Marcos Ambrose's great NASCAR Sprint Cup season continued on Saturday night at Richmond short track, the Aussie notching a fast-finishing 11th in the Crown Royal 400 after surviving some Sam Hornish aggression in the last quarter of the 400 lapper.
Ambrose qualified his 850-horsepower Toyota Camry in 21st and ran solidly in the teens for much of the caution-marred race on the 14-degree banked Richmond three-quarter mile oval.
Ambrose was sticking to his usual game plan of saving his car for a late race push. But this came undone on lap 306 when Indy 500 winner Hornish's Penske Dodge tipped Ambrose into a spin. Though the contact inflicted some damage, the fired-up Australian was able to resume without going down a lap.
In the closing laps, Ambrose mounted a real charge up the order to grab 11th by the chequer, finishing right on the tail of 10th placed ex-Formula One goer Juan Montoya and ahead of Kurt Busch, a multiple winner this season for Penske Dodge.
It was Ambrose's seventh top 20 finish from 10 races this season and his fifth top 15 result in the last six races, a great result for his first full season in the top level of NASCAR.
"It was a long night - really long," said Ambrose. "I thought it was never going to end. But we had a good car and ran well.
"When the sun went down we lost the handling on the car, but we kept at it.
"I'm really proud of our team to be able to bounce back. We'll take 11th place. One spot more would have been fantastic, but we have got to be happy with that.
"We're doing it every week. I'm thrilled. Even though it was a tough night we still had a decent finish."
The race winner was the younger of the Busch brothers, the Toyota-driving Kyle, who celebrated his 24th birthday in style. A NASCAR win has to be better than a pair of socks or a necktie...
Kyle Bush passed Jeff Gordon for the lead with less than 50 laps remaining, before holding off Tony Stewart to win the 10th race in the 2009 Sprint Cup championship.
The young driver now has 50 wins spanning NASCAR's top three series.
He broke a losing streak going back five weekends in stunning style with three wins on the weekend starting with a victory in teammate Denny Hamlin's charity race on Thursday night. He then won Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Richmond.
Small wonder Kyle Busch is feted in NASCAR-land as a driving freak.
Jeff Gordon battled fading rubber to finish eighth to take a meagre lead to venerable Darlington for the Southern 500 next weekend.
Ambrose (1067 points) stays 19th in the standings but is just 33 points behind 18th placed Dale Earnhardt Jr and 120 points from the crucial 12th spot which would put him in the end of season Chase for the Cup.
RESULTS: Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway
Race 10 in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
1. #18 Kyle Busch (Toyota) 400 laps
2. #14 Tony Stewart (Chevrolet)
3. #31 Jeff Burton (Chevrolet)
4. #39 Ryan Newman (Chevrolet)
5. #5 Mark Martin (Chevrolet)
6. #77 Sam Hornish Jr (Dodge)
7. #26 Jamie McMurray (Ford)
8. #24 Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet)
9. #07 Casey Mears (Chevrolet)
10. #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (Chevrolet)
11. #47 Marcos Ambrose (Toyota)
2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Driver's Standings - After Race 10 of 36
1. Jeff Gordon 1441
2. Kurt Busch 1431
3. Tony Stewart 1402
4. Denny Hamlin 1321
5. Kyle Busch 1314
6. Jimmie Johnson 1290
7. Jeff Gordon 1257
8. Clint Bowyer 1212
9. Carl Edwards 1204
10. Ryan Newman 1198
19. Marcos Ambrose 1067
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