Ambrose finds his groove on the concrete at Dover
Finishes third at the Monster Mile due partly to the feel of the tires on track's surface
By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
May 16, 2011 11:06 AM, EDT
DOVER, Del. -- Why some drivers do better on certain surfaces can lead to some abstract thinking. But in the case of Marcos Ambrose, the reasons for his third-place finish Sunday at Dover International Speedway are freshly cemented in his mind.
Even though this was his first top-five finish at Dover, Ambrose is no stranger to running well on concrete tracks. He has two top-10 finishes at Bristol, including a third in the 2009 Bristol night race.
I get good feel on these concrete tracks. ... I think it's the steeper banking, there's more vertical load. I think it just helps me feel the tires a little better.
-- MARCOS AMBROSE
"I get good feel on these concrete tracks," Ambrose said. "When I'm having a bad day [on an asphalt surface], I have trouble feeling each tire. It feels like the whole car is slipping around and I can't really feel which [tire] it is.
"On concrete, I think it's the steeper banking, there's more vertical load. I think it just helps me feel the tires a little better."
Ambrose used a two-tire stop near the end of the FedEx 400 to get some much-needed track position during the final 33 green-flag laps. Restarting sixth, he got by Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers, then had a spirited battle with Kyle Busch for several laps, eventually grabbing third for good on Lap 373.
"It was a great day and a really good call for two tires there at the end," Ambrose said. "I had a fast car [Sunday] and we just lost a little track position. I thought I had something for them but the downforce went away and I wore my front tires out."
Even though he didn't get to lead a lap, Ambrose was near the front of the field for most of the day. He admitted finding the fast way around the Monster Mile was a matter of dealing with a track made slick by a combination of rubber and sunshine.
"The track was changing every run, throughout the run," Ambrose said. "My car was getting really slick on that rubber, so there wasn't much you could do. You couldn't ask for much change to the car because you just knew it was going to be that way all day. And you just had to keep changing your line and keep searching."
Ambrose started 18th, but was up to 12th within 20 laps. He cracked the top 10 for the first time just before NASCAR officials put out the yellow for a competition caution on Lap 41 and remained a factor for the rest of the event, putting pressure on leaders Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards at times.
For the native of Tasmania, finding some consistency could be the key to making some major moves in the standings. Ambrose finished fourth at Las Vegas and sixth at Texas, but also has six finishes outside of the top 20. So running well in back-to-back races has him smiling.
"We had a really good day at Darlington and it didn't quite work out because we finished 13th," Ambrose said. "We've just had some rough luck so far this year. We've had accidents and incidents outside of our control that have really hurt our points."
That's perhaps to be expected since Ambrose is in his first season with Richard Petty Motorsports.
"Our team is learning me, I'm learning them," Ambrose said. "I'm learning how these cars work.
"And this result [Sunday], I'm really excited because I think it's going to lead to a great Charlotte, Pocono, Indy, Kansas -- all these great big tracks coming. I feel like our team is really suited to those tracks and I'm excited about it."