Monday, October 12, 2009

Ambrose Finishes 23rd After Being Involved in Late Race Accident at Auto Club Speedway

FONTANA, Calif. (October 12, 2008) – Marcos Ambrose’s chance for a top-15 finish was ruined when he was collected in an accident inside ten laps remaining in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Auto Club Speedway. The JTG-Daugherty Racing team persevered to quickly make repairs to the right front of the No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota for Ambrose to get back on track. The Australian driver finished in 23rd-place after NASCAR lifted the red flag for cleanup following the multi-car accident.

Three-time champion Jimmie Johnson won race number 30 and assumed the points lead. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon finished second, Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, his other colleague Mark Martin was fourth and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five.

When the green flag fell on an overcast afternoon at the two-mile D-shaped oval, Ambrose started 27th and his Little Debbie Toyota was loose in the middle. That didn’t slow him down as he immediately jumped inside the top 20 on Lap 2. However, his car continued to loosen up and by Lap 20, he had fallen back to 28th place.

On his first green flag pit stop of the day, crew chief Frank Kerr called for four tires and a wedge adjustment. Ambrose needed forward bite and was fighting to stay ahead of the leader Juan Pablo Montoya. As the 42 car closed in on Ambrose within four car lengths, a caution occurred on Lap 59.

“We caught a break there and kept from going a lap down to the leader,” Ambrose said. “We really needed forward drive and it was really loose in when I would hit the brakes.”

On pit road two laps later, Kerr told the JTG-Daugherty Racing team to make an air pressure adjustment, put a half of round of wedge in, pull the left front packer out and change four tires. Ambrose restarted 25th on Lap 64 and immediately, he communicated to Kerr that his Little Debbie® Toyota was out of control.

“It was crazy loose,” Ambrose said. “It was really out of control. I’m not sure what happened there. It was just all over the track. We completely lost the handling.”

Under caution at Lap 82, Ambrose was back on pit road for tires, a spring rubber in the left rear and the pit crew put the packer back in the left front.

“The handling had just totally gone away,” Ambrose said. “I was spinning out.”

Going back to work from the 25th spot, Kerr told Ambrose to be patient because he was in dirty air. It was going to be a long day, but Ambrose fought hard and by Lap 109, he was among the top-20.

On Lap 118 under caution, the Little Debbie® crew had another chance to take a stab at it. They changed four tires and went up a half round on the track bar. The sun was out and it changed the track conditions.

When the field got the green again, Ambrose was 18th on Lap 121. Even though he was now too tight in the middle and the right rear was giving up forward bite, he was moving forward. On Lap 134, he positioned his Toyota in the top 15 while Jimmie Johnson showed the way.

“The attitude of the car was somewhat better than it had been earlier in the race, but the right rear had lost grip,” Ambrose said. “It was also pushy loose off and tight in the middle.”

While green flag stops commenced, Ambrose was shown in 10th on Lap 160. He headed to pit road the following lap for tires and more adjustments. Just 10 laps later, Ambrose was running lap times as fast as the eventual winner, Johnson.

“I was still too loose,” Ambrose said.

With no right rear tire grip and the left rear spinning as well, Ambrose pitted under a debris caution at Lap 184 for four fresh tires and an air pressure adjustment. Fortunately, the caution came at the right time because the team discovered after his stop that he had a left front tire going down.

“We were lucky,” Ambrose said.

Ambrose restarted 16th on Lap 189 as another caution immediately occurred involving the leader Denny Hamlin who had just cut across the nose of Montoya’s machine. The contact resulted in Hamlin hitting the pit wall taking himself out of contention. The 42 car assumed the lead as Ambrose was 14th when the green flag flew in the air at Lap 194. Ambrose made a great move five laps later to pass Jeff Burton, Martin Truex Jr. and Greg Biffle for 11th. On Lap 205, he made the move to pass Matt Kenseth for 10th place. As he maintained 10th, he was losing forward bite.

Ambrose continued to make a couple more pit stops in hopes of getting a better handle on the Little Debbie® Toyota Camry. As he was running just outside the top 15 and with a car capable of finishing in the top 10, Ambrose’s day was disrupted. His No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota was collected in a multi-car crash involving Elliott Sadler, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Reed Sorenson, Brian Vickers, AJ Allmendinger and Jeff Burton.

“I’m not sure what exactly happened,” Ambrose said. “I just saw the 88 come down into us and we had major damage to the right front. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

All things considered, Ambrose was still able to nurse his car home to a top-25 finish and stay 17th in the championship standings.

This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes on Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Live coverage of the NASCAR Banking 500 on Saturday, October 17th begins at 7 p.m. ET on ABC and PRN Radio.

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