left.
Last week: Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti won for the third time this year, taking the lead at the Milwaukee Mile when Castroneves had a tire problem, and holding off Graham Rahal. Franchitti tied Will Power atop the season standings.
Fast facts: Power has three victories this year for Team Penske. T. Franchitti won the inaugural Iowa race in 2007.
... Former NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace designed the track.... The 115-lap Indy Lights race also is Saturday
Next race: Honda Indy Toronto, July 10, Streets of Toronto, Toronto.
Summit Racing Equipment Nationals Site: Norwalk, Ohio.
Schedule: Friday, qualifying; Saturday, qualifying (ESPN2,10 p.m.-midnight); Sunday, final eliminations (ESPN2,8-11 pm.).
Track: Summit Motorsports Park.
Last year Greg Anderson raced to his first Pro Stock victory of the season and also won the K&N Horsepower Challenge bonus. Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won.
Last week: Robert Hight raced to his fourth Funny Car victory of the year, breaking the national speed record with a 316.45 mph run in the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Dixon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also won.
Fast facts: Del Worsham, a three-time winner this year, leads the Top Fuel standings — 31 points ahead of Dixon with seven events left in the regular season.... Mike Neff has a 60-point lead over Jack Beckman in the Funny Car standings. Hight is third, 74 points behind Neff.... The K&N winner will receive $50,000.
Next race: Route 66 NHRA Nationals, July 7-10, Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, III. Online: http://www.nhra.com
European Grand Prix Site: Valencia, Spain.
Schedule: Friday, practice (Speed, 8-9:30 a.m.); Saturday, practice, qualifying (Speed, 8-9:30 a.m.) Sunday, race,
8 a.m. (FOX, noon-2 p.m.).
Track: Valencia Street Circuit (road course, 3.367 miles)
Race distance: 191.93 miles, 57 laps. Last yaar Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won the second of his five 2010 victories en route to the season title. The German dominated from the pole in a race marked by teammate Mark Webber's spectacular crash. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was second.
Last race: McLaren's Jenson Button won the rain-soaked Canadian Grand Prix on June 11, working his way up from last place and taking advantage of points leader Vettel's last-lap slide. Button has 10 career victories.
Fast facts: Vettel has won five of the first seven races this season. He has a 60-point lead over Button in the season standings.... Hamilton won the Chinese Grand Prix in April.... The course has an FI-high 25 turns.
Next race: British Grand Prix, July 10, Silverstone Circuit Silverstone, England.
ARCA RACING SERIES: Winchester ARCA 200, Saturday, Winchester Speedway, Winchester, Ind. Online: http://www.arcaracing.com GRAND-AM R0LEX SPORTS CAR SERIES: Rolex Sports Car Series 250, Saturday (Speed, noon-2:30 p/n.), Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. Online: http://www.grand-am.com WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Sprint Car, Saturday, Princeton Speedway, Princeton, Minn.; Sunday, Husefs Speedway, Brandon, S.D. Late Model, Firecracker 100, Saturday, Lernervilte Speedway, Sarver, Pa.