Marcos Ambrose showed that he is a force to be reckoned with in NASCAR's premiere series, claiming his third top-ten finish from the last five events, with a ninth place result in today's Michigan 400 aboard the Stanley Ford Fusion.
One day after claiming pole position with the fastest qualifying speed of any driver on any NASCAR track in 25 years, Ambrose was a front running contender all the way through the gruelling event, held on the freshly repaved Michigan International Speedway.
Throughout the race, Ambrose led on four occasions for a total of 15 laps, with the event the third he has led this season.
With the race delayed by rain, adapting to changing track conditions proved vital, with some mid-race pit stop timing unfortunately costing Ambrose track position.
"We will take the top-ten, but we had a great car today and we lost a little bit of track position and it hurt us there," Ambrose said.
"I am proud of my Stanley team; we led some laps and looked good up there.
"It was a strong day for us, not quite what we wanted, but we will take it and move along to Sonoma."
From the opening green flag, Ambrose made a smart getaway, leading the first lap and claiming a bonus point, before a Kurt Busch spin slowed the field on lap two of 400.
Ambrose got the better of Greg Biffle on the restart, but had to settle for second place on lap seven.
Josh Wise's blown engine brought out the next caution on lap ten, with Ambrose and Biffle once again running away from the field on the restart.
Taking on only fuel during the lap 25 competition caution, Ambrose retook the lead, and showed the way from the restart.
Ambrose then battled with Matt Kenseth, sitting in second place for a stint, before retaking the lead two circuits before the lap 51 competition caution.
Taking on right hand side tyres in the pit stop, Ambrose re-emerged in fourth position, but quickly improved to second place behind Biffle after the green flag.
Ambrose took over the lead on lap 69, but only for one circuit, with Dale Earnhardt Jnr moving into the top spot.
When a debris caution waved on lap 82, Ambrose was in second position, and emerged in sixth after taking on four new tyres in the subsequent pit stop.
During the next stint, the handling of the car degraded, and Ambrose fell down the field, making a green flag stop on lap 119.
Kurt Busch spun again on the back stretch, with Ambrose restarting from 15th, which turned into 11th after a multi-car crash featuring Joey Logano and Kasey Kahne.
The yellows weren't extinguished for long when Denny Hamlin spun and caught fire, with Ambrose jumping up into ninth.
However, the tyres on the Stanley Ford weren't as responsive as early sets, with Ambrose circulating in 11th until the final round of green flag pit stops.
In the run to the finish, Ambrose raced hard with Juan Pablo Montoya, claiming ninth at the chequered flag.
The race was won by Dale Earnhardt Jnr over Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth.
Next week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads west to turn left and right, with the first road course race of the year at Sonoma.
Michigan 400 Race Results
1. Dale Earnhardt Jnr (Chevrolet)
2. Tony Stewart (Chevrolet)
3. Matt Kenseth (Ford)
4. Greg Biffle (Ford)
5. Jimmie Johnson (Chevrolet)
6. Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet)
7. Clint Bowyer (Toyota)
8. Juan Pablo Montoya (Chevrolet)
9. Marcos Ambrose (Ford)
10. Kevin Harvick (Chevrolet)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings (after 15 of 36 races)
1. Matt Kenseth (Ford)- 565points
2.Dale Earnhardt Jnr (Chevrolet)- 561
3.Greg Biffle (Ford)- 548
4.Jimmie Johnson (Chevrolet)- 532
5.Denny Hamlin (Toyota)- 514
6.Kevin Harvick (Chevrolet)- 504
7.Martin Truex Jnr (Toyota)- 497
8.Tony Stewart (Chevrolet)- 491
9.Clint Bowyer (Toyota)- 481
10. Brad Keselowski (Dodge)- 458
17. Marcos Ambrose (Ford)- 388