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Top 20 Countdown: No. 20 Marcos Ambrose

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports is counting down the top 20 drivers of the 2012 season, as predicted by the Yahoo! Sports NASCAR staff – Jay Hart, Jay Busbee, Nick Bromberg and Geoffrey Miller. The countdown will conclude on Feb. 17 with the unveiling of the No. 1 driver.

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(Getty Images)

2011 statistics
Finish Poles Wins Top 5 Top 10
19 0 1 5 12
The countdown
No. 19: Revealed Tuesday, Jan. 24

2011 finish: 19th

Our 2012 predictions:
• Jay Hart: Not ranked
• Jay Busbee: 19th
• Nick Bromberg: Not ranked
• Geoffrey Miller: 19th

Crew chief: Todd Parrott

Offseason action: Gained a new teammate in Aric Almirola.

2012 outlook: In some ways, 2011 was a breakthrough year for Marcos Ambrose. He finally won a race, getting that monkey off his back he'd carried ever since he gave away the victory at Sonoma in 2010. Plus, he managed to finish inside the top 20 for the first time in his three-year Cup career.

But is this enough for a driver used to winning championships in his native Australia?

While there is no doubt about his talent when it comes to road courses, Ambrose showed in 2011 that he's no slouch making left turns only. He posted top 10s at Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas and Charlotte (twice) – all 1.5-mile tracks – and finished third at Dover and ninth at Bristol – both super fast short tracks.

Clearly he's taking to this NASCAR thing.

The question is whether he can avoid some of those sub-20th-place finishes – he had 15 of them in 2011. If he can, and assuming another year makes him even better at making those left turns, then Ambrose will be in the Chase mix come September.

Point of interest: Ambrose had just one DNF in 2011 (a blown engine in the season finale), which was a huge improvement over 2010 when had a whopping eight. It's yet another sign that the former Australian Supercar champ is getting more comfortable in stock cars.

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