News & Media


Ambrose happy to be in wild-card hunt

September 07, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

RICHMOND, Va. -- Driver doesn't feel pressure and won't let playoff standing affect season's outlook

To say Marcos Ambrose is just happy to be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup wild-card mix this weekend at Richmond International Raceway would not be entirely accurate.

But it's not far from the truth.

Sure, Ambrose would love to win the Federated Auto Parts 400 under the lights at the 0.75-mile track Saturday night. It would be his first NASCAR win on an oval and would enable him to punch a ticket into his first Chase.

"We're not a superstar name or a superstar team. We're a team that's been getting better, and so we're just going to enjoy the ride."

--MARCOS AMBROSE

At the same time, he's realistic. He said the real pressure is on all the other guys making last-ditch efforts to race their way into the Chase, and there is no way he will let falling short Saturday night dim the bright perception he already has of his season.

"There are some heavy hitters trying to make the Chase," said Ambrose, one of eight drivers who still has at least a mathematical chance of earning one of the final Chase spots heading into the last race before the Chase commences. "And I'm sure Jeff [Gordon] or Kyle [Busch] or Carl [Edwards] -- whoever misses out on making it -- is going to feel like the season was a wipe because they're under a lot of pressure. They're under a lot more pressure than what I'm under. I'm here just to race and enjoy it, and if it goes our way, fantastic. If it doesn't, that's not going to change our outlook on the season.

"We're not a superstar name or a superstar team. We're a team that's been getting better, and so we're just going to enjoy the ride."

It is a ride Ambrose would like to remain in next year. But he admitted Thursday that his contract status remains unsettled for next season and beyond at Richard Petty Motorsports, which fields his No. 9 Ford.

"Does that worry me? Yeah, that worries me a little bit," Ambrose said. "I've had a pretty good season, and I want to be in NASCAR. I'm working with RPM. Hopefully I can be with them for a long time to come, but there is no guarantee. Obviously RPM has been through a lot this season, as they have the last few seasons. And I'm here to help them get to where they want to go, and hopefully it works out for me."

Sammy Johns, director of operations for RPM, recently said that the company is working hard to keep Ambrose and Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43, in the fold for next season. But he admitted that there are other matters that must be determined, such as which manufacturer umbrella RPM will operate under.

"We've got a lot of things in the works right now," Johns said.

Ambrose understands. He said he's also very confident it all will work out and he will remain in the No. 9 car for RPM.

"They're telling me that they're good for two cars. And I believe 'em," Ambrose said. "I would love to drive one of them, but it's a matter of making it all work. We're hopefully going to get serious here soon and see how it all stacks up. But right now, we're just going to focus on this Chase. We've all got good intentions to keep it all together, so I don't see why it wouldn't all work out."

Ambrose enters Saturday's race 16th in points but still in the Chase wild-card mix because he won on the road course at Watkins Glen. Another victory Saturday would enable him to claim the second and final wild-card berth into the Chase, which is comprised of the top-10 drivers in the points standings, plus two wild cards, after the first 26 races. The wild cards are the two drivers with the most victories who are between 11th and 20th in the points, with whoever is higher in points serving as tiebreaker, if necessary.

In seven career starts at Richmond, Ambrose has one top-fives and two top-10s but an average finish of just 16.1. He arrived at this race last season in a similar position and stumbled to a 21st-place finish.

"Last year it didn't work out too well. So I guess from reading history and looking at last year's race, you've got to be in contention at the very end," Ambrose said. "We just have to see how the race goes. We can't do anything different than what we've been doing all season. We've got a good team, and we've got a lot of good momentum coming into these late races. But we have to have the mindset of putting ourselves in position late in the race and not panicking early on.

"Last year I panicked early on. I was trying to get a lot of positions, and I paid the price. Now we just have to really think about being smart and letting all the others get crazy -- and hopefully picking up the pieces. ... We're happy to be here. We want to create some history and have some fun while we're doing it."