Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ambrose Survives Martinsville for 27th-Place Finish

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 26, 2009) – An early race accident deterred Marcos Ambrose’s efforts in the Tums Relief 500 forcing him to settle for a 27th-place finish with his No. 47 Little Debbie® Toyota at Martinsville Speedway Sunday afternoon.

“The 17 car slid up into me and the end result was that the Little Debbie® Toyota had front end damage,” Ambrose said. “From that point on the car just didn’t have any forward drive whatsoever. We were loose in and the steering wasn’t really straight.”

Denny Hamlin kept Jimmie Johnson at bay to win his third race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and second at the .526-mile short track. Falling in behind Johnson in the finishing order was Juan Pablo Montoya in third, followed by Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, pole-sitter Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10. Johnson stretched his championship points lead and is now 118 points ahead of Mark Martin.

On Friday, Ambrose was among the top-10 in practice turning the eighth fastest time. A little free during qualifying, he posted a time of 19.892 seconds that placed him 34th in the 43-car lineup while Ryan Newman took the pole award. The next day steady rainfall forced NASCAR to cancel both practice sessions and the crews were instructed to turn their cars around for Sunday’s race.

Weather was not a problem on Sunday and the race started without delay after 43 drivers and teams stood alongside the outside pit wall to salute the fans. The fans were selected to be the Grand Marshal for the TUMS Relief 500. As the green flag waved in the air, Ambrose immediately marched forward and had his sight on reeling in the top 25.

Seven laps into the scheduled 500-lap event, the No. 17 entry driven by Matt Kenseth slid up into Ambrose near Turn 4 bringing out the first of 15 cautions. There was significant damage to the Little Debbie® Toyota that forced crew chief Frank Kerr to call his driver to pit road for repairs on Lap 9 and 10. The JTG-Daugherty Racing pit crew accessed the damage, changed two tires, taped up the front of the nose and the hood. The team didn’t waste any time and kept Ambrose on the lead lap in 43rd-place as the field returned to green flag racing at Lap 12.

When Michael Waltrip experienced a flat tire at lap 43, his No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota spun around in Turn 2 bringing out the second caution allowing the JTG-Daugherty Racing team to go to work on the Little Debbie Toyota again.

“We were loose in and still had no forward bite,” said Ambrose, whose pit crew changed four tires, went up a round on the track bar and pulled a ½ spring rubber out during that caution at Lap 46.

Another caution at Lap 87, it was more of the same. Ambrose had no forward drive and this time his brakes were fading. The pit crew put on four fresh Goodyear tires and went up on the track bar while taking a ½ spring rubber out. Ambrose restarted 32nd on Lap 94.

On their next pit stop under caution at Lap 131, the team continued to work on the handling and reassessed the damage from earlier in the race. The same went for the next time Ambrose pulled into his pit box under caution at Lap 157. The pit crew needed to push down the hood and they also changed two tires and took a half spring rubber out of the right rear. After the restart on Lap 163, Ambrose worked his way up to 24th.

“I was really loose in and just having a bad day all together,” Ambrose said. “I was just worried about my brakes more than anything at that time.”

Ambrose occupied a spot in the top 15 just before the next caution happened at Lap 194. He was given four fresh tires and another chassis adjustment. He was 25th as the field returned to green flag conditions. He pitted again under yellow at Lap 251 as he battled having no brakes and no forward drive. More tires and more chassis adjustments was what Ambrose hoped for and that’s what Kerr called for as the Little Debbie® Toyota rested in the pit box. Ambrose rolled off 30th and went back to work on Lap 259. Less than 20 laps later, Ambrose was back on pit road for more tires and adjustments and on Lap 302 under caution he was in again for four tires and a track bar adjustment.

“We still had no forward drive and it jumped loose in the throttle,” Ambrose said.

When the field restarted at Lap 306, Ambrose was 26th as David Reutimann was the new leader. On Lap 321, Jimmie Johnson challenged for the lead and made the pass by Reutimann. Nearly 26 laps later, he caught Ambrose and placed him one lap down as the Australian driver reiterated he had no forward drive and no brakes.

Ambrose’s continued to pit for adjustments and survived a green-white-checkered finish for a 27th-place finish. He remains 17th in the championship standings with four races remaining.

This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Talladega, Ala. for the Amp Energy 500. Live coverage on ABC begins at 12 p.m. ET. MRN Radio and Sirius XM will also carry the event.

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