Marcos Ambrose started the 500-lap race at Bristol Motor Speedway from the ninth position after qualifying was rained out on Friday and the starting lineup was determined by practice speeds.
Shortly after the drop of the green flag, Ambrose began to slide back several positions and quickly communicated to crew chief Todd Parrott that his DEWALT Ford was loose on entry and exit, and tight through the center of the corners.
The further Ambrose got into his initial fuel run, the tougher his car began to drive and he had fallen to 15th place by Lap 78. Still fighting a loose race car on entry into the corners, Ambrose came to pit road under caution on Lap 84 for four fresh tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Restarting in 16th, Ambrose had worked his way up to the 14th spot when the third caution flag of the day flew on Lap 123. Happy with how his car was handling after the adjustments made on the initial pit stop, Ambrose and the crew elected to stay on track under the caution and gained one spot to restart 13th.
Continuing to run in 13th-place, Ambrose again elected not to pit under the next caution period at Lap 151 and this time gained valuable track position to restart in fifth. Off pit sequence with the majority of the field and having older tires than many of his competitors, Ambrose was still able to maintain his position inside the top-10 until his second pit stop of the night on Lap 193. Just prior to coming down pit road Ambrose relayed to his DEWALT team that he felt like his car was bouncing around with too much air in the tires. Parrott instructed the crew to make an air pressure adjustment in an attempt to help the problem. With the rest of the field on a different pit cycle, Ambrose restarted in the 18th spot.
It didn’t take long for Ambrose to begin to make his move toward the front again and he was running in the 12th spot when the caution flag flew on Lap 225 for an accident in Turn 1. Having pitted just 32 laps prior, Parrott told his driver to stay out, and the strategy allowed Ambrose to gain six spots and he restarted in the sixth position. Having a car that was handling to his liking, Ambrose quickly drove to third where he remained until having to pit again at Lap 273. Still on a different pit strategy than the majority of the field, Ambrose again restarted mid-pack and had to work his way to the front by virtue of staying out when the rest of the field pitted on Lap 324.
Again running in the top three, Ambrose communicated to his team that his DEWALT machine was still just a tick loose, but overall the handling had improved as long as he was able to run the car in the top groove of the race track. At Lap 347 the yellow flag flew for the 10th time allowing Ambrose to come down pit road for one final pit stop to pack the car full of fuel and add fresh tires. Before coming into the pits Ambrose elected to stay on track an extra lap under caution when the leader pitted, and by doing so, was credited with leading a lap allowing him to gain one bonus point.
Restarting in 16th, Parrott told his driver that he needed to concentrate on saving his tires and fuel, because they could make it to the end of the race without having to pit again if they could get some caution laps between now and the checkered flag. As luck would have it three more caution flags would fall allowing Ambrose to save enough fuel to make it to the end. The first of those three cautions fell at Lap 415 and Ambrose was scored in 11th. By not having to pit, the driver of the No. 9 gained seven spots and restarted in fourth. Ambrose quickly jumped to third, before ultimately slipping back to the fifth position at Lap 430 as he tried to work his way to his preferred outside racing line.
The final caution flag of the night flew on Lap 436 for a two-car incident, and Ambrose once again having to work his way to the outside line, found himself in sixth position with less than 40 laps remaining. Charging past Carl Edwards with 22 laps to go, Ambrose was able to maintain his position for the final laps and came home in the fifth spot marking his third-consecutive top-five finish.
Unofficially, Ambrose gained one spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points standings and sits in the 16th position heading into Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend.
Comments from Ambrose’s after Racing at Bristol: ”I’m just trying hard. That’s two top-fives in two weeks for us. It’s been a great month. I’ve just got to thank Todd Parrott and everybody over at Richard Petty Motorsports for giving me great cars and giving me a good chance to run at the front. We had a fast car and just had to play it out. We just had to keep track position. We were on an early pit sequence and got track position that helped us out early on. The track went away from us late in the race, so we couldn’t contend for the win, but we had a rocket about halfway through and I thought we had a real chance at a victory with about 200 laps to go. I’m just really proud to represent ‘The King’ and be up near the front for DEWALT Saturday night. Some of our DEWALT races haven’t been the best this year, so it’s good to have a strong run for them and give them a shot to make the Chase.”