–  by Chris Dobie
Daytona, USA – 18/02/09: Marcos Ambrose has achieved his best Sprint Cup finish on an oval with a strong performance in his Daytona 500 debut at Daytona International Speedway in Florida today.Ambrose was in 17th position on lap 152 when rain descended on the 2.5-mile super speedway, resulting in the race being red flagged and results declared 48 laps early.The finish gives the Australian a strong start to his first full season in the top level of NASCAR and netted his #47 JTG Daugherty Racing team US$295,146 (A$451,972) in prize money.

Ambrose was lucky to avoid a 10-car pile-up on lap 125, triggered by contact between Dale Earnhardt Jr and Brian Vickers, able to maneuver through the carnage to continue on and climb into the top 20.

Today’s race also saw Ambrose finish ahead of many established Sprint Cup stars such as Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, and just one position behind veteran Mark Martin.

Ambrose started from 23rd position in the #47 Little Debbie Toyota Camry, becoming the first Australian to race in the world-famous Daytona 500.

Handling was an issue for Ambrose in the early stages, with the Little Debbie machine unsteady around the 31-degree Daytona banking.

Ambrose and crew chief Frankie Kerr worked at the car set-up and made changes at each pit stop, giving the Australian a better package heading into the second half of the race.

After a conservative approach in the first half of the race, Ambrose began to move forward through the pack to improve his position, working with Michael Waltrip Racing stable mate David Reutimann in the draft to move towards the front.

With the race declared due to rain, Ambrose’s charge was halted early but the two-time V8 Supercar Champion was still pleased with such a solid start to the season in his first Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway.

The 17th place finish eclipses Ambrose’s previous best Sprint Cup finish on an oval at Phoenix International Raceway last November, where he finished 18th. His best Sprint Cup finish remains third place on the Watkins Glen road course last season.

The three Michael Waltrip Racing-prepared cars were the three highest finishing Toyotas in today’s Daytona 500, with two-time race winner Michael Waltrip finishing seventh and Reutimann 12th.

Matt Kenseth won the 51st running of the Daytona 500 today ahead of Kevin Harvick and AJ Allmendinger.

The 32-year-old enters next weekend’s Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in 17th place in the Sprint Cup points standings.


“The car was getting better and better as the night went on,” said Ambrose.

“I was getting better out there too and picking my lines better. It was getting a little intense in the pack, but I expected that.

“With the rain coming too, I think the panic started early and it started getting pretty rugged.

“When there’s a wreck, you just have to keep your foot in it and hope you get through it. Half the time you think you’re going to come out the other side of it and then you don’t because you get collected, but I just kept my foot down and hoped for the best.

“The rain shortened the race by 48 laps and we were only just starting to get up there amongst it all.

“I’ll take 17th, it’s a good points day for us. I could have gone forwards if the race had gone all the way to the end, but I could well have gone backwards too.

“It was getting pretty intense out there. We are satisfied with 17th but I would have liked more.

“It was guaranteed that there was going to be lots of accidents and the rain threw another factor into it, because normally the drivers will wait until 20 or 30 laps to go before they get crazy out there.

“But with the rain coming, no one knew when it would fall, so the last 80 or 90 laps were pretty fast paced and intense.

“But that’s what this race is all about. Today was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. I’ve got a bit more to learn I think, just by watching how committed some of the guys are out there.

“It was a lot of fun, I had a blast and I look forward to coming back to Daytona next time in July.

“We’ll have to wait for the fifth race to see how the owner’s points situation shapes up but this finish is a big step in the right direction and a good way to start the year.”


RESULTS: Daytona 500 at Daytona Internationals Speedway
Race 1 of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

1. #17 Matt Kenseth 152 laps
2. #29 Kevin Harvick
3. #44 AJ Allmendinger
4. #33 Clint Bowyer
5. #19 Elliott Sadler
6. #6 David Ragan
7. #55 Michael Waltrip
8. #14 Tony Stewart
9. #43 Reed Sorenson
10. #2 Kurt Busch
11. #1 Martin Truex Jr
12. #00 David Reutimann
13. #24 Jeff Gordon
14. #42 Juan Pablo Montoya
15. #07 Casey Mears
16. #5 Mark Martin
17. #47 Marcos Ambrose
18. #99 Carl Edwards
19. #34 John Andretti
20. #16 Greg Biffle

1. #1 Martin Truex Jr
2. #5 Mark Martin
3. #24 Jeff Gordon
4. #18 Kyle Busch
5. #14 Tony Stewart
6. #83 Brian Vickers
7. #48 Jimmie Johnson
8. #42 Juan Pablo Montoya
9. #20 Joey Logano
10. #11 D enny Hamlin
23. #47 Marcos Ambrose

2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Driver’s Standings after Race 1 of 36
1. Matt Kenseth 190 points
2. Kevin Harvick 170
3. AJ Allmendinger 165
4. Clint Bowyer 160
5. Elliott Sadler 160
6. David Ragan 150
7. Michael Waltrip 146
8. Tony Stewart 147
9. Reed Sorenson 138
10. Kurt Busch 135
17. Marcos Ambrose 112

_________________ _________________ _________________


51st Daytona 500
First staged in 1959
200 laps
500 miles/805 kilometres

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Marcos Ambrose pilots the #47 JTG Daugherty Racing entry at Daytona

Marcos Ambrose in the Sprint Cup garage area at Daytona International Speedway

Ambrose with team co-owner and NBA legend Brad Daugherty on pit road at Daytona

Fellow Aussie Keith Urban performs as part of the pre-race entertainment at the Daytona 500


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