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Head2Head: Is Ambrose a legitimate Chase contender?

August 13, 2012, ,

With a wild 2.45 miles that will be remembered for quite some time, Marcos Ambrose scored his first victory of the season and jumped into the wild card conversation. Currently 17th in points, Ambrose trails Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon, the other drivers with one victory. But a win in one of the final four regular season races could put Ambrose is a surprising position -- the Chase.

Should Ambrose be taken seriously as a Chase contender?


On Sunday, Marcos Ambrose didn't just win the Sprint Cup tour's annual visit to Watkins Glen International -- he also joined the ever-growing crowd of drivers hoping to secure a wild card berth into the Chase. He may be 17th in points after his victory on the New York State road course, but he now has a race win to his credit, and he has something else that makes him a threat: speed.

Sure, go ahead and dismiss the Australian as a road-course specialist who has no hope of crashing the Chase. After all, he won at the same track last year and didn't make the playoff, right? True. But then, the wild cards were basically set by the time the circuit ventured to the Finger Lakes region. Now, the picture is still very much in flux, and the drivers holding the advantage seem to change on a weekly basis. And now, Ambrose's No. 9 car has proven itself reliably fast.

Certainly, the odds are against him. But this week the circuit heads back to Michigan, where that speedy yellow and black Ford won the pole and finished ninth in June. And looming the following week is Bristol, one of Ambrose's best oval tracks, where he has three top-10 finishes. A long shot? Sure. Out of the question? No way. The half-mile in East Tennessee has long seemed perhaps Ambrose's best chance to score an oval-track win. He does that, it could bring with it an added bonus -- a surprise berth in the Chase.

David Caraviello, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Look, I'm happy Marcos Ambrose scored career Cup win No. 2 Sunday afternoon, but to throw him into the Chase conversation because he has a victory -- come on now, that's ridiculous. I'm not trying to sour what has been a successful season for the Aussie, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves -- there is no reason to think Ambrose will be a part of the Chase.

Quite simply, the math just doesn't work. He will have to win another race because there is no way he will pass Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon -- the three drivers ahead of him in points with one victory. He's nearly a full race of points behind each of them, so for Ambrose to get in with one victory, a serious collapse will be needed of three guys and odds are that just isn't going to happen.

So Ambrose's only hope is another victory and it has to come at Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta or Richmond. Sure, he could get lucky, but if history is any indication, that victory won't be there. Ambrose's best Michigan finish came earlier this season when he finished ninth, but that is his only top-10 at the track. Bristol might be his best hope -- he finished third there in 2009. At Atlanta, again just one top-10 and at Richmond he finished fifth and ninth in the two races in 2010.

With zero victories this season and just four top-10s on tracks where there are only left-hand turns, Ambrose is as much a part of the Chase conversation as I am.


The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Is Ambrose a serious threat for one of the two wild-card positions or does this mirror last year's victory at The Glen and not mean much in the championship picture? David Caraviello and Bill Kimm have their opinions -- read theirs and weigh in with your own in the comments below.