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Ford team owns top four qualifiers at Las Vegas stop

Car owner and former NASCAR driver Richard Petty visit the garages during practice. (Associated Press)
Car owner and former NASCAR driver Richard Petty visit the garages during practice. (Associated Press)

LAS VEGAS – When Richard Petty Motorsports courted Marcos Ambrose last season, the Australian saw an opportunity to further his NASCAR development and partner with manufacturer Ford.

It wasn’t an easy decision, and Ambrose certainly had second thoughts when financial issues nearly shut down RPM right about the time he began to string together some decent results with JTG Daugherty Racing. He kept his word, though, and was in RPM’s No. 9 Ford at Daytona.

“I took a chance and I really stuck my neck out to see if I had what it took,” Ambrose said of his move to RPM.

But the launch with his new team hardly produced the results he had hoped for through the first two weeks: Ambrose was 37th at Daytona, 16th at Phoenix and came to Las Vegas Motor Speedway ranked 27th in the Sprint Cup Series standings.

It put the pressure on Ambrose to step up and turn things around, which he did by qualifying second for today’s race. He briefly held the pole until he was bumped by Matt Kenseth, who set a track record with the fifth pole of his 12-year career.

In all, Fords swept the first four qualifying spots, as Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle qualified third and fourth.

All four cars are powered by Roush Yates Engines, which is off to an incredible start to the season. The top three finishers at the Daytona 500 were powered by Roush Yates, and Edwards won the pole last week at Phoenix.

“We’ve had such a great start to the 2011 season,” chief engine builder Doug Yates said. “We’ve worked really hard in the offseason to see gains on the race track, and I think there are even more great things to come.”

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