The Frontstretch: 2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Marcos Ambrose by Mark Howell -- Tuesday December 18, 2012

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2012 NASCAR Driver Review: Marcos Ambrose

Mark Howell · Tuesday December 18, 2012

 

2012 Ride: Richard Petty Motorsports
2012 Primary Sponsors: Stanley Tools, DeWalt Tools, MAC Tools (4 races), and Black & Decker (4 races)
2012 Owner: Richard Petty
2012 Crew Chief: Todd Parrott (until fall race at Richmond), Mike Ford (from Chicago to Martinsville during the Chase), and Drew Blickensderfer (from Texas until Homestead to end the season)

Stats: 36 races; 1 win, three top 5s, eight top 10s, four DNFs, 18th in points.
Average Start: 14.3 (career high).
Average Finish: 17.9 (career high).

Best Finish: 1st – Watkins Glen.

Marcos Ambrose

2012 Team Ranking: 1st of the two teams at RPM. Ambrose, who ran the fastest qualifying lap of 2012 (a lap of 203.241 at Michigan in June) also outdistanced his younger teammate, Aric Almirola, in the point standings and in the consistency department for much of the season.

High Point: Ambrose’s wild-and-wooly win at Watkins Glen was a finish that would top anyone’s highlight reel for the 2012 season. His come-from-behind, last-lap slugfest with eventual Cup champion Brad Keselowski not only wowed race fans, but it demonstrated what other NASCAR drivers have believed for years: the fact that Ambrose is a talented competitor who’ll race you hard but keep things clean. An accomplishment that might sit alongside this driver’s win at the Glen would be his fast lap for the June race at Michigan. His qualifying speed of 203.241 mph was the quickest seen in NASCAR for a quarter-century. Not only was Ambrose’s lap the third fastest in NASCAR history, but it was also the first 200+ mph pole speed ever run on a 2-mile oval.

Low Point: A low point for 2012 had to be the four DNFs experienced by the No. 9 RPM Ford. Losing an engine at Phoenix early in the year was difficult enough, but that failure was followed later in the season by wrecks at Daytona, Talladega, and Texas. The DNFs at Phoenix and Daytona forced Ambrose to scramble during the late summer in hopes of earning a spot in the Chase come September. Ambrose and team fell short of making the top 12 and wound up ending the year in 18th place. While respectable and equal to his previous best finish in the points, it was still a disappointing end to a pretty solid season.

Summary: Marcos Ambrose and Richard Petty had high hopes heading into the 2012 racing season. An engine failure two weeks in slowed the team’s progress a little, but it wasn’t long before Ambrose was showing signs of great promise. The summer months were filled with opportunities that put the No. 9 Ford squarely in the hunt for a berth in the Chase.

Ambrose’s record-setting qualifying lap of 203.241 mph at the newly-paved Michigan International Speedway in June shattered Bill Elliott’s previous mark in the Irish Hills and gave NASCAR its quickest pole speed in twenty-five years. That qualifying effort was matched just one week later when Ambrose was the fastest in time trials at Sonoma.

The month of August was especially good to Marcos Ambrose as he battled Brad Keselowski wheel-to-fender-to-wheel for the win at Watkins Glen, then followed that stunning performance with two consecutive top-5 runs at Michigan and Bristol. Even though Ambrose narrowly missed making the Chase, his eventual 18th-place finish in the point standings matched his previous career best in Sprint Cup competition.

Off-Track News: Marcos Ambrose continued his benevolent works by helping to raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network during their “Racing for a Miracle” promotion during the Cup race at Sonoma. Ambrose also picked up a hammer to help frame a house for storm victims in Texas as part of a Habitat for Humanity promotion related to the Cup weekend at Fort Worth in April.

2013 Outlook: The future looks bright for Marcos Ambrose and his No. 9 Stanley Ford. Changes in crew chiefs during 2012 were intended to make the team Chase-ready, even though the best efforts of all at RPM fell a bit short. Sprint Cup veteran Todd Parrott was replaced by fellow Sprint Cup veteran Mike Ford as the series headed into the final ten races of the season at Chicagoland, but that change only lasted until Martinsville. As the series moved to Texas in November, Ford was replaced by Drew Blickensderfer, yet another Sprint Cup veteran who’d been crew chief for Jeff Burton at Richard Childress Racing. Blickensderfer will be with Ambrose as the 2013 Cup season gets underway in February. His experience as a former Roush Fenway head wrench, plus an engineering background can only help an organization that gets its chassis and horsepower from RFR down the road.

2011 Frontstretch.com Grade: B.
2012 Grade: A final grade of A- given that Ambrose and team had decent Chase potential and a few bright-and-shining moments of greatness. Had they avoided the four DNFs and likely made the postseason, they’d have earned a higher score.

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