As Ambrose departs, what's next for the No. 9 Ford

Richard Petty Motorsports has some decisions to make for 2015,

As Ambrose departs, what's next for the No. 9 Ford
Race winner Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose
Race winner Marcos Ambrose
Crew chief Frank Kerr and Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
Marcos Ambrose celebrates
Marcos Ambrose celebrates
Race winner Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
Richard Petty and Aric Almirola
David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports Ford
David Ragan, Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Victory lane: race winner David Ragan, Frontrow Motorsports Ford
David Ragan, Frontrow Motorsports Ford takes the win
Victory lane: race winner David Ragan, Frontrow Motorsports Ford
Pace car rides with David Ragan
Kurt Busch, Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports Ford lead a group of cars
David Ragan, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Chase drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, A.J. Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick
David Ragan, Roush Fenway Racing Ford and Marcos Ambrose, Petty Motorsport Ford

JOLIET, Ill. – Marcos Ambrose finally made his exit strategy official on Saturday.

Ambrose, 38, plans to return home to Australia to raise his family.

This is really a racing choice for me and...I think it is a great time to move back home to Australia with my family

Marcos Ambrose

“There has been a lot of conjecture through the years but I just want to get my kids home to enjoy the Australian lifestyle as well so they can make a good choice when they grow up,” Ambrose said. “This is really a racing choice for me and I feel like the time is right for me to stop in the US and personally I think it is a great time to move back home to Australia with my family.”

After eight seasons dabbling in NASCAR – seven at the Sprint Cup level, Ambrose has posted two Cup wins and five in the Nationwide Series. Ambrose, who is currently 23rd in the point standings characterized his career in the States as “fantastic”.

I feel like I have achieved a lot and am really satisfied.

Marcos Ambrose

I never thought I would achieve what I have at the Sprint Cup level. I have survived here for years and I have had some wins but not enough and I feel like I was up against it early on from my background,” Ambrose said. “I came from a country that doesn’t have any asphalt oval racing at all and so I feel like I have achieved a lot and am really satisfied.”

Ambrose would not confirm his plans, which has been rumored to include running a V8 Supercar for Roger Penkse. Team Penske has an announcement scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on Monday.

But Ambrose reiterated that personally this is the right choice for myself and my family to call it a day here in the US and move on to our next chapter.”

What's next for the No. 9?

With Ambrose’s departure, David Ragan has emerged as one of the top candidates for the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. While the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford is content where he is, at his age he would entertain offers to improve his position.

I want to be around the sport for a long time and feel like I have a lot of good years in front of me.

David Ragan

“If Richard Petty had interest in me driving the car, I would certainly talk to them some,” Ragan told Motorsport.com on Saturday. “As a 28-year-old, I want to be around the sport for a long time and feel like I have a lot of good years in front of me.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity that Bob Jenkins and Front Row Motorsports have given me. I’ve had a lot of fun and won a race. But you never know what the future might hold. About this time every year, you look at your options in other series or with other teams and other sponsors to go and race and I’d love to have the opportunity to talk to them for a little bit. But I’m sure there are a lot of drivers in that same situation.”

Ragan is already established as a Ford racer – and a Ford car dealer as well. He also has a past history with the current crew chief of the No. 9 Ford, Drew Blickensderfer from his time with Roush Fenway Racing, where Ragan won his first Cup race and two poles in his final season with the team.

Drew is a great crew chief, a young guy and I feel like we had a lot of chemistry together in 2011.

David Ragan

“Drew is a great crew chief, a young guy and I feel like we had a lot of chemistry together in 2011,” Ragan said. “It’s disappointing that UPS was scaling back because I really felt that I had matured as a driver – and that was certainly a setback when I had to leave Roush.

“But I feel like I’ve learned a lot since then and I feel like I’m a better driver today when we could have made the Chase and won some races and some poles in 2011.

“Drew’s a good guy. I haven’t spoken to him about the 9 car yet but yes, we are friends and we do talk a little bit.”

Ragan’s two Sprint Cup career wins came on restrictor plates tracks – one in the summer Daytona race where RPM’s Aric Almirola was victorious in July and punched his ticket to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Given the strength of RPM’s speedway program, Ragan would fit right in.

“The Ford program on the restrictor plate tracks has been good,” Ragan said. “There’s no doubt about it that they take pride in their engines. I feel ours has been just as good at Front Row. I’ve had a chance to lead some laps and opportunities to win some races.

“But you really have to put together a complete 26-race package to make the Chase. That’s what everybody looks at now. You’ve got two road courses in there. You’ve got short tracks. In order to make the Chase with the current format, if you can just steal a win at any of those racetracks, you’ll be in the driver’s seat. Guys like (AJ) Allmendinger and Aric proved that this year. It gives you hope going into the next season that if you can capitalize on a good track at a good venue, you’ll have a spot in the Chase.”

Sponsorship remains a question for the No. 9 Ford for next season. Stanley/DeWalt is expected to join Joe Gibbs Racing next year with a split plan of support between Carl Edwards on the No. 19 (Stanley) and Matt Kenseth (DeWalt) on the No. 20 Toyota.

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Marcos Ambrose will leave NASCAR and return home to Australia in 2015

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