News & Media


Ambrose ready for everyone to move on

June 25, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

SONOMA, Calif. -- He has plenty of inspiration for a victory Sunday in Toyota/Save Mart 350

Marcos Ambrose has been trying hard to put last year behind him when it comes to Infineon Raceway.

But he knows that about the only thing that will make people stop asking about the race he lost last year is to win the one being held this year. He'll try to do that in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350.

"It's just great to be talked about. It's great to be viewed as a contender, and I want to make it that way. I want to make it stick this year."

--MARCOS AMBROSE

Even though Ambrose was only 15th-fastest in the final practice Saturday with a top lap of 90.981 miles per hour, he ran only 15 laps in the Happy Hour session and left the impression that he was fine with how his car is set up for Sunday's race. The top five on the speed chart for the final practice Saturday were Brad Keselowski (91.725 mph), Jamie McMurray (91.623 mph), Kurt Busch (91.591 mph), Juan Montoya (91.560 mph) and Clint Bowyer (91.361 mph).

By now everyone who follows NASCAR knows the painful story of Ambrose's mishap during the final laps of last year's Infineon race. He was leading when he shut his engine off during a caution period with seven laps to go in an attempt to drift around part of the 1.99-mile track and conserve fuel. Many other drivers attempted the same strategy, trying to prepare for the possibility of a green-white-checkered finish.

But as he headed up the hill after negotiating the first turn at the road course, Ambrose could not get his engine to restart. Five cars passed him before he could get back up to speed, and he eventually had to settle for a sixth-place finish.

Ambrose insisted again and again leading up to this weekend that he long ago put the gaffe in his rear-view mirror. He just wishes others would do the same.

"I've lost no sleep on it," Ambrose said.

Still, it was painful to watch -- even for his fellow competitors. And since Ambrose was so close to what would have been his first Sprint Cup victory and essentially gave it away, it has been hard to forget.

"You don't ever really have a lot of sympathy for other guys," driver Carl Edwards said. "But boy, that was a lot like watching the Indy 500 this year [when rookie JR Hildebrand was leading crashed on the final turn of the final lap]. Your heart just sinks because you know how hard it is to lose a race like that. I know Marcos; I saw somewhere this week where he wouldn't even talk about it.

"He will win races, though. He is really good, especially on these road courses. But that was tough."

Edwards said he respects Ambrose so much as a road-course racer that if he had left Sonoma to race in Saturday's Nationwide race at Road America -- as he had originally planned -- he was contemplating using Ambrose's setup in his own No. 99 Ford. Ambrose was driving a Toyota for JTG/Daugherty Racing last year, but now drives the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports.

"We believe in him and his abilities that much," Edwards said. "That is one of our legitimate strategies for setting up the race car, just to copy him."

Infineon

Lineup
Pos.DriverSpeedTime
2.J. McMurray 93.223 76.848
3.P. Menard 93.176 76.887
4.D. Hamlin 93.081 76.965
5.R. Newman 93.062 76.981

Despite what happened at the end of last year's race, there is no argument about Ambrose's road-course credentials. In six career road-course starts on the Sprint Cup circuit, Ambrose has four top-five finishes and five top-10s. He finished second at Watkins Glen in 2009 -- and has won three consecutive Nationwide Series races there.

What may seem surprising to others is that Ambrose said he actually enjoys racing on ovals more at this point in his career.

"Oval racing is really my passion these days," Ambrose said. "I've road raced in my life and it's a great side of the sport but it is not what makes NASCAR what it is. Oval racing and mile-and-a-half races in particular really is, I think, the pure form of NASCAR. I can't get enough of it.

"I'm learning every time I hit the race track. This year more than any other I'm starting to get a feel of what I need to run well and some of the tricks and techniques that you need with all of the people around to you help make it happen."

As for last year's late-race gaffe at Infineon, well, it's true Ambrose would rather talk about just about anything else.

"We were doing great in the race," Ambrose said. "We had a good strategy -- although the way it was running down, I was running out of tires, running out of fuel, and getting ready for a late restart. I don't need to look back on what happened last year. It is what it is. I couldn't get the motor refired for whatever reason.

"This year we have a brand-new team, brand-new [crew] chief, brand-new sponsor and brand-new carburetor, so I should have no issues. I'm just looking forward to getting out there and trying to win it."

He said he knows how to keep disappointments on the race track in proper perspective, as evidenced by the unique program he and his sponsor, Stanley Ford, have put together for Sunday's race. If Ambrose wins, $1 million will be donated to the Children's Miracle Network.

"We're featuring a special paint scheme, with one child from every state who has either been a patient or still is in the care of the Children's Miracle Network," Ambrose said. "We are going to have their story on the car and we're going to donate $1 million to the Children's Miracle Network if I can win the race. And if I really mess it up and come dead last, we're still going to donate $100,000.

"Obviously there's pride at stake and also the charity that we have chosen, and I'm lucky, I've got a healthy young family and I know I'm lucky and blessed. There are families there are not as fortunate. It's wonderful that Stanley and the Richard Petty Motorsports team can give back this way and hopefully win a million bucks for the kids."

If he's in position to do so at the end again this time, Ambrose is confident he will come through.

"It's just great to be talked about. It's great to be viewed as a contender, and I want to make it that way," Ambrose said. "I want to make it stick this year."