Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ambrose 23rd at New Hampshire in Rain-Shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Event

LOUDON, N.H. (6/29/09) - - Marcos Ambrose, who was a little under the weather on Sunday, drove his No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota to a 23rd-place finish in the rain-shortened Lenox Industrial Tools 301 during race number 17 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The top-25 finish helped the JTG-Daugherty Racing team maintain 18th-place in the owner championship standings. Joey Logano earned his first-career victory while Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, David Reutimann and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five.

On Friday, qualifying was canceled due to inclement weather. With NASCAR setting the field by the rulebook based on the owner points standings, Ambrose started 18th as Tony Stewart led the field to the green flag with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards in tow.

The Australian driver maintained his top 20 run with a loose handling Little Debbie® Toyota that he brought down pit road on Lap 16 for four tires, and an air pressure and wedge adjustment.

“We were loose in and loose off and it had no forward drive,” Ambrose said.

Restarting in 27th-place on Lap 19, Ambrose’s radioed the team a couple laps later to tell them they made changes in the right direction and the car’s handling had improved. He more so liked the feeling the changes gave him on entry. On Lap 47 under caution in 22nd-place, the No. 47 Little Debbie Toyota entered pit road again for a quarter round track bar adjustment, a half turn in on wedge and no tires.

“It felt like the left front was too high and it didn’t have a lot of drive off the left rear,” Ambrose said.

As green flag racing continued, Ambrose was 22nd and remained loose both in and off the corners. The caution flag waved again at Lap 59 and crew chief Frank Kerr took advantage of the opportunity to call Ambrose to pit road for four tires, more adjustments and instructed the pit crew remove a spring rubber out of the left rear.

On Lap 63, Ambrose took the green in 29th-place and quickly returned to the top 25. As the race progressed, leader Jimmie Johnson was on a rail and making his way around several cars to put them one lap down. As Johnson had Ambrose in sight on Lap 115, the Australian driver was running lap times as fast as the Lowe’s machine while scored in 19th-place. With green flag pits stops taking place soon after, Ambrose gave up 11th-place and entered pit road on Lap 124 for four fresh tires. He ended up being scored one lap down to leader Johnson when he returned to the track.

“We had lost forward drive,” Ambrose said.

After pitting, Kerr told Ambrose he turned his quickest lap on 128 up until that point while running 28th. When the caution flag was displayed again at Lap 146, Kerr decided to take their chances and stay out to hopefully catch a caution and advance onto the lead lap. Nearly 20 laps later, Kerr’s plan worked and Ambrose was the Lucky Dog recipient.

“It worked in our favor,” Kerr said.

On the restart at Lap 174, Ambrose’s spotter Al DiRusso’s yelled ‘stop, stop, stop’ as several cars fell victim to an incident that happed when spun his tires on the restart and Truex had nowhere to go as the 18 car of Kyle Busch got into the back of his car that caused a chain reaction.

“Marcos had to come to his pit box because we thought he may have locked up the tires and he had grass in the grill from trying to avoid the incident,” Kerr said. “We had him come in just in case and get the screen cleaned.”

With multiple cars involved, NASCAR red flagged the event on Lap 175 and Ambrose was in the 23rd position. NASCAR hurriedly cleaned the track as rain loomed outside New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

After taking four tires on Lap 177, he was 23rd when the field returned to racing with Jeff Gordon leading the way as the battle for the top spot heated up between him, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson with the double file restart.

“It was just crazy loose,” Ambrose said. “I thought we might be in big trouble.”

Another caution occurred at Lap 187 for incident involving Logano as it started to mist.

“We knew the rain was coming,” Kerr said.

On Lap 189, the challenge for the lead was greater than before as Jeff Gordon led the field to green. Tony Stewart was in second and Kyle Busch in third. Busch slid up and made contact with the 48 car while Stewart was on the bottom. As this was going on up front, the yellow flag waved for an accident involving the No. 82 car.

Ambrose was 19th on the restart at Lap 195 and was extremely loose. Keeping his top-20 form, the frontrunners started to pit around Lap 235 when leader Tony Stewart headed to pit road. With teams ahead of Ambrose pitting, he was scored as high as third-place before making his green flag stop on Lap 239 for four tires. He returned to the track 27th.

While 24th on Lap 262, Ambrose’s spotter told Kerr that the rain was close. Five laps later it started to mist again as Ambrose was on pit road at Lap 272 for four tires and a shock adjustment. The next lap NASCAR brought the field down pit road and parked the cars with Logano in the lead due to opting to stay out and not pit. The 19-year-old went on to win his first career victory.

Ambrose finished 23rd after completing 273 laps of the scheduled 301 lap event and his teammate David Reutimann finished fourth while Michael Waltrip finished 24th.

This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Daytona International Speedway. Live coverage of the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola on Saturday begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT. The event will also air on MRN Radio and Sirius XM Satellite.

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