RPM eyes second Chase spot with tests at Watkins Glen
July 28, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
With its eyes on getting both of its drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff field, Richard Petty Motorsports drivers Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola went straight from Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Watkins Glen International for a two-day test at the road course.
Almirola already has a leg up on a Chase spot with his win in the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 at Daytona earlier this month. Ambrose has two Sprint Cup Series victories at the Glen (2011, 2012) along with five top-three finishes in six starts at the venue.
The goal of the test is to help both drivers collect as much information as they can to prepare the best setup possible for the Sprint Cup Series race at the road course on August 10.
With the new Chase format, if Ambrose can score his third win in the past four Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen, he will practically be in the 16-driver playoff field. Ambrose has yet to qualify for the Chase in his Sprint Cup career.
Ambrose told reporters that Watkins Glen reminded him a lot of his hometown in Tasmania.
"I really love coming up to this part of the world and the track itself is one of the great tracks in the world. Whenever you come here you realize the tire that Goodyear brings and the car that we have and the style of the track that it is, it all just blends together really well."
The drivers were able to get some track time on Monday but rain appeared for a bit in the morning and again in the afternoon. Testing will continue at the 2.45-mile road course on Tuesday.
Besides the RPM duo, AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing), Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon (Richard Childress Racing) are also taking part in the two-day test. Max Papis was there as well.
Allmendinger won two road course events last season in the Nationwide Series and won the pole at Sonoma in June. He has an average finish of 9.2 at Watkins Glen. Truex Jr. won at Sonoma last year and has five top-10 finishes in eight starts at The Glen. Austin Dillon is making his first Cup start at the venue, while Ty Dillon is getting some Cup seat testing for RCR as he preps for his first Sprint Cup start at Atlanta next month. A Nationwide Series rookie, Ty Dillon has not yet made a national series start at Watkins Glen in his career.
Truex told reporters that the win-and-in qualification for the Chase is why he and his Furniture Row Racing team made the trip for testing.
"That's why we're here testing, honestly. We feel like this is a place where I can get it done, this is a place I feel like we can win as a team and so that's why we're here testing, to try and get that little bit of an advantage and so we're prepared when we come back here the best we can be."
Ambrose, Allmendinger, Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon do not have a win this season. Through 20 races, only Dillon would get in the Chase based on the current standings.