Ambrose Scores Career-Best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Finish with Second-Place at The Glen Following his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 victory on Saturday, Marcos Ambrose scored his career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish by...
Ambrose Scores Career-Best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Finish with Second-Place at The Glen
Following his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series Zippo 200 victory on Saturday, Marcos Ambrose scored his career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish by crossing the finish line in second-place at Watkins Glen International in his No. 47 Little Debbie Toyota.
"The Cup car is just so aggressive to drive and I had to work really hard to keep up with 'Smoke' (Tony Stewart)," Ambrose said. "I was closing in, but he didn't make a mistake. I feel privileged to be racing against him and to drive for my team. I'm just so proud of all my guys for giving me great stuff all year. JTG-Daugherty (Racing) is here to stay. It's a really exciting time for us."
Tony Stewart was the winner while Carl Edwards finished third behind Ambrose, Kyle Busch was fourth and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Ambrose's third top-five finish of the year moved him and his JTG-Daugherty Racing team up to 17th in the driver and owner championship points standings.
"We didn't quite have enough to get Tony (Stewart) there at the end," Ambrose said. "I threw everything I could at him. We got off on strategy at one point and got stuck in the back of the pack and had to make a gamble. We came in and splashed off fuel -- didn't put tires on it. I think that was the difference between first and second here this afternoon, was just the extra laps I did on my tires, probably eight or 10 more laps than Tony.
I could close in on him, I could see him starting to make a few little mistakes, locking tires, but not enough for me to catch him. I'm just really proud of my team. We didn't quite close the deal, but it's just been a great weekend for us. I'm really excited for our future."
Starting the race in fourth-place to polesitter Jimmie Johnson, Ambrose's Little Debbie Toyota was loose and had no grip as he rounded the 2.45-mile road course. By Lap 3, Johnson had been passed by both Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin as Ambrose was next in line to do the same. Seven laps later, the 32-year-old completed the pass by the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and set his sights on the top two.
With the first caution of the race at Lap 17, Ambrose reiterated to crew chief Frank Kerr that he was too loose and had lost grip. Kerr elected to keep Ambrose out on the road course to stick to their game plan and stay in their fuel window. The field came down pit road at Lap 19 minus Ambrose and only few others.
"We had to stick to our fuel strategy game," Kerr said. Marcos was one "of three cars that stayed out."
"We were loose and didn't have good forward drive at that point," Ambrose said.
Ambrose was second and immediately snatched first-place from Kasey Kahne after the green flag waved.
"Of course, the car was much better in clean air," Ambrose said.
At Lap 23 while still in the lead, Ambrose and Kerr were faced with the decision to pit or not to pit when the yellow flag was displayed for an incident involving David Stremme spinning around collecting Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon. Ambrose was in first place, Kasey Kahne was second, Kurt Bush occupied third, Kyle Busch was running fourth and Jimmie Johnson was fifth at the time. Out of that group, Kahne relinquished his spot to head to pit road while the other four in the top-five stayed out.
"It was still too early for fuel," Kerr said. "We decided to pit on our cycle and not deviate from that strategy. We made the right choice. I wasn't panicking yet."
"We had to still stick to our plan," Ambrose said.
Ambrose led the field back to green flag racing on Lap 26 with Kurt Busch in second, Kyle Busch in third, Johnson in fourth and Greg Biffle in fifth. Ambrose fought to hold the Busch brothers off to maintain the lead even though he was about the only car that hadn't been to pit road. One lap later, the No. 2 car completed the pass and Ambrose fell to second. On Lap 29, Kurt Busch gave up the lead and headed to pit road. Ambrose was back out front.
The next lap the No. 47 Little Debbie Toyota entered pit road under green for the first time for four tires and fuel. Johnson was the new leader, Kyle Busch was second and Stewart was third. Exiting pit road, Ambrose was 35th.
Another caution at Lap 43, allowed the JTG-Daugherty Racing team to bring Ambrose back down pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires and fuel. Their strategy was to only stop one more time for a splash of fuel as Kerr told his driver everyone else would have to take four tires. At that point, Kerr and his crew knew they were going to be 11 laps short.
"In the end, we had to get a splash of fuel not matter what," Kerr said. "Everyone ahead of us was going to have to take four tires and all we had to take was a splash of fuel."
Ambrose restarted 31st on Lap 45 with Kyle Busch showing the way. By Lap 53, he had broken into the top-20 as Stewart snatched the lead.
On Lap 55 while running 15th, Kerr called Ambrose to pit road under green for his splash of fuel while Stewart and others ahead of him followed suit. Ambrose was back on track and in 8th-place knowing he was two laps short on fuel.
At Lap 59, Ambrose returned to the top-five and was scored in fifth-place with a really loose-handling race car. The next time around he was fourth and Scott Speed was in the lead with Kyle Busch second and Stewart in third.
All the sudden a horrific crash involving Sam Hornish Jr. happened on Lap 62 when the No. 9 car of Kasey Kahne got loose and made contact with the No. 77 entry. The wreck was spectacular collecting Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Joey Logano and a few others leaving no choice, but for NASCAR to red flag the 90-lap event at Lap 63.
"We were still a lap or two short on fuel at that point," Kerr said. "Each caution, I told him to save fuel and to coast around with the motor off. I hoped we had enough to make it to the end."
At 2:29 p.m. ET the red flag was lifted and the race restarted at Lap 66 with Kyle Busch in the lead and Ambrose in third. The next time around Stewart had passed Busch for first. Then it was Ambrose's turn to pass him for second and on Lap 68 he did just that.
The caution at Lap 70 for a tire in the middle of the track from the No. 19 car of Elliott Sadler was a big relief for Ambrose, Kerr and his JTG-Daugherty Racing team.
"I keyed up the microphone and told Marcos that we were in good shape on fuel when the caution came out," Kerr said.
On Lap 73, Ambrose was lined up beside the No. 14 of Stewart ready for battle. Back under green, Ambrose was running lap times as fast as the leader. However, Stewart started to slightly distance himself from the No. 47 Little Debbie Toyota. Ambrose kept the leader in sight with ten laps to go, but was not able to gain ground on Stewart who went on to win the 22nd race of the 2009 season.
This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Michigan International Speedway.