Texas: JTG Racing, Ambrose race report

Mounting Problems Destroy Top 10 Effort for Ambrose and JTG Racing FORT WORTH, Texas (April 6, 2009) -- A sequence of problems derailed a top 10 effort for Marcos Ambrose at Texas Motor Speedway, but his engine expiring ultimately sidelined the...

Mounting Problems Destroy Top 10 Effort for Ambrose and JTG Racing

FORT WORTH, Texas (April 6, 2009) -- A sequence of problems derailed a top 10 effort for Marcos Ambrose at Texas Motor Speedway, but his engine expiring ultimately sidelined the No. 47 Clorox Toyota on Lap 219.

Ambrose did complete 216 of 334 laps and was credited with a 41st-place finish. After the seventh race of the season, the JTG-Daugherty Racing team is currently 28th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner championship point standings. Even though Ambrose fell seven places in the standings, his team is only 179 points outside the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series top 12.

"It's a shame because we had a top 10 car," Ambrose said. "The engine started running hot and then we had an issue with the throttle sticking. The engine dropped a valve and eventually blew up. We were very competitive out there passing guys like Jimmie Johnson (second-place finisher) and Jeff Gordon (winner). It's unfortunate that we had our fair share of issues."

On Friday, Ambrose almost snatched a top 10 starting spot in his second attempt in a Cup entry at the 1.5-mile quad-oval. When the green flag waved for the 334-lap event Sunday afternoon, the No. 47 Clorox Toyota started 11th. Right away, Ambrose took over tenth place as he crossed the start-finish line on Lap 2. At Lap 15, he was running 11th and was able to run comfortably in the top 15. Ambrose reentered the top 10 when he made the pass on three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (second-place finisher) while keeping Kasey Kahne and others at bay.

On Lap 30, crew chief Frank Kerr came over the radio and told Ambrose he had the fastest car on the track. Ambrose communicated to Kerr that he was loose in and tight center off when he hit the gas. With handling issues, Ambrose still climbed to seventh by Lap 34.

"I was also having trouble getting the left front down through the corners," Ambrose said.

Holding onto a top 10 spot, Ambrose's highest position during the race was third-place at Lap 52 and 53 as leader Matt Kenseth, David Reutimann (second-place at the time), Tony Stewart (third-place at the time) and other frontrunners headed to pit road for service under green flag conditions.

Kerr called his driver in on Lap 52 for his pit crew to change four tires. Kerr said not to make any adjustments because the Clorox Camry was one of the best cars on the track. Ambrose returned to racing shown in the 10th spot. At Lap 62, he was faster than leader Matt Kensethhwho finished fifth) as he battled with loose handling conditions. Even though his Toyota was loose all around, he was holding onto ninth place and still running lap times as good as or better than Kenseth, who continued to show the way.

"We were better with the fuel burn," Ambrose said. "It was still loose off the wall and just loose off."

After the pit crew serviced the Clorox Toyota at Lap 99 again, Ambrose continued his top 10 run. 18 laps later, he became concerned with his engine temperatures because they began to rise. On Lap 121, Ambrose told Kerr the oil temperature had reached 290.

"We weren't sure what was going on and didn't know if there was something on the grill or what," Ambrose said.

Then 14 laps later, Ambrose stated that his throttle was jamming. He had his hands full because he was also really loose through the middle. With mounting problems, Ambrose fell outside the top 10 at Lap 137. Kerr encouraged Ambrose to hang in there while he read off his lap times to him. Once again his times were the same as the leader, which was now Greg Biffle (who finished third).

Under a green flag stop at Lap 153, Ambrose entered pit road in 13th place for the crew to put in a half-of-round of wedge and change four tires.

"The motor was running hot and the throttle was still sticking," Ambrose said.

Three laps later NASCAR waved the yellow flag and the team had two opportunities to look under the hood and in the cockpit around the pedal to try and figure out why the throttle was sticking. Ambrose went back to green flag racing in 15th position on Lap 161 and immediately reported that the issue was not resolved.

As the No. 47 Clorox Toyota Camry driver was making a charge for the top 10, he reported at Lap 188 that he was losing power.

"We dropped a valve," Ambrose said. "We were still in the top 15 at the time, but we were starting to fade."

Ambrose kept his focus as he was shown in 13th place while the frontrunners began to pit under green. The No. 47 Clorox Toyota made his green flag pit stop on Lap 212 for four tires and a wedge adjustment. Because of problems under the hood, the car cut off while in the pit box and Ambrose could not get it started right away. Since the race was still under green flag conditions, Ambrose lost laps and track position, but he finally got it fired. He exited pit road in 24th place.

Only seven laps later smoke billowed from the car ending Ambrose's opportunity for another top 10 finish.

"We would have easily finished in the top 10 and its just unfortunate," Ambrose said. "We've got an off weekend and we will regroup. The cars are really fast and we are right in the thick of it all. I'm really happy with how competitive we are. I'm looking forward to Phoenix in a couple of weeks. For now, I'm going to enjoy a weekend off and spend time with my family."

After a weekend off, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes the green flag on Sunday, April 18th at Phoenix International Raceway.

-credit: jtgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Marcos Ambrose , David Reutimann