Marcos Ambrose Teleconference Transcript

Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion, is coming off the first win of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career when he won Monday’s rain-delayed race at Watkins Glen International. Ambrose talked about the aftermath of that victory as part of NASCAR’s weekly teleconference this afternoon.

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – DO YOU FEEL REDEMPTION AFTER WHAT HAPPENED IN SONOMA A YEAR AGO? “I was trying hard to forget about Infineon Raceway, but I have to say winning for the first time in the Sprint Cup Series is incredible, a huge achievement, and I’m just very thankful for the opportunity that I’ve been given here at Richard Petty Motorsports with the help of Stanley and DeWalt. It’s been a dream weekend for me and I’ve totally erased my memories of Sonoma from this moment forward.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF RUNNING BOTH RACES THIS WEEKEND IN MONTREAL AND MICHIGAN? “It (Montreal) sure does owe me a win. I think this year is gonna be the hardest yet because I have to start off in the back of the grid, but we’re doing the practice at Michigan on Saturday morning, we’re flying with Carl Edwards to get to the track in time. It’s gonna be really tight. We’ve predicted that there’s gonna be roughly a 20-minute gap between arriving on time and being late for the race, so I think we just have to play our strategies right. Hopefully everything goes to plan, getting through customs, weather with the plan, make sure the helicopter gets us to where we need to be at the track, but it should be OK. I’m looking forward to the race. We’ve got a big push with Stanley sponsoring the car and Canadian Tire supporting us there. We’re donating $100,000 to the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Program, a program designed to help kids participate in sports, and $100,000 going to that on behalf of Stanley is a big reason to try to turn up and win the race, to be honest with you, forgetting about of course the track does owe me a win. I’ve tried four times, I’ve led more laps than anybody else and feel like I just need to lead the last one this year, not lead the most laps.”

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ANY CHANCE ONE OF YOUR COMPETITORS HAS MADE A DEAL WITH CUSTOMS TO SLOW YOU DOWN OR KEEP YOU OUT? “That depends. I just hope that customs control doesn’t like Jacques Villeneuve or Patrick Carpentier too much and slows us down.”

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO NOW TO WIN ON AN OVAL? “Not much different, really. I think that getting the first win out of the way at Watkins Glen was a big load off my shoulders, to finally win in the Sprint Cup Series is huge. I’ve been feeling that pressure for some time, so I hope that I’m able to drive a little more relaxed and a little more freer and the wins will come more often. We’ve come close this year at tracks like Vegas, Texas, Charlotte – we were very fast – I led 100 laps at Martinsville last year as well, so I feel good about that track. I’ve come close to winning at Bristol and Dover as well, so we’ve got some great tracks coming up with a chance to win. My focus right now is these last four races. If we can snag a second win here before the Chase starts, it gives ourselves an opportunity to make the Chase. There’s a lot to race for and hopefully the wins will come more consistently for me now that I’ve got the first one out of the way. It’s really tough, this sport, no doubt about it and to be able to call yourself a race winner means a lot, but it’s only one race win and you’ve got to get more of them to feel like you’re a real star in NASCAR. Ovals is where it’s at for me and I think it’s only a matter of time before we get one.”

HAS ANYTHING HAPPENED THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS THAT WAS UNEXPECTED? “Yeah, the state government from where I’m from in Tasmania actually put out a press release to congratulate and celebrate the win, so that was pretty awesome. The Royal ad in Australia for national print and media was massive, more than I could have ever expected. I think the biggest thing and the biggest shock for me was how many drivers and people inside NASCAR congratulated me and really were joyful of the victory as much as I was. Mike Helton came to victory lane as did Robin Pemberton to say ‘well done’ which means a lot. The other drivers out there were fantastic and to be respected by your peers, I think, is the most important thing to me. Winning races is great, but to feel like the other drivers around you respect you and feel like you deserve to win as well, it means an awful lot.”

DO YOU THINK THE INTERNATIONAL ASPECT OF NASCAR IS NOW ACCEPTED AND NO LONGER A CURIOSITY? “It’s tough to win and when you come from overseas and you come into this sport it takes years to get to where you really want to be and to be a contender, so I haven’t had any blowback at all on being international and winning in NASCAR. The only feedback I’ve gotten has been positive. I don’t think anyone cars, a NASCAR fan doesn’t care where you’re from, they just want to see the best drivers out there competing and winning. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. I wish anyone else from overseas or international areas that want to come and have a go at NASCAR I wish them the best, but it’s definitely not an easy road and I think myself and Montoya have been pioneers to compete in NASCAR, but to also win and it’s awesome to be part of that group. But, I tell you what, it hasn’t been an easy road, so I don’t expect there to be a huge influx of international drivers trying to come and take race wins away from North America.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IN THE NATIONWIDE RACE THIS WEEK? “It seems the last few years we’ve always been fighting the weather, rain showers coming across, so I’m gonna be watching the radar and the weather forecast closely. My race in particular, I’m starting from the back as will Carl Edwards, and it’s gonna be a real challenge to get to the front. We’ve got some great drivers from Canada racing in the event. Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Tagliani, Patrick Carpentier come to mind. They’re gonna be staying at the front and looking out for their brakes and tires. They’ve got a real chance to win the race. We have to rely on, myself and Carl, have to rely on some cautions to get track position. I think it’s possible to win from the back, but it’s gonna be a real challenge. I think the fans are in for a spectacular race because you’ve got two races going on at once. You’ve got the guys that have been there all weekend racing the front and you’ve got myself and Carl starting from the back trying to get track position and be there at the end, so it’s gonna be interesting.”

VILLENEUVE DIDN’T MAKE ANY FRIENDS AT ROAD AMERICA EARLIER THIS YEAR. DO YOU EXPECT ANY OF THAT TO FOLLOW THIS WEEKEND? “I’m not sure, but I know that Jacques is a very fierce driver. He has a lot of talent. He’s very fast in these stock cars. Every time he jumps in one it’s like he’s got a chance to win and if they want to have payback, they’re gonna have to catch him first.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE WILD CARD FORMAT? IS THERE MORE PRESSURE OR EXCITEMENT FOR YOU TRYING TO GET ONE OF THOSE? “Absolutely no doubt, the changes that NASCAR has put in this year for the point system and also the Chase format have been big winners for the drivers and the fans. As a driver, I’m sitting 22nd in points and I know if I go out in the last four races and win another event I’ve got a chance to make the Chase. This time last year I was pretty much done for and I was only racing for pride, but it is a lot at stake for the drivers. That means the drivers are building to a frenzy here toward the end. You have the Sprint contingency program, where at Atlanta we can win $3 million as well — $1 million for your team, $1 million for a fan, and another $1 million for your chosen charity if you can win the Atlanta race. It’s just a huge incentive for the drivers who have won races during this contingency period try to win as well, and you’ve got the point system as well that now, if you can finish top 10, you get a lot more points than the old system, so you’ve got a lot to race for. You’ve got a lot to try to win for and I think the fans know that, the drivers definitely know it. Definitely the races this year have been more frantic than last year with drivers taking more chances. There are bigger crashes because guys are trying to get greedy and get to the front as fast as they can, and I think it’s been a great initiative by NASCAR – all the things they’ve done here – to try and make the Chase uncertain up to the very end.”

HOW DID YOUR FAMILY REACT TO THE WIN? “It was absolutely amazing. I’ve obviously got my wife and two kids here in North America. They weren’t there for the race. They were up on Sunday when we got rained out, but we had to take them back to Charlotte and take the oldest, Tabitha, to school for the first time. They were celebrating the win back in Charlotte. My family in Australia was up in the middle of the night popping bottles of champagne celebrating as well. They understand the sacrifice I’ve made and the commitment I’ve made to become a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and I think it was just very satisfying for all my family and immediate friends.”

DOES THAT MEAN YOU’RE EVEN HUNGRIER TO GET THAT OVAL WIN? “Yeah, I thought about halfway through the whole victory lane celebration that it was a lot of fun and I want to do it again. I definitely now have had a taste of it and I want more.”

HOW DO YOU SHARE THAT WIN WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY SO FAR AWAY? “It was great to celebrate it with my team and, let’s face it, you spend as much time with your crew chief and your team as you do your wife, so I had plenty of people to celebrate with and that wasn’t a problem. But I really would have loved to have had my family there on that day, but it’s just the way racing works. We tried to have everyone up there. We thought it was gonna be a good weekend for me to win and just with the weather delay and with the way it all went down, there just wasn’t the opportunity for them to be there on the Monday, but it’s a good compromise. I’ll take the win if they’re at home any day. I can always bring the champagne and the trophy back.”

HOW DO YOU SHARE IT WITH FAMILY IN AUSTRALIA? “They just watched on TV and the phone has been running hot. I think after the race, by the time I got to my phone after victory lane, there was around 150 text messages, plus phone calls and everything else, so it’s been a big week trying to keep track of everybody and thank them for their support, not just my friends, but fans as well. It’s been a huge reach out and just a great problem to have is have the phone run hot.”

GUYS WATCH YOU ON ROAD COURSES TO LEARN. DO YOU DO THAT WITH OTHER GUYS ON OVALS? “On my recent form, not much. I’ve been having some issues the last month or so on these ovals. The oval format is very different and it’s something that you really have to adapt to and get comfortable with. I think it’s a matter of car feel and the driver feeling what’s happening so he can make the adjustments and guide the team into getting a better handling race car. I’m actually asking others about what they do around those tracks while on road courses it seems like everyone is coming to me.”

HOW MUCH MORE DIFFICULT HAS NASCAR BEEN THAN YOU THOUGHT BEFORE COMING OVER OR HAS IT? “Well, it’s taken me 105 starts to win a Sprint Cup race, so I think that pretty much answers that question for you. It’s been an incredible challenge. There is no certainty of success in NASCAR. You can’t back into a win or get lucky, you’ve got to have everything going for you. You’re up against the best drivers in the world. You’re up against the best competition there is out there as far as teams go, and the formats themselves – the race length, the difficulty of the machine that you’re driving and the circuits we use are incredible challenges. All of those things combined makes this the toughest thing I’ve ever done in racing, no doubt.”

HOW MUCH DOES THAT WIN AT WATKINS GLEN BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE GOING INTO MONTREAL? “It makes a big difference to me. I needed to win this year. I felt the pressure for quite a long time to get to victory lane for Richard Petty Motorsports, Stanley, DeWalt, Ford – everybody else involved in our program – and I feel like going to Montreal is gonna be more of a celebration. I think that it will help my driving. It’s gonna keep me more relaxed and, hopefully, be the right ingredient to get me to victory lane. The big thing about Montreal is you have to be very careful – very careful in traffic, careful on my brakes — and really manage my stuff to the end and, hopefully, the race runs the right way for us to have a late caution to allow us to get close to the leaders of the race with not too many laps to go. If that can happen, then you never know, with my relaxed attitude and a bit of luck with the race strategy, it could work out.”

DID YOU SEE ANYTHING OF THE ACCIDENT WITH RAGAN AND REUTIMANN, AND WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE SAID-BIFFLE INCIDENT AFTERWARDS? “I’ve got really nothing to add about the whole Boris Said confrontation, but, I tell you what, the hits that Ragan and Reutimann took were vicious and I’m just pleased that they got out of the car. I know they’re sore this week, but I’m just thankful they got out of those cars somewhat unscathed. It’s a testament to the safety changes and the safety thought that NASCAR has for the drivers. Vicious crashes like that are never nice to watch and I’m just pleased that everyone got away.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIME AFTER THE NATIONWIDE RACE OR DO YOU JUMP BACK IN THE HELICOPTER AND HEAD BACK TO MICHIGAN? “It depends if we win the race. I’ll be hanging around for a little while, but the primary focus, of course, is to get back in time to have a good sleep and get ready for the Cup race on Sunday. Obviously, racing in two countries on the one weekend is a challenge and we’re not gonna be in one spot for too long anyway.”

WHAT WAS THE TIME DIFFERENCE LIKE FROM WHEN YOU WON IN WATKINS GLEN TO AUSTRALIA? HAVE YOU BEEN UP AROUND THE CLOCK DOING INTERVIEWS? “We tried to balance out the press releases and footage from the U.S. We opened it up for Australian media to make it a little easier on me, but the phone has been running hot, no doubt. There has been a lot of phone calls at inappropriate times to be honest with you, but that’s just part of winning. It’s a good problem to have and we’re trying to service the Australian media as best we can. It’s been big news down there, no doubt, and I’m happy to oblige with phone hook-ups and radio interviews and TV.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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