Marcos Ambrose Teleconference Transcript

Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports, will try to make it two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course wins in a row this weekend in Sonoma as the circuit makes its annual visit to wine country.  Ambrose, who earned his first NSCS victory at Watkins Glen International last August, has additional incentive on Sunday because if he wins, Stanley will donate $1 million to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  Ambrose was a guest on this week’s NASCAR teleconference and spoke about the opportunity.

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN $1 MILLION FOR CHILDREN’S MIRACLE NETWORK  HOSPITALS?  “There’s nothing like added pressure, of course and to win a race and $1 million for sick kids is definitely up there on the stakes of just trying to win the race.  We did this last year and came up a little bit short, so I’m doubly determined this year to try and win the race and help those kids and help our race team see the success that we all hoped.  Regardless, Stanley, ACE Hardware, and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals are going to donate $100,000 toward these kids. We’ve got a huge effort this weekend to raise awareness for them and shed a bit of sunshine on their day.  They’re having a tough time, so we’re gonna go to a children’s hospital on Thursday and bring a race car out there and do some pit stops for them, and we’ve got some carnival activities to give them a bit of fun and try to forget about why they’re in the hospital in the first place.”

DO YOU HAVE THE SAME NERVES AND PRESSURE GOING INTO A ROAD COURSE RACE AS YOU DO AN OVAL?  “The expectation of me succeeded at a road course race is obviously very high, but that doesn’t change.  I’m driving the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion for Richard Petty to win every race and not just two road course races, so I apply myself the same every week. The pressure is not much different, it’s just the weight of expectations this weekend and at Watkins Glen – the expectation of success is what we have to balance out.  I can’t change the way I drive.  I’ve got to just keep doing my best out there and if I do my job well, and the team does its job well, we know we’re gonna be a contender for the race win.”

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WERE YOU AWARE OF THE TRAFFIC ISSUES AT KENTUCKY LAST YEAR?  “You’re really asking the wrong guy.  We’re stuck on the inside of the race track doing a lot of sponsor appearances and pre-race ceremonies before the event starts, but we did hear about the traffic congestion trying to get into Kentucky.  I know NASCAR and the track owners have made a lot of changes to the traffic flow pattern this year and I’m sure it’s gonna be substantially better.  Whenever you have a brand new event and you have a crowd that is due to come the first time, you can try to predict what’s gonna happen, but it’s very hard to put into practice until you see it the first time.  It’s not good for our fans to be stuck in traffic and not being able to get access to the race. I know nobody inside the sport would like to see that happen again.”

HOW CHALLENGING IS IT TO DRIVE A STOCK CAR AROUND SONOMA?  “Sonoma is a very twisty, tight, narrow race track with a lot of elevation change.  These cars are dinosaurs as far as race cars go.  They’ve got way too much power – nearly 900 horsepower – they don’t have enough tire drift, they’re too heavy and they don’t have enough brakes.  So as a race car driver, these cars are really hard to handle and you really have to manhandle those cars around the race track.  They’re not gonna give you a lap time.  It’s not gonna drive itself, you have to basically take it by the scruff of the neck and force it to go around. You’re fighting physics at this point when you’ve got a car that heavy and that powerful, it’s really hard to get it around a tight and twisty road course.  It’s a tough assignment.  The fact is that everybody is driving the same vehicles and no matter what happens you’ve got to deal with it.  This is one of the most challenging and rewarding race tracks to go to.  I think all the drivers will tell you they love driving the cars around Sonoma, it’s just really hard to race around there with the competition the way it is.”

IS IT JUST INEVITABLE SOMEONE WILL DO SOMETHING TO MAKE YOU MAD OR VICE VERSA?  “That happens every week.  It’s no different at a road course race.  It’s a typically challenging track.  It’s hard to make passes.  You’ve got to be bumper-to-bumper and side-by-side when you do make a good pass.  Even if it’s clean, it’s very easy to make contact, so it’s just the nature of the business and that’s why there’s a sellout crowd at the track.  It’s one of the best races of the year to watch as a fan and the drivers understand you’re gonna have to do a few bump-and-runs and you’re gonna have to make contact to win the race.  We’re all prepared for it and we all understand the consequences of that.”

NOW THAT YOU’VE WON AND HAVE A POLE ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS LEFT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR ABILITY AND YOUR CAREER CHOICE AS A SPRINT CUP DRIVER? “I can only reflect on my own personal opinion and I feel like I’ve done a lot in this sport.  I feel like I’ve come from a long way behind.  I came from a country that doesn’t have any oval racing.  I come from a state at the other end of the world and doesn’t have any racing on it at all, so I’ve achieved a lot just to make it to NASCAR and then to make it to Sprint Cup and have a pole position and have won a race.  It feels very rewarding, so I’m content.  That being said, I’m with a great team and I’m in the best position I’ve ever been in in the sport.  I feel like I’ve got a competitive team each and every week.  I’ve got people around me that believe in what I’m doing . I’ve got a great sponsor in Stanley and DeWalt and MAC Tools, and I’ve got the help of the King behind me and it’s just awesome to be part of that.  We have unfinished business.  We want to win races on ovals.  We want to win more than one race a year.  As we sit here mid-season, we still feel like we’ve got a chance to make the Chase if we can win some races.  We’ve got speed, we just have to convert those speed runs into good results.”

WAS THERE A POINT IN THE LAST YEAR-AND-A-HALF WHERE YOU BEGAN TO FEEL THAT WAY – THAT THIS IS THE BEST POSITION YOU’VE BEEN IN?  “Oh, no doubt about it.  The tail-end of last year was great.  We had a whole bunch of top 10s in the last eight or nine races of the season and we carried that speed over into 2012.  Unfortunately, we’ve just had a lot of bad luck and we’ve made some bad decisions that have hurt our race performances, but since we’ve gone into the summer here we’ve strung together some good results and we’ve shown our speed.  People know we’re around and it’s a good situation to be in.  I feel good about our team.  I feel good about being part of the growth of Richard Petty Motorsports and I think that curve is continuing to go upwards. I think you’ve yet to see the best of us and you’ve yet to see the best of me.”

CAN YOU SUM UP THE DANGERS OF TURN 11?  “Turn 11 for me is actually my favorite passing spot.  It’s the hardest braking on the circuit, it’s got the tightest corner, it’s the straightest run into the corner that you’ve got.  I think the reason there are so many incidents and accidents there is, one, when you try to make a pass late the groove is from the outside to the center of the corner that leaves a big hole there that you can try to fill with the nose.  The second thing is there’s concrete all around that turn.  The crash barrier is very close and it’s easy to get stuck and wedged and run into if you get spun out, so a lot of stuff goes on there.  But I think the corner that creates the most drama is turn seven at the top of the hill. It’s very slippery and it’s one of the slowest corners on the track and a lot of contact is made there.  Normally, a lot of the contact in turn seven gets finished off in turn 11.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY DEFENSIVE STRATEGIES FOR TURN 11 TO PREVENT THE KIND OF PASSING YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT?  “If you can brake deeper than everybody else you normally stop people from trying to pass you. You’ve obviously got to have eyes in the back of your head when you go road course racing.  You need to be very aware of the guy behind you and where he’s positioned and what kind of momentum he has on the way into turn 11.  If I think I’m in a position of weakness and that he’s got momentum, I’ll try to defend that position by moving to the inside.  You’ve got to be careful because then he can either do a switchback on you on the way out of the corner, or he could choose to run into the back of you and send you off the track.  So you’ve got to know who you’re racing against, you’ve got to really balance out the situation whether it’s worth giving up the spot or trying to defend and that’s on a case-by-case basis.  The fastest way, to me, and the easiest way for me to stay out of trouble is to be the guy on the attack.  If you’re the car that’s coming through the field that’s making the moves, you can control the situation.  If you’re the guy that’s going backwards in the pack, you always seem to be the guy who gets caught out and gets spun around.”

WHAT’S A NORMAL DAY LIKE FOR YOU AT HOME IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU EAT DURING THE DAY?  “I’ve got two kids at home that are four and six, so I just kind of eat the leftovers to be honest with you.  I’m really not fussy.  We’re on the road a lot when we’re fulltime NASCAR drivers, so whenever we do get a chance to be at home and are allowed to cook our own meals we have fresh fruit and vegetables and it’s a variety for us.  There’s no particular diet.  We all obviously have our fitness and weight to keep into consideration, so I just try to balance it out and I try to eat as healthy as I can, organic when I can, and a lot of fruit and veggies.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY KIND OF PRE-RACE ROUTINE TO GET MENTALLY READY TO RACE?  “We race every week, so you don’t need to hype yourself up – you kind of know the deal and you know who you need to be when you strap into that race car.  The person I am behind the wheel is totally different to who I am on the street, so I really basically have a repetition event where I know what I need to be eating, how I need to be drinking, how I need to relax before I get in the car.  And then once pre-race ceremonies start I start to get in the zone, so I think it’s more that repetition makes me comfortable and makes me relax, so I try to do the same thing every single week if I can.  And it really starts at the driver’s meeting onwards.  That’s when I get into my routine.  There is no superstition, I guess it’s just a matter of getting your head and your heart in the right place.”

DO YOU THINK DRIVERS IN THE 10-20 SPOTS DRIVE DIFFERENTLY WITH ONLY 10 RACES REMAINING TO THE CHASE?  “It’s a really good question.  I’m not sure that those drivers 10-20 change their driving as much as those first 10, those guys who are safe in points and really need to start working on their race strategies and their car setups going into the final 10 races will start to experiment a little bit and they’ll start to be a little more defensive on saving their positions to protect their points.  I think my personal position is I’ve been trying as hard as I can ever since the green flag fell at Daytona to get myself in a Chase position and that’s definitely not gonna change until the end.  I think the guys who have done well for the first part of the season, who are locked in in the points, are looking to preserve their position and the guys that are outside are gonna continue to keep pushing as hard as they can to get the results and get themselves in.”

DO DRIVERS TALK ABOUT THIS NEW POINT SYSTEM?  “I don’t talk to other drivers about that, but I do know that it’s really easy to lose a lot of points than to make big gains.  You have a 30th or worst finish, you’re giving up 20 points straightaway and the entire field is split by two or three points a position, so I think you can lose a lot of points really quickly and it’s hard to really gain points on somebody if they’re running well.  For us, it’s still about consistency and it’s about performing well.  If you run top 10 at the end of the race, you’re gonna make points on guys who finish every week 18th to 20th, and that’s what I look towards.  I look towards finishing right up there.  It pays to run well, whereas the old points system you could buck around in 15th-place all year and still be in a great position. If you run 15th now week-to-week, there’s no way you’re gonna make the Chase.  So, to me, it’s all about getting right up there in the thick of it and trying to get those top 10 points.”

HOW MUCH DOES RUBBER FROM THE ARCA CARS AFFECT YOUR CAR?  “Obviously, the ARCA Series is running on the Hoosier tire, which is a very different compound and construction tire. In the Cup Series out of the three NASCAR top two series, the Sprint Cup Series tends to lay down the most rubber.  I find that if we run after a truck race or Nationwide race, the rubber is built up but as soon as the Cup Series goes back out on the race track, they seem to lay rubber a lot faster. So I think it’s not just Hoosier rubber that makes a difference, I think it’s what series is running at the time and putting the rubber down.  I don’t particularly find any difference when I would run on the race track after the ARCA Series has been on.  I know there were some issues with Pocono and how that all went down with some oil on the race track.  That wasn’t a Hoosier rubber issue, that was just getting the track clean after a car had blown its engine, so we don’t often get to run straight after an ARCA race anyway. I can’t remember the last time we did that.  If it does affect you, it’s gonna affect you for maybe two or three laps before the Goodyear rubber goes down and it starts to feel normal again.”

DO YOU THINK WE MIGHT HAVE THE SAME ISSUE AT KANSAS WITH THE NEW REPAVE FOR THAT TRACK IN THE FALL LIKE AT MICHIGAN?  “I know that NASCAR and Goodyear are gonna look at it a lot more closely than what they did at Michigan.  They thought the Michigan tire was plenty durable enough.  I don’t think anyone expected the speeds we were gonna run.  To average 203, 204 there in practice in qualifying trim and that’s faster than what anyone predicted.  I think the change they made to the tire between practice and the race was a smart move and the right decision to make for the teams and driver safety.  I know they’re gonna start looking at the tire for Kansas.  They have to. The speed jump that we had at Michigan was substantial and I think it caught many people by surprise, so I’m not sure what tire they’re gonna bring to Kansas, but I guarantee you it won’t be a soft one.”

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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