Monday, August 24, 2009

Ambrose Crosses Finish Line Third at Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol, Tenn. (August 23, 2009) – Saturday night Marcos Ambrose recorded his fourth top-five finish of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season crossing the finish line in third-place in his No. 47 Clorox® Toyota Camry at Bristol Motor Speedway. Ambrose was in contention for his first victory in the final eight laps of the 500-lap event as leader and eventual winner Kyle Busch battled Mark Martin for his fourth victory this year. Busch was able to hold off Martin to seal the deal while Greg Biffle finished fourth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.

“Just a wonderful night for me,” Ambrose said. “My first year in the Cup Series -- to be racing with Mark in his thousandth start, racing with Kyle Busch, who will probably go down in history as one of the best of all time -- I just feel privileged to be out there and running with them. It was a great day for me, great night for my sponsors. We are a first-year team, and I am a first-year driver -- to be running up there like we did tonight is pretty special. I wanted to race them hard. You know you're in very special territory up there. I'm just thrilled to be up there and have the finish like we did with good car speed. I didn't have anything for Mark (Martin) and Kyle (Busch) there at the very end, but just a great night overall.”

On Friday, the 32-year-old qualified 25th at the .533-mile concrete oval while Mark Martin captured his fifth pole of the season. After the start of the 24th race of the year, Ambrose was moving ahead and in 21st place when the first caution flag waved at Lap 61. A few laps later he was on pit road for four tires and an air pressure adjustment because his No. 47 Clorox® Toyota was loose off and tight in the middle. When the field returned to green flag racing, Ambrose was scored in 20th place and still too tight in the middle.

By Lap 84, Ambrose made up some ground and moved inside the top 15. The Australian driver continued to pick off positions one by one and on Lap 125 he advanced inside the top 10. According to crew chief Frank Kerr, he was turning laps times quicker than leader Mark Martin.

Under caution for debris at Lap 135, Kerr called Ambrose to pit road for the JTG-Daugherty Racing pit crew to fuel the car and change four tires. Kerr told Ambrose he was not making any changes to the car.

“The pit crew did an amazing job all night and they picked up a couple of positions on that stop,” Ambrose said. “We decided not to make any changes. The car was pretty good, but it was sometimes floating the nose and it was at times breaking loose on me.”

The No. 47 Clorox® Toyota was in good company on the restart at Lap 144 in eight-place. Mark Martin led the way with Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, David Reutimann and Greg Biffle making up the top five.

When the caution flag waved again at Lap 163, Kerr elected to keep Ambrose on track.

“The Clorox® Toyota was getting tighter as the race went on,” Ambrose said.

“At that point we were not going to do a whole lot to the car,” Kerr said. “It was pretty good.”

Running in eight-place on the restart at Lap 170, Ambrose moved up to sixth place nine laps later. On Lap 181, Ambrose was on the inside of David Reutimann’s No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry for fifth-place. As he completed the pass, Kerr keyed up the radio and told Ambrose he had the fastest car on the track.

On Lap 189, Ambrose was pleased when he passed three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson for fourth-place. At the same time, Ambrose was running lap times as fast as Martin who showed the way. Settling into fourth-place, Ambrose did not stay there for long and was on the outside of Kyle Busch on Lap 211 challenging for third-place. He completed the pass, but was mired in lap traffic while at the same time trying to chase down leader Martin. Kurt Busch was trying to protect second place.

On Lap 254, the No. 34 car of John Andretti shot up into the outside retaining wall bringing out another caution allowing the JTG-Daugherty Racing team to change four tires and go up a quarter-round on the track bar. Ambrose restarted in sixth-place on Lap 263 and was back inside the top-five the next lap. Nearly 21 laps later, Ambrose fell outside the top-five due to handling. His Clorox® Toyota was loose in and off and tight in the middle.

“I told Frank to go back on the changes,” Ambrose said. “We were too loose in and off and snug in the middle.”

On Lap 357 under caution, the JTG-Daugherty Racing team put everything back and bolted on four fresh Goodyear tires that allowed Ambrose to keep his Camry inside the top-10. When NASCAR waved the caution flag for rain at Lap 420, Ambrose was back on pit road.

“We were too tight in the middle still,” Ambrose said. “We were pushy loose off too.”

Restarting 8th on Lap 431, Ambrose wasted no time to return to the top-five three laps later. With the laps winding down, the two-time V8 Supercar champion protected his third-place position that he snatched away from Ryan Newman at Lap 466.

On another restart at Lap 486, Ambrose slipped from third to fifth as the caution flag waved again four laps later for an accident involving the No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driven by Michael Waltrip. With eight laps remaining, NASCAR red flagged the event as Kyle Busch occupied first-place, Mark Martin was second, Greg Biffle third and Ambrose was fourth with Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind him. When the field got the green flag for the final time, Ambrose passed Greg Biffle for third while Martin was inside the No. 18 car of Kyle Busch battling for his fifth win of the season. Busch was able to hold him off for another victory and Ambrose posted his second third-place finish of the year.

“I don't feel like I'm comfortable just yet,” said Ambrose after his impressive finish. “I don't feel like I'm safe in the sport, I don't. Consistency is an issue for me. I have good runs like this and then I'll back it up like last week and run 35th. I feel privileged to be driving for Tad and Jody Geschickter (team owners, JTG-Daugherty). They have given me a chance of a lifetime and I want to pay them back as much as I can. We're just thrilled to be in the sport. Like I said, I didn't ask anything from anybody. I didn't expect to be given any breaks. I didn't want any special treatment. I knew I had to learn from scratch, fight my way up through the categories. I've finished top 10 both years in the Nationwide Series with a limited budget against the big Cup teams. Really proud of what we've done. We've kept growing, kept moving forward. We haven't finished. We announced a wonderful sponsor today in Kleenex. In a time where sponsorships are dropping and teams are reducing what they're doing, we're growing. It's just very exciting time for us.”

This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series enjoys a weekend off. Next up is the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 6th. Live coverage on ESPN and PRN Radio begins at 7 p.m. ET.

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