Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ambrose Survives Long Day at Michigan

Sunday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway Marcos Ambrose started 26th and finished 36th behind the wheel of the No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota Camry Toyota in his 33rd career NASCAR Sprint Cup start. He completed 199 of 200 laps at the two-mile tri-oval and held on to 17th-place in the driver championship standings in his first full season of competition in the premiere division.

It was not the finish the JTG-Daugherty team was hoping for, especially following a win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 and a runner-up finish in the Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International. The team is learning and growing from their experiences and this weekend is no different as they turned their focus to Bristol Motor Speedway where they had a shot at winning until experiencing mechanical problems. The JTG-Daugherty Racing team rallied back to finish 10th.

“We’ll put Michigan behind us and go on to Bristol,” Ambrose said. “Handling was a challenge for us. We got caught a lap down and we were not able to recover from that.”

After starting 26th, Ambrose’s Little Debbie® Toyota was snug in the middle. On Lap 6 of the 200-lap event, the race was red flagged due to light rain on the two-mile tri-oval. Once the 43-car field was rolling again, Ambrose dove to pit road for two tires and adjustments. He restarted 23rd and was closing in on the top-15.

“We were loose off the throttle,” Ambrose said. “As the race went on, we were loose in, tight in the middle and lose off.”

On Lap 44 under green, crew chief Frank Kerr called for four tires and changes to the Little Debbie® machine. A few laps later, Ambrose was actually looser with no front grip. Kerr and the JTG-Daugherty Racing team went back to work on the car under caution at Lap 54 making a track bar and air pressure adjustment. Mired back in traffic on the restart at Lap 58, Ambrose was 30th as Matt Kenseth led the field to green.

“I had no forward drive,” Ambrose said. “It was still loose in after the changes we made and had no front grip.”

On Lap 93, the pit crew had another opportunity to take a stab at it. They made more changes and put Ambrose back on track in 36th-place.

“We were still battling with having no front grip and we lost a lap to the leader,” Ambrose said. “The right front was really giving up.”

Back in on Lap 118 under caution, Kerr threw everything he had at it as the Little Debbie Toyota still had no grip and seemed to get worse as the race progressed. Once again the yellow flag waved 17 laps later, Ambrose was back on pit road for more service. Then Kerr brought him back in on Lap 150.

“With 50 laps to go, they changed four tires and put rubbers in the left rear and made a wedge adjustment,” Ambrose said. “They didn’t give up and just kept working on it.”

Back to green flag racing, Ambrose was in 35th-place still one lap down as his teammate David Reutimann led the field on Lap 152. A few laps later, it was back to pit road for Ambrose.

“We just kept pitting trying to improve the handling of the car,” Ambrose said.

With 39 laps remaining, Brian Vickers set the pace as Ambrose was in 35th-place. Vickers would go on to win the race and Ambrose crossed the finish line in 35th-place.
Live coverage of the Sharpie 500 on Saturday, August 22nd starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. MRN and Sirius PRN will also carry the event beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

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