Fontana II: Marcos Ambrose race report

AMBROSE SHOWS GOOD SPEED IN FIRST 500 MILE RACE IN CALIFORNIA Marcos Ambrose has finished his first 500-mile race while showing strong pace on his way to 32nd place in the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California today. Ambrose...

AMBROSE SHOWS GOOD SPEED IN FIRST 500 MILE RACE IN CALIFORNIA

Marcos Ambrose has finished his first 500-mile race while showing strong pace on his way to 32nd place in the Pepsi 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California today.

Ambrose showed good form in his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the 2.0-mile speedway, running competitively with some of the best known names in the sport in the #21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion of Wood Brothers Racing.

The Australian started from 40th position and ran near the tail of the pack in the opening stages of the race. Ambrose gradually moved forward in the first part of the race, making changes at each pit stop to combat a very loose race car.

As the hot California sun set and the track cooled, the condition of the Little Debbie Ford moved from loose to tight, but changes made by Ambrose and crew chief David Hyder greatly improved the pace of the car, setting up Ambrose for a strong second half of the race.

Ambrose, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday on Monday, was as high as 28th and continuing to move forward despite a tight race car and on track to earn Wood Brothers Racing it's sixth top 30 finish of the 2008 Sprint Cup season.

With 33 laps remaining, Ambrose ran wide and brushed the wall through Turns 3 and 4.

The contact with the SAFER Barrier brought out a caution to clear the debree and Ambrose brought the #21 to pit lane twice, first to pit for four tyres and fuel and then again to check that the right-hand side guards were not rubbing on the tyres.

The additional stop dropped Ambrose 10 spots to 38th, but such was the pace of the Little Debbie machine, Ambrose moved back through the field, passing the likes of Elliott Sadler, Regan Smith, Mike Skinner and Michael Waltrip as he jumped back up the order.

While regaining ground on the leaderboard among the cars also one lap down, Ambrose passed many cars on the lead lap such as four-time Sprint Cup Champion Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Ambrose ended the race in 32nd place and one lap down, pleased with the improvement of the Wood Brothers Ford over the course of the weekend. Ambrose and Wood Brothers Racing earned US$105,595 in today's race, which carried a total prize pool of US $6,165,509.

Defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson won today's Pepsi 500 ahead of Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin.

Ambrose will concentrate on Nationwide Series duties in the #59 Kingsford Ford Fusion of JTG Daugherty Racing next weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

His next Sprint Cup event will come at Dover International Speedway in the #21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion of Wood Brothers Racing.

MARCOS AMBROSE:

"I've finished my first 500 mile race and it was definitely a long race out there," said Ambrose.

"We raced well out there and that's all you can ask for. We improved so much from start to finish. It began to tighten up quite a lot as the sun went down but that was expected.

"We came a long way over the course of the three days here and I think we've got a clear direction moving forward. There were some changes and decisions we made that really got it going out there and I'm pleased for the entire Wood Brothers team.

"I was out there passing guys like Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, those sort of Chase drivers in the second half of the race. We were a lap down in the second half of the race but our car speed really gave me confidence.

"I had a touch with the wall through (Turns) Three and Four there towards the end but it wasn't too bad. It dropped us back down the order and in the end if probably cost us a bunch of positions. But the pace was there and we past a lot of cars back and that's pleasing.

"It's great to finish one of these Cup deals on this sort of big, fast track. The confidence I gained and the things we learned are really invaluable moving forward."

-credit: ma/bam

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams JTG Daugherty Racing , Wood Brothers Racing