* The "Other" International Star: Australian Ambrose Leads Wood Bros./JTG Racing * Ford, Dodge In Second-Place Manufacturer's Standings Tie * Loop Data: Leffler's Numbers Predict He'll Be A Factor At Atlanta Quiet Riot: Ambrose Poised To...
* The "Other" International Star: Australian Ambrose Leads Wood Bros./JTG Racing
* Ford, Dodge In Second-Place Manufacturer's Standings Tie
* Loop Data: Leffler's Numbers Predict He'll Be A Factor At Atlanta
Quiet Riot: Ambrose Poised To Make Some Noise; Leads Team Resurgence
The bulk of international attention -- and rightfully so -- in NASCAR national series competition has been thrust upon Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge), who is making quick strides in his transition from open-wheel to stock cars.
But a Tasmanian Devil lurks in the background and doesn't plan on staying quiet much longer.
Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Ford), the 31-year-old native Australian from Tasmania, is making his case as the "other" international star in the NASCAR Busch Series.
A graduate of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last year after claiming two consecutive V8 Supercar titles in 2003-04, Ambrose is showing off his talent in the early stages of the 2007 season.
After decent finishes of 16th and 25th, respectively, at Daytona International Speedway and California Speedway, Ambrose has registered back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two races -- eighth at Mexico City and 10th at Las Vegas.
He comes to Atlanta fifth in the point standings, and also leads Montoya in the series Raybestos Rookie of the Year rankings after four races.
Ambrose teams with Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/Armor All/American Red Cross Ford), who's three top-15 finishes to start the year have helped him to a sixth-place point standing heading to Atlanta.
The position of the Ambrose-Wood combination is a healthy sign for Wood Brothers/JTG Racing, now in the second full year of its association to build solid teams in NASCAR Busch Series and in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
Ford, Dodge Tied For Second In Manufacturer Standings
Ford and Dodge have completed their early-season comeback from third and fourth place, respectively, in the Bill France Performance Cup standings and are tied for second place heading to Atlanta.
Both manufacturers have 21 points following leader Chevrolet's second win of the season last week at Las Vegas. Chevy's victory was the first repeat win by a manufacturer this year.
After a solid start, Toyota now faces its largest deficit of the year (14 points).
Leffler's Loop History: He'll Battle Hard In Atlanta
With the dominant season series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 21 AutoZone Chevrolet) and championship runner-up Carl Edwards had last year, it was tough for anyone else to break through in wins, let alone statistical categories.
But that's exactly what happened at Atlanta in 2006. Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) finished sixth in that race, ahead of -- you guessed it -- both Harvick and Edwards.
And he did it in impressive fashion. Leffler had an Average Running Position of 13.077 and a Driver Rating of 94.9. He also accumulated an astounding number of Quality Passes -- passes of cars in the Top 15 while under green -- with 33. That number was third-best over the last two years at Atlanta.
Now the question is: Can he do it again? Leffler will have some stout competition once again as he challenges a list of drivers who have accumulated Driver Ratings in the 100+ territory at Atlanta: Jeff Burton (138.7), Tony Stewart (118.3), Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Arby's Ford, 115.3), Edwards (114.7), Greg Biffle (No. 37 Cub Cadet Ford, 114.6) and Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Ragu Dodge, 111.5).
If last year's performance is any indication, Burton might be the man to beat. The defending race winner brilliantly negotiated Atlanta's lightning-quick terrain, earning top-three Speeds on the Frontstretch, and in each of Atlanta's four turns. His Green Flag Speed was also the fastest of any driver over the past two years.
Keep an eye on Kenseth, too. He has a win at Atlanta and has finished fourth each of the last two years. His Average Running Position of 5.155 is the highest of any driver who has competed in the last two Atlanta races and his 388 Laps in the Top 15 is tops among any driver over the last two years at the track.
ABC will broadcast its second consecutive NASCAR Busch Series race this weekend from Atlanta. The network is also scheduled to air next Friday's event from Bristol. ABC will show six series races this season.
... Brothers Jeff and Ward Burton (No. 27 Brewco Motorsports Ford) each have a win at Atlanta.
... Dan Stillman, crew chief of the No. 33 RoadLoans.com Chevrolet, will work with his fourth driver in four races when Tony Raines takes the wheel at Atlanta -- the first NASCAR Busch Series race for Raines since November 2005. Tony Stewart (Daytona), Kevin Harvick (California) and Ron Fellows (Mexico City) preceeded Raines.
... Shane Huffman (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) looks to make his first series start at Atlanta, but it won't be his first visit to the track. "I went to my first race in Atlanta in the late '90s with a bunch of friends," he said. "We bought tickets and sat in the stands in what used to be the middle of Turns 1 and 2. I've probably been to a handful of races there as a fan in the last 10 years."
... David Reutimann (No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota) has a pole and two top-five finishes at Atlanta in NASCAR Craftsman Truck competition; he'll make his first start at the track in a NASCAR Busch Series car -- and in his sponsor's hometown.
The Race: Nicorette 300
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: March 17, 20071
The Time: 3:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: ABC, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval
Race Purse: $1,115,577
2006 Winner: Jeff Burton
2006 Pole: Kyle Busch
Schedule: Fri. March 16 -- Practice, 10:40-11:45 a.m., Rookie Practice, 1:40-2:10 p.m., Final Practice 2:15-3:20 p.m. Sat., March 17 -- Qualifying, 11:05 a.m. (Impound).