TOP OVAL FINISH IN PHOENIX PUTS AMBROSE INTO THE TOP 35 Marcos Ambrose has achieved his best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish on an oval with 18th place in the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona...
TOP OVAL FINISH IN PHOENIX PUTS AMBROSE INTO THE TOP 35
Marcos Ambrose has achieved his best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish on an oval with 18th place in the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona today.
The finish puts the #47 entry of Michael Waltrip Racing back into the top 35 in the owner's points standings, meaning that the #47 Little Debbie Toyota Camry will have a guaranteed start for the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend.
It was a standout performance for Ambrose, who was making his 10th start in the premier division of NASCAR today at the tough one-mile oval.
The Australian started from 18th position, his best Sprint Cup qualifying performance on an oval, and was in 25th position when the race was red flagged for the first time for just under half and hour due to rain.
When the race restarted, Ambrose showed good car speed to race back into the top 20 and remain on the lead lap, sitting in 16th position entering the last 50 laps of the race.
With 39 laps remaining Ambrose was left with nowhere to go when contact between Casey Mears and Juan Pablo Montoya caused a wreck in Turn 3. Ambrose hit the back of the #66 of Scott Riggs as the pack descended on the spinning Mears, heavily damaging the front of the #47 Little Debbie Toyota Camry.
The race was red flagged with several cars eliminated and Ambrose battling to bring his battered entry to the finish, pitting at every caution for repairs to his damaged front end.
Ambrose was able to keep his car on track and achieve his best Sprint Cup finish on an oval -- his best Sprint Cup finish remains third place on the Watkins Glen road course earlier this season.
With Scott Speed being classified in 40th place in the #84 entry of Red Bull Racing, Ambrose's #47 entry now holds 35th place in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner's points, guaranteeing Ambrose his 11th Sprint Cup start next weekend, 17 points ahead of the #84 entry and 30 points behind the #7 entry of Robby Gordon Motorsports, which sits in 34th place in owner's points.
The result made Ambrose the highest finisher of the three Michael Waltrip Racing entries (Michael Waltrip 24th, David Reutimann 25th) and also made Ambrose the third-best finishing Toyota behind the Joe Gibbs Racing entries of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Jimmie Johnson won today's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 to extend his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead, coming home ahead of Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Carl Edwards.
Ambrose will race in both the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series in the final race weekend of the 2008 season in Homestead, Miami next weekend.
Ambrose will be looking to secure his second-consecutive top 10 series finish in the #59 Kingsford Tailgate Ford Fusion of JTG Racing in the Nationwide Series, while also looking to keep the #47 Little Debbie Ford Fusion of Michael Waltrip Racing in the top 35 in owner's points to guarantee that entry a start for the first five races of the 2009 Sprint Cup season, including the Daytona 500.
"I feel proud of the guys," said Ambrose.
"It's a decent day for us. We're getting closer to the top 35 for next year. We'll go to Homestead with a lot of confidence.
"We had the car handling really well for a while, then we lost it. We got it back, then we lost it.
"It was a great day for us. Every race I'm getting better and better with these guys and just really looking forward to next year.
"The Cup cars are hard to drive and they are hard to handle, and they are hard to feel comfortable in. So you just keep at it and never give up.
"We got the job done today and now we've got one more to go next weekend in Homestead."