Ambrose set to wrap up NASCAR journey
Sunday’s race will mark Marcos Ambrose’s next-to-last start in the Sprint Cup Series before he heads back to his native Australia to compete in the V8 Supercar Series for team owners Roger Penske and Dick Johnson.
“I came over with a backpack and a duffle bag and I’m going home with a 20-foot container,” Ambrose said. “It’s certainly not easy to leave. We’ve been here nine years and bought some stuff and enjoyed our time.”
In eight seasons of Cup and Nationwide series competition, Ambrose won seven races, all on road courses. He failed to qualify for the Chase in any season, and his best points finish in the Cup series was 18th (in 2009 and 2012).
“It’s nothing but success,” Ambrose said of his NASCAR career. “I don’t feel like I’m a B-class driver out there. I feel I’m as good as anyone on my day. I’ve learned the ovals and managed to survive them.”
Power problems prompt track apology: Two power outages affecting Phoenix International Raceway’s track lighting system delayed the start of Friday night’s NASCAR Truck Series race and finally brought it to an early conclusion.
The race was eventually called with 24 of 150 laps remaining when the lights went out a second time and officials couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t happen again. Pole-winner Erik Jones was declared the winner.
“We are extremely disappointed that (the) race was delayed and ultimately shortened by failures in the local power grid,” said a statement released by PIR. “We want to thank the devoted race fans who stayed throughout the race, however PIR and NASCAR both agreed that it was in the best interest of the drivers to call an end to the race after the second power outage, as safety of the competitors is paramount.”
Edwards wins award: Jon Edwards, who has been the primary media representative for four-time champion Jeff Gordon for almost 15 years, has been named winner of the 2014 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.
The Chapman Award is named in memory of Chapman, a former PR executive and innovator, who worked with Babe Ruth and was named Indy Car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s.
New inductees to Hall: The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame’s newest class of inductees includes a driver, two crew chiefs, a team owner, public relations representative and a track promoter.
The inductees: Jerry Baxter, currently crew chief at Kyle Busch Motorsports; former Infineon Raceway vice president of communications John Cardinale; former NASCAR driver Jason Leffler; former team owner Warren Razore; former crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Sr., Doug Richert; and promoter Jim Williams.
Three things to watch
1 Kevin Harvick has a series-best five wins at Phoenix, including three of the last four races and the past two.
2 The last time Brad Keselowski faced a win-or-you’re-eliminated scenario in the Chase, he won at Talladega, Ala., and advanced to Round 3.
3 Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin can both clinch championship berths if they finish 11th or higher Sunday, regardless of the performance of any other driver.
Observations• NASCAR has yet to take any action against Cup driver Kurt Busch while he is being investigated by Dover, Del., police for his involvement in a domestic assault claim made by his ex-girlfriend. Unless Busch is charged in the incident, NASCAR is likely to continue with the “wait and see” approach, which is probably the best option. If Busch is charged, NASCAR will need to likely sit him until the case is resolved. Yes, Busch is innocent until proven guilty, but probable cause is still necessary to be charged with a crime, which means authorities believe the claim has merit. The issue is too important for any professional sport’s sanctioning body to remain silent.
• I can’t tell you how many times in my career I’ve had people ask me who I think will win the series championship, but this season I have found the new Chase format makes that an exceedingly difficult task. Simply going by the “strongest team” or “most consistent” is not enough considering the elimination element in the Chase and the ability of any driver to win and advance. Before the season I picked Jimmie Johnson to repeat. Clearly, that isn’t the case.
Three picks for your fantasy team:
Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth