Splish-splash, Ambrose gives it the gas
Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009
MONTREAL - When it rained yet again at Circuit Gilles Villenueve, Marcos Ambrose was in the driver's seat.
The hard-charging Ambrose, who grew up in rainy Tasmania, turned a fast lap of 80.905 mph over the rainswept 2.7-mile street course on Saturday to capture the Nationwide series pole. He easily beat Carl Edwards, whose best lap was 80.116 mph but more than a second slower as dusk was beginning to fall.
"It's better to be lucky than good," Ambrose said. "It worked out perfectly. I had a great draw. I went out first in my group, which helped me get clean track. The conditions worked in our favor. The track deteriorated, the daylight disappeared, and we got lucky. We'll take it."
Qualifying began about 45 minutes late and ended as darkness fell and a heavy mist was settling over the track. The cars were fitted with windshield wipers and brake lights for the conditions. Ambrose was in the second of eight groups to qualify, and like all the other drivers he was caught off-guard.
"Nobody expected to qualify in the rain," said Ambrose, who won at Watkins Glen three weeks ago. "It's been an interesting day."
Especially for Edwards.
Earlier, his first career start in the Grand-Am Rolex Series ended before the green flag waved when he ran off course on the warmup lap on cold tires and slammed a barrier in the No. 77 Ford Daytona Prototype for Doran Racing. That forced Edwards and his disappointed driving partner, Ambrose, to watch the entire race as they finished last.
"It probably worked out the best," Edwards said. "I had already taken enough from Marcos. Now, we're even, so tomorrow I have zero guilt about racing him."
"The sports car race ended so badly for us. We destroyed that car. That car is junk," Ambrose said. "Maybe it's karma."
Maybe it was. Edwards said he was hesitant before going out in the sixth group.
"It took me a second back in the car to get my mojo," said Edwards, who was involved in a spectacular crash in April at the finish of a Cup race at Talladega. "That was a pretty hard hit. I didn't think it was going to be that hard, but that was one of the hardest hits I've had in a car, and to do it at that speed was crazy.
"It may have helped me to be more cautious," he said. "That could have helped my qualifying laps. I knew that I had to hold my head up. At the end of the day, I knew I had to get a decent lap."
Defending race winner Ron Fellows of Canada qualified third in 79.717 mph, followed by fellow road race ace Boris Said. Brad Coleman was fifth, and former Formula One star Jacques Villeneuve, who made a gallant run on the track named after his father despite standing water all around the course, was sixth. Series points leader Kyle Busch will start 12th.
Showers are in the forecast for Sunday's race. Last year's Nationwide race in Montreal was the first and only NASCAR race ever run on rain tires.
That wasn't the forecast Busch was looking for. Neither was Saturday's.
"It was not too much fun. NASCAR cars are not made for this," Busch said after his qualifying effort. "I had windshield wiper problems, defogger problems, staying on course problems, problems overall. It's a fiasco, but we're making the best of what we've got.
"If it's dry (on Sunday), hopefully we can run all right and get up through there," said Busch, who won Friday night's Truck series race at Chicagoland and didn't arrive in Montreal until 3 a.m Saturday. "If it rains, we're going to be pretty bad."