AMBROSE AND No. 47 TOYOTA TEAM RISE ABOVE PROBLEMS TO FINISH AT DARLINGTON Problems early on in the Southern 500 relegated Marcos Ambrose and his No. 47 Bush's Best Baked Beans Toyota Camry to a 33rd-place finish after starting 10th in the...
AMBROSE AND No. 47 TOYOTA TEAM RISE ABOVE PROBLEMS TO FINISH AT DARLINGTON
Problems early on in the Southern 500 relegated Marcos Ambrose and his No. 47 Bush's Best Baked Beans Toyota Camry to a 33rd-place finish after starting 10th in the 367-lap event that had a record 17 cautions for 73 laps.
"I was mad at myself for 200 laps for hitting the wall pretty hard," said Ambrose, whose car started off really loose at the beginning of the race and snapped out from under him on Lap 27. "Then later in the race, just before Lap 200, David Ragan got into us andthat causedeven more damage on top of what we already had.My team did a great job to keep that car running. They never gave up and because of that we were able to finish the race and pick up a few more spots in the finishing order. But, man was ita long night. They don't call this place 'Lady in Black' for nothing."
At the start of the race at Lap 3, Ambrose reported to crew chief Frank Kerr his car was twitchy loose. It was evident that Ambrose had an ill-handling car as he slid nine positions to 19th before entering pit road under caution at Lap 22. The team pulled a spring rubber out, dropped the track bar one round and put on four fresh Goodyear tires.
"Pretty much all the drivers were saying that they were really loose," Kerr said.
"The Bush's Best Baked Beans Toyota needed wedge or something," Ambrose said.
The 32-year-old Australian driver restarted in 26th-place on Lap 24 as Jimmie Johnson led the field down into Turn 1. Three laps later Ambrose's car snapped loose and hit the wall. He plummeted to 39th as smoke was coming from the right rear. Fortunately the yellow flag waved at Lap 30. Ambrose was on pit road the next lap for the team to estimate the damage.
"The Bush's Best Baked Beans Toyotawas in bad shape after I hit the wall with it," Ambrose said. "It was really wobbling all over the place. The toe was knocked out. It was steering to the right. The track bar was bent. The guys did what they could to make repairs."
The JTG-Daugherty Racing team did a solid job of making repairs in a hurry to keep the Bush's Best Baked Beans Toyota on the lead lap. As the race returned to green flag racing, Ambrose was 36th on Lap 37.
"I told him to keep digging and do the best he could with what we had," Kerr said.
Ambrose did his best with the badly damaged car, but leader Ryan Newman was reeling him in each lap. Finally, Newman made the pass to place the team one lap down on Lap 50.
The damage to the car was too much for Ambrose to keep it ahead of the field. 16 laps later Newman passed Ambrose a second time while he was running in 36th.
Because the car handled so poorly, Kerr instructed Ambrose to go to the garage so the team could work on it more.
"We wanted to make sure the car was stable enough for Marcos to drive it so he didn't wreck," Kerr said.
Ambrose pulled out of the garage on Lap 86 to return to the track and immediately radioed to Kerr that the car was really loose. He was back on pit road at Lap 102 under green and then 120 under caution for more adjustments and repairs.
"We were really free," Ambrose said. "I needed them to tighten me up and get it drivable."
"We didn't want to give up because we knew we could gain some more positions," Kerr said. "I told him to keep going because you never know whose going to crash out. We had a long way to go in the race at that point."
Ambrose restarted 37th on Lap 123.
"It was tight in the middle and snappy loose," Ambrose said.
Any opportunity the team had, Ambrose pitted. Then on Lap 197, Ambrose's problems were compounded by the No. 6 car of David Ragan hitting him. He headed back to pit road.
"David hit Marcos pretty good and we wanted to make sure nothing was going to fall off," Kerr said. "I told Marcos it was like when it rains it pours."
As the field returned to green flag racing at Lap 201, Ambrose exited pit road to return to the track. Ambrose immediately told Kerr that he had no steering and was heading back to the garage. The crew worked feverishly to make the car drivable. On Lap 224, Ambrose drove out of the garage a second time to return to the track.
"I couldn't believe the car was still going," said Ambrose, who completed 312 of 367 laps. "The team did an awesome job to keep me up to speed."
"We didn't want a DNF on his report card," Kerr said. "We wanted to finish the race."
The valiant effort by the JTG-Daugherty Racing team helped Ambrose pick up a few more spots and finish 33rd and keep them within striking distance of the top 12 drivers in points. Ambrose is now 20th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings following race No. 11 at Darlington Raceway. His JTG-Daugherty Racing team is 140 points out of 12th-place.
This week the team heads to Lowe's Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Showdown to vie for a coveted spot in the Sprint All-Star race on Saturday, May 16th.