|The No. 48 team is back in familiar surroundings: First-Place (Getty)|
Marcos Ambrose did it again at Watkins Glen International and became the sixth winner ranked 11th through 20th to toss his helmet into the Chase “wild card” ring. Kasey Kahne remains the provisional leader but two-time Michigan winner Ryan Newman displaced Jeff Gordon in the No. 2 “wild card” spot with four races remaining in the regular season.
Among the Canadian entrants joining Fellows are Patrick Carpentier, Jacques Villeneuve and Alex Tagliani. Elliott Sadler continues to lead the standings by 13 points over reigning NNS champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with Glen Coors Light Pole winner Sam Hornish Jr. ranked third.
At least one title contender will debut in a new ride. Kligerman joins Peters and two-time series champion Todd Bodine at Red Horse Racing after driving in the year’s first 11 races for Brad Keselowski Racing.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
‘Five-Time’ Tops Standings For Ninth Straight Year
A third-place finish at Watkins Glen International has placed Jimmie Johnson in the championship lead for the ninth consecutive season, marking the longest streak since the current position-based points structure went into effect in 1975. Johnson was 37th in the standings following a 42nd-place finish in February’s Daytona 500. He last led the points nearly one year ago following the Sept. 6 Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Johnson, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski remain the top contenders for the No. 1 seed for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. Each has three victories worth nine bonus points that would be added to a base of 2,000 points when the standings are reset following the Sept. 8 Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 gives four competitors the opportunity to clinch a top-10 spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. The current top four in NASCAR Sprint Cup standings – Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – can lock themselves into the post season by leaving Michigan with a lead of at least 145 points over the 11th-place driver with three races remaining in the Race to the Chase. Biffle, who trails Johnson by a single point, is the only one of the four failing to make the Chase a year ago.
Johnson can also lock up at least a Wild Card berth win a win on Sunday – which could prove a tall task. Michigan is one of five active NSCS tracks at which Johnson has yet to win (Watkins Glen, Chicagoland, Homestead and Kentucky are the others). Brad Keselowski, who like Johnson has three wins, could mathematically lock up at least a Wild Card spot with a win, but only if Ryan Newman scores four points or less at Michigan. Tony Stewart, though he also has three wins, cannot officially lock up a Wild Card spot with a win.
Ambrose Boosts ‘Wild Card’ Derby To Six Winners
At least six different winners will battle for two “wild card” spots in the Chase over the four races remaining in the Race to the Chase. Marcos Ambrose, who won the Coors Light Pole at Michigan in June with a speed of 203.241 mph, added his name to the “wild card” derby by posting his second consecutive victory at Watkins Glen International. Kasey Kahne (11th in points) and Ryan Newman (13th) are provisional holders of the two “wild card” spots. Kahne won Michigan’s spring race in 2006. Newman is a two-time Michigan winner. Kyle Busch (14th), Jeff Gordon (15th), Ambrose (17th) and Joey Logano (18th) are remaining winners ranked 11th through 20th. Gordon has two Michigan wins; Busch one.
Michigan was a drought-buster for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in June as the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet snapped a winless streak of 143 races. Earnhardt is one of four drivers ranked in the top 10 entering Sunday’s race with multiple victories at the 2.0-mile superspeedway. Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin also have two victories apiece. Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart has won once as has Kevin Harvick, one of two drivers among the top 10 still winless this season.
Seven members of the current top 10 posted top-10 finishing positions in Michigan’s June race. Hamlin, winner in two of his past five Michigan starts, was 34th, the only top-10 member finishing worse than 13th. Hamlin slipped to 10th in points at Watkins Glen and has five finishes of 25th or worse since the series visited Michigan’s Irish Hills earlier this season.
Mark Martin’s five wins are the most at Michigan by an entered driver. Martin, driver of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, last won in June 2009. … Ambrose’s Watkins Glen victory broke Ford’s 14-race winless streak that followed Greg Biffle’s April 14 trip to Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway. Ambrose is the season’s 14th different winner and ninth consecutive different winner. … Richard Petty Motorsports is the seventh different organization to post a victory in 2012. … The Wood Brothers and Roush Fenway Racing share the most victories by an owner (11) at Michigan International Speedway. RFR’s Carl Edwards won the track’s August race in 2008. The Woods last won in 1991 with Dale Jarrett. … Brad Keselowski’s fifth-place ranking is best by the Rochester Hills, Mich. native during the regular season. Keselowski, second at The Glen, finished fifth in last year’s final standings after qualifying for the Chase as a “wild card.”
NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES
Montreal: History Proves it’s One of the most Exciting Races of the Season
In its short, five-year history the NASCAR Nationwide Series stop at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has become one of the most anticipated and unpredictable races on the schedule. The inaugural event in 2007 had three drivers doing burnouts on the frontstretch after the race with only one taking home the coveted trophy. The following year, Canadian Ron Fellows won the race in historic fashion as NASCAR ran its first points race in the rain. The excitement continued in 2009 with Carl Edwards taking home the victory.
Ron Fellows is back for his third and final NASCAR Nationwide race this season with JR Motorsports to defend his victory at Montreal in 2008. He is the only former winner entered in the Napa 200. However, he will have a full field of fellow Canadian drivers looking to take over bragging rights. Among the Canadian entrants joining Fellows are Patrick Carpentier, Jacques Villeneuve and Alex Tagliani.
Standings leader Elliott Sadler leads the charge for series regulars followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-13), Sam Hornish Jr. (-24), Austin Dillon (-29) and Justin Allgaier (-74). Stenhouse earned his first top-five finish at a road course last weekend at Watkins Glen. Hornish – who won his first NNS pole last weekend- is the only driver inside the top five in the series standings to score top-five finishes at both Road America and Watkins Glen.