Marcos Ambrose was taking no chances.
With just over 20 minutes left in Saturday's final Sprint Cup practice session, Ambrose brought his #47 Toyota to the garage at Watkins Glen International to let his team work on refinements to the setup.
Ambrose, who will start fourth in Sunday's Heluva Good! at the Glen, paced both Cup practice sessions on Saturday before winning the Zippo 200 Nationwide Series race later that afternoon. A key player on road courses, Ambrose finished third last year at the Glen and third in June at Sonoma - in both cases after starting from the rear of the field.
It was a blown engine during Saturday practice that sent him to the back at Sonoma. On Sunday, however, with no problems in practice, he'll get a chance to show what he can do from the front of the field.
"That's one of the reasons we stopped early, because we didn't want to blow a motor up or anything," Ambrose said. "I feel good about our chances. We've got as good a chance as anybody out there."
The team that fields Ambrose's cars, JTG Daugherty Racing, does so in concert with Michael Waltrip Racing, which provides chassis, technical support and shop space for the operation. Team co-owner Tad Geschickter said in late June that he's not shopping his organiaation, and though no announcement has been made about the relationship, there's every reason to believe the teams will continue to work together in 2010.
"We're doing so well right now that people are starting to talk about putting everything to bed early now so we can start working on 2010-11," Ambrose said. "I think that's a smart play. We're going to put everything we can into the last half of the season and get ourselves ready for 2010 and come out of the gates really strong.
"I'm running well on superspeedways, I'm running well on road courses, we've had glimpses on short tracks where we've done well. The one-and-a-half-mile program, when we go to places like that, I've got to get my head around still."
Ambrose is aware of the progress Juan Pablo Montoya has made, contending for a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his third full-time season.
"We're trying to push forward faster than that, and we'll see how it goes," said Ambrose, who competed in eleven Cup races last year before going full time in 2009. "But we're really excited. I'm not privy to the information that goes on between the teams, whether it's a deal yet or what, but I do know that we're working toward the same goal."
Geschickter said Saturday afternoon that his organisation and Waltrip's are working on the final elements of a deal that will extend their relationship.
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News