Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 Stanley Ford race team finished seventh in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at the Sonoma Raceway in California. The finish was Ambrose’s fifth consecutive top-10 finish at the track. It is also his third top-10 finish this season and 36th in his Cup career.
Heading into Sunday’s race, Ambrose was a favorite to win. He was the fastest car during Friday’s practice session and Saturday he qualified on the outside pole. When the green dropped, Ambrose shot straight to the lead going into the first turn. From there, Ambrose built a big lead.
Ambrose led the race when the first caution waved on Lap Seven. Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer elected to stay out and Ambrose again took the top spot on the restart. For leading the event, Ambrose collected one bonus point. The Stanley team ended up leading the first 18 laps, before Ambrose fell back to second.
On Lap 20 of the 110-lap event, Ambrose was running second and said that his car was suffering from a lack of grip as his tires were getting old. A second caution came out on Lap 25 for rain, but sticking to pit strategy, the team stayed out and restarted in second. On Lap 33 the caution waved again for a multi-car wreck. This time the Stanley crew went to work and gave Ambrose news tires, fuel and a small air pressure adjustment. They restarted 22nd on Lap 33.
It didn’t take long for Ambrose to move back up to the front of the field. By Lap 40, Ambrose was running in the 12th spot. He did, however, say that the car was not handling well. Over the next 20 laps, the field became more separated thus allowing more clean air for Ambrose to race. This helped and he moved to eighth by Lap 61. A caution the slowed the field on Lap 64. Blickensderfer called Ambrose down pit road for four new tires, fuel and also a change back on the air pressure. The team restarted 16th on Lap 66.
Again, the caution waved soon after the restart on Lap 69 and Ambrose came down pit road for four new tires. A wreck on the restart, one that Ambrose avoided, allowed him to move to 19th by Lap 75, and the team was racing in 17th when the final caution waved on Lap 83. The team did not need to pit and restarted sixth.
Racing for the win, Ambrose moved up to fourth by Lap 87. This was as high as Ambrose would get during his race back to the front. With older tires, Ambrose finished the race in seventh. Ambrose moved up one spot in the championship standings to 22nd.
“It’s OK,” said Ambrose after the race. “We got a top-10 out of it. The weather cooled down a lot and we just didn’t anticipate that when we set the car up and we just fought it all day, but I’m proud of my team. It was a solid effort. Again, we were pretty good for 10-odd laps, but we couldn’t hold it on the long run. I’m not sure whether I’m too aggressive on the tires or whether I just can’t get the car underneath me, but we just really struggle on the long runs around this place. We have for three years now. We got a top-10 out of it, so we’ll take it, and we had a really fast car in qualifying so all of those things are positives. Our sponsors were out here today to watch us, so we fought hard and raced well and ran up front for most of the day. I wanted to win. Of course I wanted to win, but that’s the way it goes.”
Marcos and the No. 9 team will go night racing at Kentucky Speedway next Saturday. The race will be televised live by TNT and broadcast live on SIRIUS/XM NASCAR and the Performance Racing Network.
1. Martin Truex, Jr.
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Carl Edwards
4. Kurt Busch
5. Clint Bowyer
7. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Stanley Ford