After starting the 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway from the second position, Marcos Ambrose wasted no time driving his Black & Decker Ford to the front of the field. The Australian native was credited with leading the opening lap and remained in the point position for the first 14 laps of the event.
Twenty laps into the initial green-flag run, the No. 9 machine began to slip back several positions. Ambrose relayed to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer that he was struggling with getting the front of the car to turn in the corners and needed more front grip. A routine green flag stop on Lap 46 allowed Ambrose to come into the pits for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. After the remainder of the field had cycled through green-flag stops, Ambrose was scored sixth at Lap 60.
Continuing to struggle with the handling of his car, Ambrose had fallen back to the 12th spot when the first caution flag of the day flew on Lap 79. Blickensderfer called for an array of chassis adjustments, four fresh tires and fuel under the second stop of the day. A solid pit stop by the crew allowed Ambrose to gain two positions on pit road and he restarted in 10th. After the green flag flew, Ambrose gained two spots early and was running in eighth at Lap 85. However, as the run went on, the Black & Decker Ford’s handling again fell off and Ambrose lost positions slipping back to 18th at Lap 128.
A loose condition entering and exiting and a tight condition through the center of the corners plagued the No. 9 during the mid-portion of the race, but Blickensderfer and crew never gave up and made a myriad of chassis adjustments during the ensuing pit stops. After each stop the Black & Decker machine seemed to improve slightly and Ambrose was running back inside the top-15 at Lap 155.
At Lap 211 Ambrose came into the pits one final time for four tires, fuel and a trackbar adjustment under green flag conditions. Shortly after pitting, Blickensderfer communicated to Ambrose that he needed to save fuel as they were two laps short if the race were to remain under green-flag conditions.
Long green flag runs, coupled with handling issues, caused Ambrose to fall a lap down to the leader at Lap 217. Ambrose fought hard to put himself in the Lucky Dog position. By Lap 229 he was running in 17th and in position to get his lap back should the caution flag fall. With less than 20 laps remaining several cars in front of Ambrose were running low on fuel and he began to gain positions each time a car peeled off to pit for gas. At Lap 265 Ambrose was scored in the 13th and had returned to the lead lap by virtue of the leader pitting.
With only two laps remaining, Blickensderfer continued to stress the importance of saving fuel, knowing they would be cutting it close coming to the finish. The great fuel strategy call by Blickensderfer and Ambrose’s ability to save, allowed the No. 9 to coast across the finish line on fumes to a 13th-place finish.
Ambrose finishes the 2012 campaign in 18th position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings.
Ambrose’s Comments after Homestead: ”It wasn’t the race we wanted, but we’ll take a top-15 finish. We struggled with our handling of our Black & Decker Ford in the middle part of the race, but we finished 13th because of a great pit call by Drew (Blickensderfer). I would have liked a few more races to work with Drew this season, but we’ve got a little bit of a foundation built for next year. We’ve got some work to do, but I feel optimistic about the future and I’m looking forward to 2013 at Richard Petty Motorsports.”