Not the Day Ambrose Wanted
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 11, 2013 | 5:20 P.M. EST
Ambrose's quest for a third consecutive Watkins Glen win ended with a wrecked car and a 31st-place finish on Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Marcos Ambrose managed a smile. This was a pained one exiting the infield care center instead of a joyous look in Victory Lane, where he had been the past two years at Watkins Glen International.
His quest for a third consecutive win at this historic track ended with a wrecked car and 31st-place finish after a dominating performance.
"It just wasn’t our day," Ambrose said.
His race turned when a caution waved on Lap 61 of the 90-lap event as he led. He was set to pit in a few laps. Unlike ovals, it’s better to pit under green because a driver won’t lose a lap. Thus, stopping under the caution put Ambrose behind all those who had pitted before the caution. That put him 12th on the restart. For a driver who led a race-high 51 laps, it was unfamiliar territory.
When the green waved, he couldn’t make up much ground. It took him about 20 laps to climb back into the top 10. At one point, he radioed his team and told them his car was "awful" in traffic.
A caution bunched the field on Lap 79, but Ambrose was concerned about his car - telling his team he thought something was broken in the back of the car. He wiggled the car to feel how it responded and so his team could possibly see any issues. The team even had another driver behind Ambrose look and he didn’t see much wrong.
There was. It caused Ambrose to wreck and bring out the caution on Lap 86.
"I just couldn’t get going on the restart," Ambrose said. "I felt something was wrong. We decided to stay out and see if it was going to be driveable, but it wasn’t. I was in the way heading up the hill and got dumped by somebody, not sure who it was, and just ended up in the fence."
The contact came from Max Papis, but he said there was little he could do to avoid hitting Ambrose’s wounded car.
"The guy was sideways going up the hill," Papis said. "I turned him, not on purpose, obviously. He had something broken in the back of his car, I guess. It was not a good thing."
What was a day of promise turned bad for Ambrose.
"We’ll wake up tomorrow and press on," he said.
And soon after, he was gone ... whisked away on a golf cart as winner Kyle Busch celebrated in Victory Lane, a place Ambrose had known so well.