With new crew chief Drew Blickensderfer atop the pit box and lighting quick stops by the No. 9 Mac Tools pit crew, Ambrose appeared to be in position to bring home a top-10 finish in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500. That was until bad luck struck in the form of a flat tire with just 25 laps remaining. The blown tire sent the No. 9 machine careening into the wall and ended Ambrose’s day early after the hit caused severe damage to the right side of the car.
After starting the 500-mile event at Texas Motor Speedway from the 15th position, Ambrose had slipped back to 20th when he keyed the mic to let Blickensderfer know his Mac Tools Ford was loose on entry and exit of the corners. A routine green-flag pit stop on Lap 41 allowed Ambrose to come into the pits for four fresh tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment in an attempt to help the loose condition. Ambrose’s pit crew preformed the first of several flawless pit stops of the day and gained their driver seven positions, placing him in 13th by Lap 50.
When the second round of routine green-flag pit stops came at Lap 89, Ambrose was scored in 19th, before coming in for fresh tires, fuel and chassis adjustments. Shortly after pitting under green, the caution flag flew at Lap 101 for debris. Ambrose again brought his Mac Tools Ford down pit road for four fresh tires fuel and additional adjustments. Another quick stop by the crew gained him three positions in the pits to restart in 16th.
A caution on Lap 110, for an incident involving AJ Allmendinger, allowed Ambrose to come to the pits a fourth time for service. The Mac Tools crew again gained their driver positions in the pits and he took the green flag for the restart in 14th. Cautions tend to breed cautions, and Sunday’s race in the Lone Star state proved the saying to be true. The yellow flag flew again at Lap 120.
Having pitted just nine laps prior, Blickensderfer elected not to bring Ambrose down pit road and by virtue of staying out The No. 9 gained another two positions. This placed Ambrose in 12th at the drop of the green flag on Lap 129.
At Lap 134 Ambrose relayed to his crew that he was happy with his car and it was the best it had been all day. Shortly after, the Australian-native passed the No.39 machine of Ryan Newman to break into the top 10 for the first time on Lap 138.
Following another round of green flag pit stops at Lap 163, Ambrose was scored in ninth and maintained his position inside the top 10 through two ensuing stops on Laps 187 and 224.
After stopping on Lap 224, Ambrose had made his way up to the sixth position when the handling of the car began to fade as the track conditions cooled. Dropping back to 15th, a caution just before the final fuel window on Lap 276 allowed Ambrose to return to pit lane, for a final round of chassis adjustments. The RPM crew once again improved positions in the pits and Ambrose restarted in 10th.
Slight contact on the restart with Kasey Kahne caused Ambrose to drop several positions late in the race. Fighting to work his way back toward the front of the field in the closing laps, a flat tire on Lap 310 sent the Mac Tools Ford into the wall. The hard contact resulted in right side damage, forcing the No. 9 machine to retire from the race 24 laps early. At the conclusion of the 334-lap event Ambrose was scored in the 32nd position.
Ambrose’s Comments after Texas: “Working with Drew (Blickensderfer) this weekend was very encouraging. It’s a shame that we didn’t get the end result we deserved. I felt like Drew and I had good chemistry and communicated well today, which allowed us to improve our Mac Tools Ford throughout the race.
“My pit crew was awesome and we had killer stops all day, allowing us to make up a lot of ground in the pits. It’s a shame we had that tire issue at the end, because I really think we were poised to pull off a top-10 finish. We head to Phoenix this weekend and that’s a track I typically run well at, so I’m really looking forward to it. I feel like Phoenix is going to be our race to shine.”