Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, has never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, but that doesn’t mean has hasn’t performed well there. As a matter-of-fact, he has three top-10 finishes in the last four races at Dover. When the circuit takes the green flag at DIS on Sunday for the FedEx 400, Ambrose will have extra incentive to go after his first win at the track. If Ambrose can pull off a win this weekend, sponsors Stanley and DeWalt will make a $1 million donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Earlier this week, Ambrose talks about the race and Dover and his goal of getting that $1 million donation for Children’s Miracle Network. Here’s the transcript:
MARCOS, YOU OFTEN HEAR DRIVERS COMPARE RACING AT DOVER TO RIDING A ROLLER COASTER. WHAT MAKES IT SO CHALLENGING?
“It’s a concrete racetrack, that is pretty bumpy, high banked, and a one
-mile format which has parallel straightaways which are also banked. So the car, is very edgy the whole day. There are just a lot of challenges to get around that place. It’s high speed, high banked, and a concrete surface. A lot of good racing. But for the drivers, it’s a high-tempo race with a lot of intensity.
OBVIOUSLY ROAD COURSES SUIT YOUR DRIVING STYLE. IS DOVER ONE YOU’RE COMFORTABLE WITH?
“I certainly enjoy going to Dover. It’s one of the more challenging tracks and races of the year. When I first turned up at Dover, it was certainly my biggest challenge when I raced in the Truck Series. I raced five or six races and found it was one of the most intense NASCAR races I had been to at that point. My mindset when I go to Dover, I expect a high
-intensity race, up on the wheel, being aggressive all day. That being said, concrete racetracks, both Bristol and Dover, have really been good to me as far as results go. I’ve run well pretty much every Bristol race and I’ve certainly run well at Dover the last couple years. I don’t have a good reason why that’s the case. Perhaps I get a different feel behind the wheel or I’m able to adjust the car a little better for these concrete tracks than others. It is a bit of a mystery, but I’ll take it. It’s been a good track for me in the past. We expect it to be good for me this weekend. That’s why Stanley, DeWalt and Ace Hardware have that $1 million prize pool to try to win and give back to the kids who are in need.”
YOU RAN INTO THE ROPE ON SUNDAY. DO YOU WORRY ABOUT STUFF THAT YOU GET FROM THE TV NETWORKS AND OTHER THINGS THAT YOU PUT IN YOUR CAR THAT YOUR TEAM DOESN’T REALLY GET A CHANCE TO INSPECT OR LOOK AT? DOES ANY OF THAT STUFF WORRY YOU? OBVIOUSLY YOU DON’T ANTICIPATE SOMETHING LIKE A CABLE SNAPPING. BUT IS IT STILL A CONCERN?
“First of all, the TV guys here in the U.S. just put on a great show, right? All the cameras we have in the car, the cameras that are flying across the pit area, the cameras in the track, the quality of the footage and the telecast is the best in the world for racing. So, first of all a big thumbs up for the job they do. As far as if I am worried about what goes in my race car? Hitting that cable was a lot better than hitting a kangaroo, which I’ve done before (laughter). NASCAR did a great thing by stopping the race, fixing the problem, allowing guys that had damage to their cars to repair them as best they can. Again, the big concern is the fans. We don’t want the fans to get involved in any drama or get injured by coming to a race to enjoy it. They don’t want to get hurt. Primarily the focus should be on the fans and making sure the fans are safe so they can feel easy about sitting in the grandstands and watching our races.”
YOU TESTED AT SONOMA EARLIER THIS YEAR. I WANT TO SAY LAST YEAR YOU DIDN’T HAVE THE RUN YOU WANTED. WAS THAT A PLACE THAT YOU REALLY WANTED TO TEST BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A GOOD SHOT TO WIN OR WAS IT ONE OF WE ALREADY KNOW WE’RE GOOD HERE, WHY ARE WE TESTING HERE?
“Well, primarily it’s because we want a shot to win it. We know the two road course races are easy targets for us. We have struggled at Sonoma the last couple years. We wanted to go there to get a check on this new car, to try to dial in the racetrack. It was good to go out there. It was very expensive to go out there. It took a lot of commitment, a lot of time away from the workshop, a lot of time away from our weekly schedule. To travel the truck out there and rent the facility was not cheap. We’ll see. I think it’s been good for us, though we’ll have to wait and see until the race rolls around and see if we’ve got an advantage.”
MARCOS, DOUBLING BACK TO THE CABLE COMING DOWN ON YOUR CAR. HAVE YOU EVER HAD ANYTHING AS BIZARRE AS THAT IN YOUR RACING CAREER?
“Yeah, I’ve certainly run into things that I didn’t expect. This was unusual because it pretty much impacted the entire field. I mean, we’re going 200 plus miles an hour into turn one. It heard and felt like a big whack on the front window. The window net was pulsing. I knew something happened. It left a big mark on the windshield. I could see something coming out the back of Mark Martin’s car. It was on my hood, making a lot of noise, a lot of racket. At that time you can’t really focus on that because you’re driving 200 miles an hour trying to make passes and really focus on your line, not do anything to potentially spin out. It wasn’t until the caution came out that I realized, okay, somethings going wrong here, because I had no brakes. It ripped the brake line off the back of the car. It was still flapping. I could feel it and hear it. It really wasn’t until a lap of caution that I was able to work it all out when I saw the leftover piece of rope sitting on the side of the track. It all came at me pretty fast, but it was certainly unusual just because of the fact that it didn’t impact one car, it was pretty much the entire field went over that wire.”
I WANT TO LOOK AT MICHIGAN. YOU WERE ON THE POLE THERE. DO YOU LOOK AT THAT AND SAY THAT’S A REAL OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO GET YOUR FIRST OVAL VICTORY?
“No, I don’t. I mean, it can come any week. I’m looking forward to going to Dover this weekend because we think we have a real shot at winning the race. We shouldn’t be turning up if we don’t think that way. When we were at Michigan, we got the pole, ran top five. We’re going back with a completely new car with new rules underneath it. We can’t go back with the same setup. I don’t think there’s any security in knowing how we ran last year compared to how we run this year. Charlotte is a good example of that. Aric (Almirola) was on the pole last year, I was second. This year we go back to Charlotte for the 600. I qualify 19th and Aric qualifies 18th. We were still side
-by-side but nine rows back. I think that’s a reflection of our sport and how it changes so rapidly.”
THERE WAS A STORY THAT IF A SPONSORSHIP DEAL MIGHT NOT HAVE FOLLOWED THROUGH YOU MIGHT HAVE JOINED FORD BACK IN AUSTRALIA IN THE V8 SUPER CARS. HOW CLOSE DID THAT COME TO HAPPENING?
“It was a discussion point. My priority was to stay here in the U.S. and keep going with the story. I love driving for Richard Petty Motorsports. Just being alongside the King is a special thing for me and my career, my family. I’m very proud to represent Richard Petty, his race team, Stanley, DeWalt and Ford. It was out of my hands. It was down to RPM putting the pieces together to have the opportunity for me to stay. They were able to do that and it was no problem. Certainly Plan B was discussed and thought about and looked at.”
IS THERE A BEST WAY TO HANDLE ANY FRUSTRATION OVER NOT WINNING? OBVIOUSLY 42 DRIVERS DON’T WIN EVERY WEEK. DO YOU LEARN FROM OTHER DRIVERS HOW TO HANDLE THAT?
“Well, the first thing is that this sport is very humbling. When you win one week, there’s no guarantee that you’re ever going to win again. I think all the drivers are very level in the Sprint Cup Series. We have to be. We have to be able to not get too carried away with winning and not get too carried away with losing. You have to try to have as even a mindset as you can in this sport to survive. For me, I can only try my very best every weekend and put my best effort forward. I’m proud of what I do every week. I feel like that win will come if we just don’t put extra pressure on ourselves. It’s not easy. We’re a two car team taking it to the big dogs out there. We know it’s hard to beat Hendrick, Roush, Childress, everyone else that’s dominating the sport, the landscape of the sport right now. We still feel we can take a really good fight to them and we have our chances to win. We want to make the most of those opportunities. When we are in the position to win, we want to make the most of it and get the job done.”
IN YOUR VAST EXPERIENCE, THE PLACES YOU’VE RACED AROUND THE WORLD, HOW DOES THAT HELP YOU TO KEEP YOURSELF GROUNDED?
“Well, I’m used to winning. I did a lot of winning before I came to NASCAR. It’s been a journey for me. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of it. It is not finished. I still enjoy the challenge of NASCAR and strive to get better, to make our team better and be the best I can be both as a dad and as a race car driver, as a Sprint Cup Series driver. It’s a really great life I’m living right now. I’m enjoying it immensely. At the same time it’s humbling. It’s humbling because you get beaten a lot. As an athlete, as a competitor, it’s hard to lose. It’s not nice to lose. But you’ve got to use that as inspiration to keep coming back, keep fighting, not give up, and come back with even more armor for the next race. That’s what I try to do. I try to use my experience and put it to good use. That is not getting down about not winning the amount of races you’d like to, and being able to make the most of it when it does come your way.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR