Starting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway from the 17th position, Marcos Ambrose gained spots in the early laps of the event to be scored in 15th on Lap 10. Though he was gaining spots, Ambrose relayed to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer that the car was tight in the center and on exit off the corners.
A caution at Lap 18 allowed Ambrose to come to pit road for a trackbar adjustment and fuel only in an attempt to help the Black & Decker Ford’s handling condition. Several cars elected not to pit during the early caution and Ambrose restarted in 18th. Shortly after making his initial stop of the day, Ambrose relayed to Blickensderfer that his No.9 machine was still tight in the center and off, but was now loose on entry into the corners as well. Struggling with the handling of his car, Ambrose slipped back to the 20th position at Lap 45 and remained there until the yellow flag flew for the second time on Lap 53.
Blickensderfer called his driver into the pits under caution for four fresh tires, fuel and a spring rubber adjustment. Restarting in 21st, Ambrose maintained his position inside the top- 25 until his next stop which came under green flag conditions at Lap 128. Still fighting loose in, tight in the middle and tight off, Ambrose came into the pits for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Not long after making his third stop of the day, Ambrose communicated to his crew that the handling of the Black & Decker Ford had improved and under the next stop he needed more of the same adjustments,
Though his lap times were improving, the long green flag run put Ambrose a lap down to the leader at Lap 158. Continuing to run consistent lap times, Ambrose fought hard to put himself in position for the “Lucky Dog” spot so he could gain his lap back, but the cautions never seemed to fall in Ambrose’s favor.
A loose condition entering and a tight condition through the center and exiting the turns plagued the No. 9 the majority of the race, but Blickensderfer and crew never gave up and made a myriad of chassis adjustments during the ensuing pit stops.
A late race caution on Lap 274 allowed the Black & Decker team one more chance to try to improve the car’s handing, and Ambrose came into the pits for four tires, fuel, wedge and spring rubber adjustment. Restarting in the 23rd position, Ambrose fell back two spots on the initial restart, but was able to make up some ground to be scored in 21st position when the red-flag flew for a major on-track incident involving Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano on Lap 312. All three cars involved had to go to the garage, allowing Ambrose to gain three positions to line up for the green-white-checkered restart in 18th spot.
With just two laps remaining, the on-track action was not over and the melee continued as multiple cars spun on the last lap coming to the checkered flag. Luckily Ambrose’s No. 9 machine emerged unscathed and he was able to maintain his position to cross the finish line in 18th.
Ambrose sits in 18th position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points standings heading into the final race of the 2013 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Ambrose’s Comments after Phoenix: “We struggled with the handling of our Black & Decker Ford all day. We just couldn’t seem to hit on anything that made a big difference. After our third pit stop of the day the car improved, but we just couldn’t get the results we needed to move forward. We fell a lap down early and we’re just never able to recover. I have to give my guys credit though, they never gave up and kept making adjustments all day to try and make the car better. On a positive note, we were able to avoid all the crazy on-track incidents and bring our No. 9 machine home in one piece. We’ll go to Homestead this weekend and hope for better results, so we can end the season with some momentum.”