MARCOS Ambrose lifted his ranking in NASCAR's top-level Sprint Cup Series with a fighting fifth place at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee yesterday.
After qualifying his No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion fifth fastest, the Launceston-born driver had his best finish in a year and sits in 15th place in the Sprint Cup rankings.
Ambrose's teammate Aric Almirola finished third in the team's No. 43 Ford Fusion on the short half-mile oval track.
The results are a big morale booster for their Richard Petty Motorsports team, which has struggled to match the better funded teams.
Carl Edwards, also in a Ford, won his 22nd Sprint Cup race and third at the Bristol track. His Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse jnr was second with Chevrolet driver Tony Stewart finishing fourth.
Rain delayed the start of the race by an hour and 45 minutes and then stopped racing for more than three hours after 124 laps of the 500-lap race had been completed.
The race ended in rain under a caution flag.
Ambrose battled some early handling problems to work his way back into the leading pack over the final 30 laps.
After disappointing results in the opening three races - 18th in the Daytona 500, 21st at Phoenix and 24th in Las Vegas - Ambrose is in contention for a spot in the championship-deciding Challenger round for the top 16 Sprint Cup drivers.
The 37-year-old is in his eighth NASCAR season and his fourth with Richard Petty Motorsports.
NASCAR racing moves to Fontana, California, next weekend for the the Auto Club Speedway 400.