A SPOT IN THE TOP 12 IN SIGHT FOR AMBROSE WITH DARLINGTON If you ask Marcos Ambrose what he would like to check off his list there are two things for certain, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and a shot at the championship. Earlier this ...
A SPOT IN THE TOP 12 IN SIGHT FOR AMBROSE WITH DARLINGTON
If you ask Marcos Ambrose what he would like to check off his list there are two things for certain, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and a shot at the championship.
Earlier this season, JTG-Daugherty Racing's goals were simple considering it was their freshman year going up against multi-car powerhouse teams like Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. Now, the team is knocking on the door of the top-12 drivers vying for a coveted spot in The Chase.
"No doubt, we are still outperforming our own expectations and that's a good thing," Ambrose said. "I said to my crew before we ever started the year, let's just try our best to look good and show those glimpses of promise. Then from that, we will be able convert, hopefully, results and get the points thing under control. The focus was about that. We just wanted to run well when we are running."
Leading into Darlington Raceway with the No. 47 Bush's Best Baked Beans Toyota, JTG-Daugherty Racing is 19th in the championship standings -- only 120 points out of 12th place. It's still early in the game, but Ambrose is keeping his eye on the prize.
"Right now, my crew and I are sitting down here in Daytona for a Goodyear tire test having lunch talking about how we are only 120 points out of 12th-place after 10 races," Ambrose said. "We never expected to be in this position. We are not getting carried away either. We've just got to focus on what we have been doing which is build a solid car for the race. We need to get it fast enough in practice so we can show speed during the race and work out the finish from there. All things considered, we have done well so far. We've just had a few reliability issues that have kept us out of the top 12 in points."
First he recorded a strong 10th-place finish at Bristol and then a fourth-place effort at Talladega Superspeedway where he had no Cup experience. Richmond International Raceway was no different. Ambrose finished 11th in a heavily-damaged car.
"When we loaded our car after the race, it looked like we had finished a race at Martinsville Speedway,"said crew chief Frank Kerr.
This season, Ambrose has one top-five, two top-10, five top-15 and seven top-20 finishes. That's not too shabby considering he's in his first full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and only in his fourth season of oval track racing.
"We are good on short tracks, superspeedways and intermediate tracks," Ambrose said. "We're doing well on all of them. I honestly thought short tracks were going to be an issue for me to get up to speed to learn because I hadn't raced a Cup car on a short track or even superspeedways for that matter. However, we've had our best results at those places."
"We had a solid finish at Richmond, but we were crashed," Ambrose continued. "We came back to have a decent finish considering all that we faced. You can bash those cars around and even back them into the fence and they will keep moving. We had good moments and bad moments, but we bounced back from adversity and almost got another top-10."
The only laps Ambrose has turned at Darlington Raceway is in a JTG-Daugherty NASCAR Nationwide Series entry. He managed to keep the sides on his No. 59 Kingsford car to finish 19th and 10th in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Explaining his relative success at the Track Too Tough to Tame," Ambrose points to the driving coach that JTG-Daugherty Racing hired when he first came to America.
"Robert Pressley really knows how to get around Darlington and he did a lot to help me learn the unique racing line and mind-set that it takes to get around the place," Ambrose said. "I'm so excited to get to Darlington, but I'm not so sure how I'm going to finish the race. It's one of those weekends that you just like to go there, but you are not so sure how it is going to work out. It's a great track. I've had one race there on the old surface and one on the new. I've had a good taste of what it is all about. It's a very aggressive place to go. I can't wait to get there with the Bush's Best Baked Beans Toyota."
Today, Ambrose wraps up his two-day Goodyear tire test and heads on to Darlington.
"Actually, David Reutimann was asked to go to the test first, but I twisted his arm and stuffed him in a locker," Ambrose said. "I told him he couldn't go and that it was my turn. I think he's actually spending time with his family in North Carolina and I've chose to come down here to get some more drafting practice for the July race. It's the second Goodyear test I've done. I did one at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Every chance I get, I want to get in one of these cars to get experience. I felt I was weak in my drafting during the Daytona 500. I couldn't get in the middle of it all; so any chance I can get practice in the draft down here is going to help me."
"We run through some single-car runs for Goodyear on Monday and today they are putting us together in a pack," Ambrose continued. "They are going to try some slightly different configurations -- a little bit wider right-side tire that they have in the works for us to see how that feels."