Marcos Ambrose told reporters during Media Day at Daytona that he will be guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500—as well as the next four races.
After months of jostling for points, NASCAR has set the top-35 and Ambrose (driving the No. 47 Toyota for JTG Daughtery Racing) will move up one spot into the lucrative 35th position.
"It is with caution that I say that it looks like we are in the 500," Ambrose said Thursday. "NASCAR spoke to us this morning and yesterday. If nothing changes, we're going to be lining up for the 500, which is a huge relief." (SceneDaily.com)
The announcement comes as a surprise to Brad Keselowski who had been rumored to be receiving points from one of the Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing teams. EGR originally had six teams inside the top-35, but after dropping down to a three-car operation, had three spots remaining.
One of the spots was given to John Andretti who will pilot a car for at least the Daytona 500.
Plans appeared to be in place to give one of the owner points to Keselowski through a "partnership," in which NASCAR allows a team to field a fifth car for a development driver.
However, NASCAR decided it was more important to allow a team that would be running full-time (Ambrose) the points, instead of a part-time team.
"I'll be honest — I don't understand how I got in; I don't understand how I'm out," Keselowski said Thursday. "I'm back to where I was a week ago, focused on doing what we can with the assumption that I will have to race my way into the 500." (SceneDaily.com)
"Someone is looking out for me — I'm not sure who it is, but they're doing a good job," Ambrose said. "In a situation like this, as far as I'm concerned, is completely out of my hands. Either way the decision is going to go or will go doesn't change who I am and how I go about my racing." (SceneDaily.com)
According to the same article, Clint Bowyer will receive points from one of the EGR cars as well and be guaranteed a spot in the first five races.
Bowyer finished in the top-10 in points last year, but vacated the Jack Daniels' No. 7 car to drive Richard Childress' fourth car, the No. 33.
Bowyer apparently received points after owner of the No. 01 Bobby Ginn
"[Team owner] Richard [Childress] taking on the partnership with Bobby Ginn, and being able to get those poitns just makes me excited to have the points and not have to worry about that," said Bowyer. "We've been in the Chase the last two years in a row, and it'd be hard to imagine not being able to make a race because of something crazy."
Bowyer told reporters it was like a late Christmas present finding out he would be guaranteed a spot. "I've been nervous about it all off season."
The final setting of the points is bad news for AJ Allmendinger and the No. 44 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge who originally thought they would be guaranteed a spot in the first five races. Although the team hadn't planned to run a full season, they were hoping to head to Daytona knowing they were in the field.
An unofficial entry list on Jayski.com shows 55 cars entered into the 51st running of the Daytona 500 next Sunday.