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Junior, Ambrose hurt by pit road speeding penalties

By admin | March 21, 2010

By Richard Allen

Both Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Marcos Ambrose had strong cars in the Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway and both ended the day with finishes worse than they could have been. For both drivers, pit road speeding violations were at the heart of their frustration.

Junior looked to be a serious contender for a top-5 finish, if not a win. During a late race pit stop he was caught going too fast on entry of pit road. That violation carries a penalty of restarting at the tail end of the longest line.

Being forced to the rear with right at 100 laps to go creates an almost impossible scenario to recover from. Later, Junior would proclaim his innocence, or at least his contention that he was doing nothing different from others, in a profanity laced tirade over his in-car radio.

However, unlike times in the past when similar situations have occurred, Junior’s day was not a complete disaster. As a matter of fact, his day would have to be regarded as a success. He rallied to claim the 7th spot in the finishing order.

While the finish could have been better had he not been mired in traffic at that critical stage of the race, it was still a solid top-10. Junior used that finish to climb to 8th place in the Sprint Cup standings. At no time last season was he ever higher than 15th.

Ambrose, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. Not one, but two, pit road speeding violations sent him to the rear of the field. As a result he likely passed more cars than anyone else on the track as his car proved to be a real powerhouse. However, the risks of running in mid-pack showed up on lap 343.

When Greg Biffle forced Mark Martin into the wall coming out of turn 2 the resulting melee collected the Australian driver and caused heavy damage to his #47 Toyota. Had it not been for the speeding penalties he almost certainly would not have been running where he was at the time and may have missed the accident altogether.

Ultimately, Ambrose had to settle for a disappointing 33rd place result. That dropped him to 31st in the Sprint Cup standings.

Both of these drivers suffered from the same ailment on Bristol’s tight pit road. One recovered and the other did not. But for both, the ending could have been better. Both would have at least had a chance to end their day in victory lane.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “Junior, Ambrose hurt by pit road speeding penalties”

  1. Justin Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I think this is further proof that the 88 team has mad significant strides. Last season, this type of thing would have been a guaranteed finish outside the top 20. But this year, Jr made a recovery. Except for Daytona, Jr has found some type of problem, but has bounced back (with the exception of the mechanical failure).

    It sure looks like Jr is about to become a full blown contender again. It is still too soon to celebrate for Jr Nation, but there has been nothing but positive results this year:
    Better finishes than last year
    Moving forward instead of back as the laps wind down
    Over coming mistakes and miscues
    Etc…..whatever they are doing, has been an improvement

  2. Marcus Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    The only improvement I see out of the 88 team this year is in the luck department. Maybe even the luck they create themselves. I know I’m supposed to be appreciative of where Jr is at in points right now and all, but honestly I am disheartened by their performance on Sunday. Notice I said performance, not outcome. I personally feel that their performance has been parallel to the second half of last year at best. Jr had very mediocre cars at Daytona,Cali,Vegas, and Atlanta. 3 out of those 4 he traditionally runs very strong at. Yes, Daytona’s second place car was very mediocre. Remember he was a 20th place car until 4 tires,A cooler track, and Overtime improved his finish to 2nd.
    I strongly feel that if the 88 team doesn’t show us they can win a race by the conclusion of the May 1st. Richmond race, then we will be lucky to see him visit victory lane at all this year. Don’t forget he isn’t getting any younger, and he doesn’t have the physical commitment of Mark Martin.
    Sure, Jr looks better in the points, but If he is going to be a contender against the like of Jimmie Johnson for the title, he’ll have to have some dominant cars on some weekends, and will have to capitalize.
    I feel as an avid Dale Jr. fan, I have the right to expect better performance for the simple fact that I have been waiting for 5 years for him to return to consistant winning form. Secondly, Dale and Lance did not begin there relationship together over the offseason. It started 31 races ago (including exhibition races), and now 2 months shy of a calender year ago.

  3. Marybeth Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    It is a good thing Jr. got the penalty, or he would have been right in the middle of the big wreck (Martin never did say why he came back up on the track.) Plus, it has the added bonus for Jr., to show himself that he could come back to the front. The adjts. on the cars are working! Things are turning around. :)

  4. Overa88ted Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    It’s about time Lance told his under achieving average at best driver to SHUT-UP and DRIVE, after Jr. was crying about his speeding penalty. What an embarrassment for HMS.

  5. Marcus Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Embarrassing?? It is Embarrassing that he Has the attitude of wanting to win? Wow. I guess people can’t get emotional in the heat of competition anymore. Overa88ted, If that’s the attitude you have, then you were probably an embarrassment to a lot of people if you ever competed in anything.
    @Marybeth. Don’t know for sure, but I imagine that Mark came back up the track because his right front was shredded and he probably could not turn the car to the left. Martin isn’t the type of guy who would drive back up the track for no reason.