Bowyer, Ambrose locked into grid

Updated: February 5, 2009, 2:58 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose now are locked into the Sprint Cup Series field for the first five races of 2009. Brad Keselowski is not.

Richard Childress Racing has acquired points from the No. 01 car driven by Regan Smith at Dale Earnhardt Inc. last season, securing Bowyer's place in the field as an automatic qualifier. The top 35 in points from the end of last season automatically qualify for the field in the first five races of the season.

Bowyer, who will be driving the No. 33 for RCR, was a Chase for the Cup contender in the No. 07 car in 2008. But the points he accumulated last season were given to new teammate Casey Mears when Mears took over that car.

Ambrose moved into the top 35 and was guaranteed a spot in the Daytona 500 and the next four races when NASCAR informed Phoenix Racing that it would not be allowed to acquire the points from the No. 41 of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing for Keselowski, who is not running a full Cup schedule.

NASCAR had indicated Wednesday that it would allow Keselowski to acquire the 41 points, but decided Thursday that would not be appropriate to allow the points to go to a driver running a part-time schedule.

Ambrose remained cautiously optimistic despite the news, saying only that it "looks like the points may go in our favor."

"If that is the case then it really does change our whole outlook for the first five races," he said. "We support NASCAR's decision with the top-35 rule. As it's played out here, every team that's in the top-35 at this stage has earned their way in.

"They're in there on merits -- they're all full-time teams with full-time sponsors. I think it works out for the best, for all parties involved."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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