Marcos Ambrose to leave Richard Petty Motorsports, returning to native Australia

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JOLIET, Ill. — In a move not necessarily unexpected, Richard Petty Motorsports announced Saturday morning that Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford, will not return to the team or NASCAR for the 2015 season.

There have been several months of speculation that Ambrose would be returning to his native Australia after this season, with the likelihood that he’ll return to racing in the Australian V8 SuperCars Series, where he won the championship in 2003 and 2004. He finished third in 2005 before coming to the United States to begin his NASCAR career the following season (2006) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

A team source said the organization is looking at two or three different candidates to fill Ambrose’s seat. Immediate speculation includes Nationwide and Sprint Cup series veterans Sam Hornish Jr., Elliott Sadler and David Ragan,  as well as perhaps a younger driver currently in the Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series.

Ambrose, who just turned 38 on Sept. 1, has been rumored to potentially drive next season in the V8 Supercars series for a new team that would include full or co-ownership by current NASCAR and IndyCar owner Roger Penske.

MORE: Report: Deal for Marcos Ambrose’ return to Australia to race V8 Supercars for Roger Penske may be close

MORE: Report: Will Marcos Ambrose return to native Australia and V8 Supercars to race for Roger Penske?

The move was not necessarily a surprise. Petty somewhat predicted it back in January, telling MotorSportsTalk, “I don’t know how much longer he wants to stay in the U.S. You know, (Ambrose has) come a long way. He’s sort of a hero in Australia just because he’s running Cup. His big deal is if he could win on a round and around racetrack, that would be the optimum for him. If he did do that, he’d probably just go home and say, ‘Thank you guys,’ but I don’t know.”

MORE: Marcos Ambrose: Not looking to leave U.S. or Richard Petty Motorsports

Here is Saturday’s official statement from the team on Ambrose’s pending departure:

“Richard Petty Motorsports announced today that the No. 9 team will move forward with a new driver in 12015. Marcos Ambrose, who has been with RPM since 2011, has informed the organization that he will return to his native home of Australia in 2015. This was a personal decision by Ambrose.

“At this time RPM is currently evaluating several driver opportunities to help the No. 9 team (going) forward and will make a future announcement at the appropriate time.

“Richard Petty, co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, is thankful for Ambrose and his dedication to the team:

“Marcos will always be part of our extended racing family,” Petty said. “He came over to the United States with his family and dedicated his time here to giving it the best he had each week. I couldn’t ask anything more from Marcos and his commitment on and off of the track to our race team and our partners. Away from the track, he’s a family person first. That’s something I respect and we’ll miss Marcos, (his wife) Sonja and their children.”

Ambrose has made 217 career starts in the Sprint Cup Series, has two wins (both at Watkins Glen International), 18 top-five and 44 top-10 finishes. He also has made 77 starts in the Nationwide Series, with five wins, nine top-five and 18 top-10 showings.

While Ambrose’s contract runs through the end of the current season, it’s unclear whether he will complete the remainder of this season or potentially leave the team early to begin preparations for the next chapter of his racing career.

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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)