Starting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway from 33rd, Marcos Ambrose quickly gained several spots in the opening laps of the race and was running in the 28th position on Lap 4.
As the first green-flag run of the day went on, the No. 9 machine began to slip back several positions and Ambrose relayed to crew chief Mike Ford that the Black & Decker Ford was tight. A caution on Lap 46 allowed Ambrose to come down pit road for four tires, fuel, and trackbar and air pressure adjustments to help correct the car’s handling condition. Shortly after making his initial pit stop, Ambrose relayed to Ford and the team that the handling had slightly improved. Restarting in 27th, Ambrose maintained his position until the yellow flag flew again on Lap 151 for a car spinning in Turn 1.
With track position being key at Martinsville, Ford elected not to bring his driver down pit road under caution. By virtue of staying out Ambrose gained 12 positions and restarted in 15th on Lap 155. Unfortunately, the strategy did not go as planned, as the race remained under green for the next 50 laps. Having worn tires, Ambrose was unable to hold off the hard-charging cars on fresh Goodyears behind him. He ultimately went a lap down to the leader after falling back to the 27th position on Lap 185.
Lacking grip, Ambrose brought out the fifth caution of the day as his Black & Decker Ford spun going into Turn 1. Luckily the No. 9 Ford suffered no damage in the incident and Ambrose was able to pit for four fresh tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment on Lap 201.
Just a few short laps later Ambrose again went for a spin, this time after the No. 51 car of A.J. Allmendinger made contact with his left rear, causing a flat tire. After bringing his car down pit road for another set of fresh tires and fuel on Lap 214, Ambrose lined up in the 31st position, the first car a lap down.
Restarting in the “Lucky Dog” position, Ambrose fought hard to gain his lap back, but another long green-flag run allowed the leader to put several other cars a lap down, knocking the No. 9 out of the free-pass position. As the laps wore on, Ambrose relayed to the team that he was lacking rear grip and needed more forward drive off of the corners. Struggling with an ill-handling race car, Ambrose had fallen three laps down to the leader by Lap 340 and was scored in 31st.
Ford knew that pit strategy would be the only way for his driver to make up any ground on the field, so when the caution flag flew on Lap 393 he told Ambrose to stay out and take the “wave around.” By virtue of not pitting Ambrose was scored in 29th only two laps down. Another yellow flag on Lap 440 allowed for the same strategy and Ambrose restarted in 27th one lap behind.
With fewer than 50 laps remaining in the 500-lap race, more pit strategy coupled with Ambrose’s hard-charging drive and determination allowed the Australian driver to pick up three additional positions to cross the stripe in the 24th position.
Ambrose sits in 18th position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points standing heading to Texas Motor Speedway this Sunday.
Ambrose’s Comments after Martinsville: “We got a lap down early and just couldn’t seem to make up any ground until those last 100 laps. We struggled with the handling of our Black & Decker Ford all afternoon and that put us in a bad spot.
“My guys never gave up and Mike (Ford) made some good calls with pit strategy there at the end to help us gain some positions. It was a tough weekend all around, but we’ll put it behind us and head to Texas with high hopes. Texas is typically a track we run really well at, so hopefully we can bring home a good finish this weekend.”