Marcos Ambrose started the AdvoCare 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway from the 10th position and his DEWALT Ford was fast right from the start. Ambrose quickly picked up several positions and was running in fourth by Lap 32. Though he was moving toward the front of the field and clicking off lap times as fast as the leader, he communicated to the crew that the car was loose in, tight in the center and loose off the corners.
The first caution of the night flew on Lap 40, allowing Ambrose to come into the pits for four fresh tires and fuel only. After a lengthy pit stop, the DEWALT machine would line up for the restart in the 10th position. As the sun began to set, the handling on No. 9 began to fade, and Ambrose communicated to crew chief Todd Parrott that the car had no rear grip and it was hard to turn going into the corners without getting loose. Slipping back several positions due to the car’s handling issues, Ambrose was running in 13th when Parrott called him into the pits on Lap 82 for his second stop of the day. The Richard Petty Motorsports crew added four tires and fuel and made track bar and air pressure adjustments to help remedy the No. 9′s loss of grip.
After running several laps, Ambrose relayed to Parrott that the changes made to the car on the previous stop seemed to improve the handling issues, but he stilled need a bit more rear grip. By the end of his third green flag run, Ambrose’s tires had faded and he was scored in the 16th position. Another set of fresh tires and track bar and wedge adjustments during a routine pit stop on Lap 119 again seemed to help the handling of the No. 9 Ford and Ambrose had worked his way up to the 12th spot by Lap 133.
As the laps wore on, the track conditions changed and Ambrose began to struggle more and more with the handling of his car. Running near the top 15 for the majority of the evening, the Richard Petty Motorsports crew continued to make a plethora of chassis and air pressure adjustments to try and improve the handling of the DEWALT Ford during the middle stages of the event.
Several long green flag runs allowed the leader to put more than half of the field a lap down, including Ambrose who was running in 15th with 100 laps to go in the 327-lap event. Though he was a lap down, Ambrose was determined to get the DEWALT machine back on the lead lap before the checkered flag flew. He worked hard to put himself in the “Lucky Dog” position as night went on, but every time he would position himself, it seemed as if the leader would pass another car pushing Ambrose out of the free pass spot.
With the laps winding down, Ambrose continued to run in or near the top 15, but was still a lap down to the leaders. Finally, as luck would have it, the caution flag flew for the final time on Lap 321 for an accident on the frontstretch. The leaders elected to pit under caution and Ambrose was able to stay on track and receive the “wave around” from NASCAR, putting him back on the lead lap. The late race accident set the event up to end under green-white-checkered flag conditions, and Ambrose restarted 15th with worn tires. Struggling to find grip for the remaining two laps, Ambrose was unable to maintain his position crossed the finish line in 17th place.
Unofficially, Ambrose maintains his spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points standings and sits in the 16th position heading into Richmond, the last race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.
Comments from Ambrose after Racing at Atlanta: “We struggled all night and we were just sliding around with no grip. It’s was a tough night for our DEWALT team. We desperately need a win to get a wild-card spot in the Chase, and Sunday night’s performance isn’t going to do that. We’ve got one more shot next weekend at Richmond, and I know my guys are going to work really hard to give me the best car possible. Anything less than a win right now is not acceptable as long as we have a shot to make the Chase.”