- Associated Press - Saturday, June 22, 2013

SONOMA, CALIF. (AP) - Marcos Ambrose’s intent was to praise the deep pool of talent at Sonoma Raceway. It came out as a backhanded compliment of defending race winner Clint Bowyer.

“If you look down the sheet of people who can win, there’s at least 20 drivers that could win,” Ambrose said when asked about the improved competition on road courses.

“Would you have put Clint Bowyer on that list last year when he went around here? Probably not, so it could be even thicker than that. It could be 30-odd drivers that have a chance to win.”

Bowyer got wind of the remark and fired back his own shot at the Australian road racing ace, who infamously lost the 2010 race here when he turned his engine off while leading under caution.

“I read Ambrose’s quote, that was kind of mean,” Bowyer said. “Who would have thought he would have shut his car off leading and not win the race? So bam! You should post that quote right there for Ambrose.”

It was good-natured ribbing, and Bowyer quickly said Ambrose is indeed one of the best road racers and will be a favorite on Sunday.

“He is amazing to watch,” Bowyer said. “I remember last year, his car was terrible and he had that thing hung out driving the absolute daylights out of it.”

Ambrose, meanwhile, is banking on a big day.

He heads into the race ranked 23rd in the Sprint Cup standings, hoping a win could push him inside the top-20 and into contention for a wild card berth for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He and teammate Aric Almirola tested at the 1.99-mile track in May.

“I’m mindful that we’ve had a terrible year and this is a really good opportunity to get your year back on track,” Ambrose said. “Certainly, there is added pressure. I would love to be top 10 in points coming into this weekend and just rolling through a like a normal one. We need to turn our year around and this is a good opportunity for us.”

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