- Mark Ashenfelter, NASCAR
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It'll be easy to understand if Marcos Ambrose seems a little disconnected this weekend at Dover International Speedway. And even though he'll be at the track where he posted a career-best sixth-place finish back in June, the Busch Series won't be his top priority.
No, his focus will be back in North Carolina, where wife Sonja is due to deliver the couple's second child Sunday. With that at the forefront, Ambrose even turned down an offer to attempt to make his Cup debut in a second Robby Gordon Motorsports entry.
Seventh in Busch Series points, and trying to chase down David Ragan in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year race, Ambrose will try to learn a new suspension setup his team is trying in an attempt to find even more speed from his Wood Brothers/JTG Racing Ford.
Ambrose would obviously love to give his soon-to-expand family a win, or at least his first top-5 finish, Saturday afternoon in the RoadLoans.com 200 (3:30 ET, ESPN2).
"The guys have been putting in a lot of work and we have some new aero and front-end developments that we are going to run for the first time'" Ambrose said. "We are a lot stronger than we were in June, so it's going to be interesting to see where we sit this time around.
"I'm very motivated and excited about the last seven races of the season. Dover is a place we ran well at earlier in the year, Kansas is the next race after that and is a track I really like and there are some other places I'm looking forward to as well. We will see how we go this weekend and then I'll be straight back to Charlotte to be with Sonja and support her."
Ambrose hopes to join Stephen Leicht, Aric Almirola and Jason Leffler as Busch Series-only drivers who have won a race this season. And Almirola's win comes with an asterisk because Denny Hamlin finished the race in the car; and Almirola's also making a few Cup starts this season.
But for a Busch-only driver to win, he'll likely have to contend with Carl Edwards, who won here in June. Edwards didn't win last month's race at Bristol, but he's been dominant on concrete tracks this season.
And if there's anywhere Edwards is going to break out of his slump in the series -- he's only earned two top-10s in the last nine races and hasn't won in 14 -- Dover figures to be the place. If he's successful, he'll record his 14th win in what will be just his 100th start in the Busch Series. He's got 44 top-5 finishes and 64 top-10s in just 99 starts.
"I'm really looking forward to going back to Dover International Speedway," Edwards said. "We had a great win there earlier this year and racing on the Monster Mile is just awesome. We've had a lot of success on concrete this year and we will do everything possible to put the Ford back in Victory Lane."
To get around Dover you've got to know who to race and when to race them, but you never know when the track's going to jump out and bite you. I guess that's why they call it the Monster Mile.
"It's a great honor to compete in both of NASCAR's top series and it's hard to believe that I have hit this milestone in both the Nextel Cup and Busch Series this year," Edwards said. "I truly love racing and it's been great to me. I can't thank Jack Roush, my teams and my sponsors enough for making this dream come true. Now it's up to me to put on a good show for the fans and celebrate my 100th start."
Ambrose won't be the only Busch-only driver looking for his first win on Saturday. Brad Keselowski hopes to steal a little bit of the limelight from his car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski ran well at the track in June with an underfunded team before a mechanical failure in the waning laps ruined a strong effort.
Keselowski finished seventh at Bristol with JR Motorsports and hopes to be a bit better at a track he enjoys battling.
"I like Dover. I like it a lot. It suits my driving style," Keselowski said. "It's both physically and mentally challenging. It's very fast and we pull a lot of [G forces] there. Dover's a place that's very in-your-face like a bully, and much like dealing with a bully, the best way to attack it is to go straight at it.
"To get around Dover you've got to know who to race and when to race them, but you never know when the track's going to jump out and bite you. I guess that's why they call it the Monster Mile."
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN.
Marcos Ambrose has a lot on his mind this weekend as the Busch Series heads to Dover. What's to fret over? New front-end and suspension setups, and, oh yeah, a baby due any day, writes Mark Ashenfelter.