2010 Ride: No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota
2010 Primary Sponsors: Little Debbie, Kingsford, Bush’s Baked Beans, Clorox
2010 Owners: Tad Geschickter, Brad Daugherty
2010 Crew Chief: Frank Kerr
2010 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 2 top fives, 5 top 10s, 0 poles, 26th in points
High Point: The Australian was strong on the road courses, as he always is. He looked to have a victory chance at Watkins Glen, maybe the only driver that had anything for eventual winner Juan Pablo Montoya, but the last set of tires did not perform as well on his car as previous sets. He lost ground after the final restart and ended the day in third, but was still very pleased with the effort after a tough season up to that point.
Ambrose also grabbed the spotlight at Martinsville in October, starting the race second and jumping out to an early lead that lasted for 40 laps. He didn’t end up with the finish he would have liked that day, getting involved in a wreck but showed strength on a track that most wouldn’t have expected.
Low Point: You wouldn’t think a sixth-place finish would be a low point, but it was for Ambrose at Infineon Raceway. He led 38 laps and appeared to have his first Sprint Cup Series victory well in hand when a late-race caution flew. In a move that still seems puzzling, Ambrose tried to save fuel by switching the engine of his car off and on during the caution laps. Drivers do this all the time, especially in anticipation of green/white/checkered finishes, but Ambrose seemed to wait a bit too long to restart the car and got caught out going uphill with less than optimum fuel flow to start.
Unable to maintain an acceptable speed, several cars filed by as Ambrose struggled to start his engine and by the time the car refired, Ambrose had turned over the lead to eventual winner Jimmie Johnson and fallen back in the field. Sixth wouldn’t normally be disappointing, but it is compared to the winner’s trophy.
Summary: This year was not the one Ambrose and his JTG Daugherty team were hoping for at all. Coming out of 2009 with an 18th-place points finish and momentum, they hoped to improve upon that, but a series of mechanical failures and accidents got them behind and dashed those hopes early. For the most part, in races with no bad luck, the No. 47 ran solidly in the 11th-to-15th place range.
After such a surprising downturn, Ambrose wound up adding one more challenge to a trying year, announcing in August he would be leaving the team after the 2010 season for Richard Petty Motorsports. It’s hard for an organization to rally around a lame-duck driver, one who chose to depart less than 12 months after signing a two-year extension. But Ambrose vowed to do his best to finish the year for JTG in as strong a fashion as he could, and did his best to deliver on that.
Team Ranking: N/A. While JTG Daugherty Racing works in cooperation with Michael Waltrip Racing for cars and technical support, it is a single-car operation.
Off-Track News: In prior years, Ambrose spent the offseason in his native Australia, but the driver and his family are staying stateside this year, becoming year-round U.S. residents for the first time. Because they previously spent the summer months here and then returned to Australia just as summer was starting there, it will be the first real winter for Ambrose’s two young daughters.
2011 Outlook: It’s a little hard to say. Ambrose wanted a change of scenery and intended to move up to Kasey Kahne’s vacant No. 9 car, but all that was up in the air when RPM hit serious financial troubles in October. Ambrose stuck by his new team throughout, and as of early December it looks as if the worst is over. Richard Petty found investors to help him regain control of the team from George Gillett, whose financial troubles nearly shut it down, and will run day-to-day operations heading into the coming season.
For the moment, the team is reorganizing and preparing to move ahead as a two-car operation with Ambrose in the No. 9 and AJ Allmendinger in the No. 43. What kind of resources they will have in 2011, though, and what that means for on-track performance is difficult to predict.
2007 Frontstretch Grade: N/A
2008 Grade: C-
2009 Grade: B-
2010 Grade: C-
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