The Frontstretch: 2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Marcos Ambrose by Mark Howell -- Monday January 6, 2014

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2013 NASCAR Driver Review: Marcos Ambrose

Mark Howell · Monday January 6, 2014


2013 Ride: Richard Petty Motorsports

2013 Primary Sponsors: Stanley Tools, DeWalt Tools, MAC Tools (4 races); Bostitch, the Ace Hardware Foundation, and the Children’s Miracle Network (one race each)

2013 Owner: Richard Petty

2013 Crew Chief: Drew Blickensderfer

Stats: 36 races, no wins, no top-5 finishes, six top-10 finishes, one pole, two DNFs, 22nd in driver points.

Marcos Ambrose

Average Start: 17.4.
Average Finish: 19.9.

Best Finish: 6th – Michigan (August).

2013 Team Ranking: No. 2 for the two teams at RPM.

High Point: After enjoying a relatively successful 2012 in the Sprint Cup Series, Marcos Ambrose suffered through a mediocre 2013 season. His road course talents showed at Sonoma, where he started second and finished seventh, but were absent at Watkins Glen; despite winning the pole, Ambrose could muster no better than a 31st-place finish in rural Upstate New York. A season-best finish of sixth came at Michigan in August, providing Ambrose and his team with reminders of their record-setting qualifying run there in 2012, but little else in 2013 matched such greatness. Ambrose did show some strength on short tracks this season, however; top-ten finishes at Martinsville (in April) and Bristol (in August) bolstered what was, overall, a lackluster year.

Low Point: Despite having only two DNFs for the year (an engine failure at Richmond during the spring race and an accident at Watkins Glen), Marcos Ambrose still struggled with less-than-stellar finishes. The No. 9 Ford scored six finishes of 30th or worse while experiencing a roller-coaster season that ended with consecutive finishes of 26th-place in the last two events. Ambrose’s worst race was at Watkins Glen in August where he sat on the pole yet wound up six laps off the pace in 31st after wrecking in turn three with Brian Vickers and Max Papis.

Summary: Marcos Ambrose and Richard Petty had high hopes heading into 2013 given their fairly solid run in 2012. Ambrose signed a contract with Petty late in the year which gave the Tasmanian driver some added job security going into Speedweeks at Daytona.

Unfortunately, inconsistent performances early on had pretty much scuttled the efforts of the No. 9 Ford before the series made it to Charlotte on Memorial Day. The team’s only real bright spot was Ambrose’s career-best finish at Martinsville in April, where he came home in eighth place. Ambrose only led 71 of the 10,129 laps he ran during the season, which seemed to amplify his team’s on-going struggle to find Victory Lane.

In July, the No. 9 Ford was one of the sixteen Cup cars found to be running lighter-than-allowed roof flap spacers at Daytona. Later that month, it looked like Richard Petty Motorsports might have to move its race shop after Boris Said (who owned the building housing RPM) announced that the property was going to be put on the market. Once all such hindrances were straightened out, Petty and Ambrose agreed to another contract that would keep Ambrose with RPM for the 2014 Cup season.

Despite clearing the way for a bright future with RPM, Ambrose and his team continued to wrestle with inconsistent performances throughout the rest of 2013. The highlight of late-2013 was at Texas in October when RPM celebrated its 500th career NASCAR start.

Off-Track News: Last January, Ambrose put his road racing talents to use during “The Roar before the 24” at Daytona when he filled in as a test driver for the No. 60 Ford Riley Daytona Prototype as the car was being prepped for the Rolex 24-hour endurance race.

Marcos Ambrose also continued to help raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network during their “Racing for a Miracle” promotion in conjunction with the Cup race at Dover in June. A win at “The Monster Mile” would have resulted in a $1 million dollar donation to the CMN hospitals on behalf of DeWalt and Stanley Tools (unfortunately, Ambrose finished in 19th-place).

2014 Outlook: Better days lie ahead, hopefully, for Marcos Ambrose and his No. 9 RPM Fords as 2014 approaches. The Twisted Tea Brewing Company signed on as an associate sponsor for the 2014 Sprint Cup season; the beverage brand will serve as primary sponsor for Ambrose during the fall race at Dover. With no significant personnel changes on the horizon, Ambrose and his No. 9 race team should be able to focus their time and energy on improving their competitive fortunes.

2012 Grade: A-.
2013 Grade: Ambrose (and RPM’s No. 9 racing operation) earned a final grade of “C” based on a season of mainly mediocre finishes. Two bright spots in 2013 were Ambrose’s career-best performances on two notoriously-tough short tracks. Coming home 22nd in the final Sprint Cup standings (after a promising 2012) put Ambrose and Company solidly in “average” territory.

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