From 43rd To A Third Place Finish For Wood Brothers Racing At The Glen
Watkins Glen, NY (August 10, 2008)-Marcos Ambrose drove from 43rd to third in the Little Debbie no. 21 Ford Fusion on Sunday in the Centurion Boats at The Glen. Even though strong strategy calls made by Crew Chief David Hyder played a key role in bringing the 21 team the top five finish, the car was one of the fastest on the track all day which gave Marcos the ability to make 90 green flag passes.
Marcos took the green flag in 43rd after NASCAR cancelled qualifying on Friday afternoon and lined up the field according to Owners point standings. Even though he would start in the rear of the field, Marcos had the confidence in the team and the car after two successful practices on Saturday that finished with the no.21 at the top of the scoreboard.
With only two NASCAR Sprint Cup starts under his belt, Marcos chose to use patience while working his way through the field. Yet, within the first 10 laps of the race, he moved up to 31st with ease. On lap 11, he reported that the car was feeling a bit “soft” making it a little difficult to handle in the turns. The team made a green flag pit stop on lap 13 to change tires, fuel and to make an air pressure adjustment to help with the handling. The no. 21 returned to the race track in 37th, but within one lap, Ambrose moved to 32nd and by lap 33 he was in 21st - consistently been the fastest car on the track.
On lap 45 and running 16th, Ambrose reported that the change made on the last pit stop wasn’t really working in his favor, he said, “When we made that last change, it didn’t really work. We need to match the front to the rear.” When the team made the air pressure adjustment on lap 13, they only made it in the rear, on the next pit stop they would change the pressures to match.
The first caution came out on lap 48 for debris, Crew Chief David Hyder called for the no. 21 to pit the next time by for four tires, fuel and to put the adjust the air pressures so they would be the same in the front as in the rear tires. Ambrose exited the pit stall in the 22nd; the race restarted on lap 50.
Hyder made the strategy call of the afternoon that would ultimately end up in the Wood Brothers Racing’s favor when he radioed to the crew that they would bring the no. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion back into the pit for fuel only on lap 56. However, on lap 51, Marcos reported a loose wheel. He couldn’t tell which side it was on but suspected the left. The team looked at their data and showed that the wheels were all tight but for precautions sake, when Ambrose pit on lap 56 for gas, the tire changers made sure the wheels were tight on the left side. With success, Ambrose returned to the track in 33rd. However, as planned, other teams began to make their last pit stops of the day which moved the no. 21 up to the 11th spot by lap 60.
The caution flag flew for the second time and Marcos radioed to the crew that the car was feeling much more in balance. He wanted to make a few more adjustments to make the car better but Crew Chief Hyder replied in his calm confident voice, “We’ll have to save that for the next race buddy, you’re in sixth place-there’s only 26 laps to go- we’re not going to pit.” The race restarted on lap 67, Marcos moved to fifth after the leader decided to pit. On lap 75, Marcos passed the #42 for fourth. On lap 79, the third place car, Ryan Newman, spun and gave Ambrose the spot.
On lap 83, caution came out when a violent wreck in turn 11 involving 10 cars which would ultimately bring out the red flag to clean up broken barriers and the oil laden track.
After the 40 minute clean up, NASCAR would lift the red flag and the field started rolling under caution. Marcos reported that his breaks and clutch had taken some abuse and were not working to capacity.
The race went back to green on lap 86, with only four laps to go in the 90 lap event, the team and onlookers rooted for Ambrose to stay ahead of the 42, as he gained nine car lengths in between the fourth place car, he began to move in on Tony Stewart in second, but couldn’t quite make the pass. He settled into the third place where he took the checkered flag on lap 90.
Ambrose hopes that the impressive finish has given the team “A Shot in the Arm”. "I hope it gives them the shot in the arm to keep moving forward. They've had a tough time of it. They're 43rd in points, and they need to get some momentum going. Hopefully this will help them. I'm not the answer. But they gave me a great piece, everything I asked for."
David Hyder received the WYPALL Wypers “Crew Chief of the Race” Award for his strategy calls and overall third place finish. He will receive a $1,000.00 check presented to him next week at Michigan International Speedway. He is also eligible for the “Crew Chief of the Year” award at the conclusion of the season where he could win the prize of $20,000.00.
View other articles on the Wood Brothers Racing at The Glen:
Marcos Ambrose and the Wood Brothers no. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion will travel to the Irish Hills of Michigan for the 3M Performance 400 on Sunday August, 17th.
Photo by Dorsey Patrick Photography/Bob LeSieur