Ambrose’s pain is Johnson’s gain

Published 9:20 am Saturday, June 26, 2010

Jimmie Johnson can mark one more item off his bucket list.

Before last Sunday, Johnson had come up empty in 16 previous attempts at winning a road course race. With a big time assist to Marcos Ambrose, who practically had the race sewn up and made a mistake late in the race, Johnson took home the checkers at Infineon Raceway last Sunday.

You have to feel bad for Ambrose, clearly the strongest car in the field, but he, at the same time, deserves the Bonehead of the Year Award. With seven laps remaining, under caution, and leading the race, Ambrose kills the engine to conserve gas. This is pretty common practice for drivers late in the race and in jeopardy of running out of gas.

However, most drivers don’t kill the engine while going uphill on a road course. As you can imagine, Ambrose’s car, without the power of the engine, stalled and eventually came to a halt on the track. After getting the engine re-fired, NASCAR placed Ambrose in seventh position and he ended up finishing the race in sixth, after gift-wrapping the win for Johnson.

You have to feel bad for Ambrose, the only driver in NASCAR, and I would venture to say the only driver that will ever be in NASCAR, from Tasmania in Australia. He is a great road racer who missed a great shot for his first cup win.

Johnson jumped four spots, to second, with the win Sunday and two of his main competitors for the championship, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, both had terrible days at Sonoma. Hamlin finished 34th and Busch placed 39th, dropping them one spot a piece, to third and fourth, in the standings.

Kevin Harvick remains atop the standings and has opened up a stout 140-point lead over second place.

It’s hard to believe, but we have already had 16 races this season and only 10 remain before the chase field is set. Because drivers earn 10 bonus points for every win and Harvick has won but one race, chances are he will not be atop the points standings when the chase races start in Richmond in September.

The next race on the schedule is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH. This track is a 1-mile flat oval that produces pretty good speed and entertaining racing.

Qualifying for this race was early on Friday afternoon and Juan Pablo Montoya won the pole with a speed of 132.43 mph with Kasey Kahne on the outside pole. Bobby Labonte will be driving Robby Gordon’s No 7 Toyota in this race after parting ways the TRG Motorsports team earlier in the week.

The TRG bunch, faced with severe financial restraints, had fallen to a “start and park” operation, showing up just to collect purse money. Labonte is a former champion and still a good driver. He deserves better, my hope is he lands in a competitive situation.

Jeff Burton is the active career win leader at New Hampshire with five wins and sure could use a win this weekend. However, my pick to win this week is Kurt Busch.

Jeff Findley is Publisher of The Post-Searchlight in Bainbridge, Georgia – a sister publication of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald – and a syndicated NASCAR columnist. He can be reached via email at