Sunday, July 05, 2009

Ambrose Captures Fifth Top-10 Finish Of Season at Coke Zero 400 at DIS

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 5, 2009) – An ailing Marcos Ambrose was all smiles when he climbed from his No. 47 Kingsford® Charcoal Toyota Saturday night after crossing the finish line sixth at Daytona International Speedway in the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola.

“I was sick again this weekend and had to have an IV treatment, but this is one way to clear up a severe cold,” said Ambrose, who has two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 18 starts this year. “This finish makes me feel 100 percent better. It was just a great night for us. We fought hard all day.”

It was yet another spectacular superspeedway finish as Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart were battling for the victory. On the final lap the two tangled and Stewart was the victor as Busch slammed hard into the retaining wall causing a chain reaction.

Ambrose held his line and drove through the smoke and debris to earn his fifth top-10 finish of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The Australian driver maintained 18th-place in the owner championship standings. “There was a lot of action on the track and it was intense,” Ambrose said. “It was just another amazing night for us and I want to thank Jodi and Tad (Geschickter), Brad Daugherty and my Kingsford® Charcoal team for believing in me. It’s been a great ride so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Ambrose started 18th as the 43-car field lineup was set by the NASCAR rulebook due to afternoon showers Friday. Points leader Tony Stewart led Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Bush, Carl Edwards and the remaining rows of the field to the green flag for the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday night.

Only 11 laps after NASCAR waved the green flag, Ambrose charged into the top-10 as the top lane proved to be the way to go at the 2.5-mile tri-oval. Two laps later the first caution of the race occurred when Mark Martin went spinning off of Turn 2 and smashed the nose of his car into the inside wall. The Kingsford® Charcoal Toyota had been loose up top and tight on the bottom of the track while it was also hitting the ground.

“We were still all in all good,” Ambrose said. Frank Kerr called for four tires and no changes. The pit crew did an excellent job and picked up three spots on pit road for Ambrose, which positioned him fifth for the restart on Lap 16. On the next caution at Lap 27 for Casey Mears spinning off of Turn 2 into the inside wall, Ambrose had been shuffled back to 14th and he was experiencing no grip. The Kingsford® Charcoal Toyota was still hitting the ground making the Toyota a little snug.

“We were so close to being really good,” Ambrose said. The JTG-Daugherty pit crew worked on getting the car off the ground and also changed four tires and made an air pressure adjustment. Ambrose returned to green flag racing in 27th-place on Lap 31 this time with a loose handling car.

“It was pretty loose,” Ambrose said. “It was good on the bottom, but really loose in the middle of the track and up top.”

Another caution around Lap 59 for debris allowed the team to change four tires and work on the handling more. However, the changes for some reason made Kingsford® Toyota worse. A big wreck involving 13 cars on Lap 76 allowed Ambrose to return to pit road on Lap 79 for four tires and adjustments.

“The worse part was the car had been free and there was no grip in the tri-oval,” Ambrose said. “But, in turns 1, 2, 3 and 4 it was good." The No. 47 Kingsford® Charcoal Toyota took the green flag in 15th position as the top five drivers consisted of Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson.

At Lap 99, Ambrose radioed Kerr and told him the car was perfect. As he entered pit road under caution on Lap 104, he emphasized to Kerr that he had more front grip and the car had a good balance. The pit crew only changed four tires, added fuel and sent Ambrose on his way. He restarted 13th on Lap 107 and returned to the top 10 three laps later. Ambrose was charging to the front and on Lap 118 he strong-armed his way into the top-five. When the caution flag was displayed at Lap 121, Ambrose told Kerr ‘Don’t change a thing.’ Kerr had the crew only bolt on four fresh Goodyear tires and add fuel.

Back to work on Lap 127, Ambrose was 10th while up ahead four drivers distanced themselves from the rest of the field. Stewart, Busch, Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson had a four car breakaway, but a caution at Lap 145 changed all of that. Ambrose came down pit road in 12th-place for four tires and a quarter round of wedge out of his Kingsford® Charcoal Toyota. He restarted ninth on Lap 149 on the inside. His spotter Al DiRusso told Ambrose that the top of the track would be his best bet.

On Lap 152, An accident involving the No. 82 car of Scott Speed and No. 44 car of AJ Allmendinger brought out the eighth caution of the race. Ambrose was able to shove his way by the No. 2 car of Kurt Busch for the eighth spot as he prepared for the restart on Lap 156.

On Lap 159 Busch stole the lead from Stewart. Coming to the checkered flag on the next lap, Stewart moved to the outside of Busch and Busch moved up to block him. Busch’s rear bumper clipped Stewart’s nose causing Busch to spin around and slam hard into the retaining wall, which set off a big wreck in the field. Ambrose drove through the smoke and escaped unscathed to finish sixth in his second outing at Daytona International Speedway.

While Stewart won his second race of the season Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Ambrose was so close to having his third top-five finish of the season, but he was pleased with his top-10 outcome.

Next up for Ambrose and his JTG-Daugherty Racing team is Chicagoland Speedway. Live coverage on Saturday, July 11th begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on TNT and MRN Radio. The event will also air on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

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