Marcos Ambrose has earned the third top 10 finish of his rookie NASCAR season by finishing seventh in the Smith's Las Vegas 350 in Nevada today.

The result made the Australian the highest finishing Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in today's race, the second highest lap leader with 12 laps led and one of only six drivers to lead a lap.

The Australian was in form all weekend in the #20 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Ford F-150 at the revamped Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Ambrose qualified sixth on the 1.5-mile speedway and ran in the top 10 in the opening stages of the race.

At the first round of pit stops on lap 26 Ambrose and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series leader Todd Bodine dragged for position out of the pit lane, only for both to be sent to the back of the pack for speeding in pit lane.

Coming through the pack Ambrose clearly had fantastic speed on board the Aussie Vineyards F-150, back into the top 20 by lap 53. On lap 74 when Michel Jourdain Jr spun to bring out the fourth caution of the day, Ambrose stayed out on-track and elected not to pit.

The move brought Ambrose back to the front and led to the #20 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Ford F-150 leading 12 laps and gaining five bonus points for leading a lap.

The former two-time Australian V8 Supercar champion lost the lead when he eventually did pit. Ambrose sat in 10th after his stop and worked his way forward to be eighth at the final restart of the day on lap 129 of the 146-lap race.

In the closing stages Ambrose continued to ascend the order, but was unable to move any higher when he caught David Reutimann and the Australian settled for a seventh, his third top 10 finish of the season and another Raybestos Rookie of the Race Award. Ambrose's fellow pit lane speeder Bodine climbed to 12th position by the end of the race.

Today's event was won by Mike Skinner ahead of defending series champion Ted Musgrave and Mike Bliss.


Marcos Ambrose -- Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Ford F-150

"When we got out front we were fast and we were wide open there," said Ambrose.

"I got in clean air early and we were good, but I feel bad for the boys because we sped on pit lane there. We had a kind of arm wrestle there with Todd Bodine trying to beat each other out of the last box. He was trying to beat me and I thought, 'I better get going to beat him,' and we both got caught for pit-lane speeding.

"I learned my lesson there and that's a bit of humble pie. We came from dead last back through the pack and it was a strong day.

"I led some laps again and showed our worth. I'm real proud of our guys. We've got a good understanding on these one-and-a-half-mile ovals and we're making the most of it."

"The tyres are so hard that it's really hard to race people because you get aero-tight behind them. You really have no mechanical grip here and it's all about aero.

"The second groove wasn't quite in. You get tucked underneath someone and you get aero-tight and there's not much you can do.

"We tried. We passed a lot of trucks out there, but when you get to those last few and they're running pretty good, it's really hard to make a move."

Craig Gore -- Team Australia

"I seem to keep saying this but this was another top effort from Marcos to get another top 10 result," said Gore.

"He really displayed fighting qualities that Australians have been known for in so many sports all over the world and it's great that he can do it all under the Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards banner.

"Marcos has certainly come to grips with the trucks and I look forward to the following the remaining rounds of the championship. Marcos has certainly earned a celebratory glass of Aussie Vineyards win for his efforts today."

-credit: ta