Ambrose at Watkins Glen: We ran with the big boys

An interview with Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty, Todd Parrott and Sammy Johns

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – “It was absolutely chaos at the end. The three cars were very evenly matched. Kyle got a head start on us there and I was trying to chase him and I burned my tires off it and I really burned off the brakes and I thought, ‘Man, I’m gonna be stuck here in second,’ and all of a sudden I’m starting to slide around in some oil and I couldn’t work out where it was coming from, whether it was from my car or if it was on the track, and then I saw Kyle backing up to us and then brake up past me, and it was absolutely crazy at the end. But just a huge thank you to Richard Petty Motorsports, Stanley, Ford and everyone on our program. It’s just a real thrill to be back in Victory Lane. We earned it. We were up there with the big boys and led a lot of laps today and we had to pass a lot of cars to get the win and we did it.”

Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

RICHARD PETTY, Owner – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – “It was kind of unexpected at the end of the race. We had a good car. He ran good all day long. I think he was the excitement in the race because he was about the only one I saw pass anybody. He was passing them as he’d catch them, but at the end nobody knew what was going on. Marcos might have known a little bit about it, but the rest of us didn’t. They were slipping and sliding off the race track and we were just thankful we got back. Marcos stayed with it all day. We started out and looked at it and we were gonna have to make one extra pit stop because of fuel, I think. Anyhow, everything fell our way. The caution flag, the last one we didn’t need probably, but it made it a lot more exciting at the end of the race.”

TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – “It was pretty crazy. From sitting up on the pit box we had a great car all day long. At the end it looked like the 18 car, without that last caution, was gonna get out on us and they went off down into turn one and everybody was slipping and sliding. I was watching the television monitor behind me and the 2 got in the back of the 18 and spun him, and I said, ‘This is the white flag.’ I knew there was oil all over the bus stop because Sammy was on the other radio hollering, ‘There’s oil up here! There’s oil up here!’ On television it looked like both cars went through the grass and stayed off the race track so they could be on what didn’t have oil. He did a great job. Him and Brad, that was a show. I saw Brad as he got out of the car on pit road and it was like he just won the race himself. He said, ‘That’s what racing is supposed to be like.’ So it was exciting. I’m just proud of this guy, Richard and Sammy and everybody at RPM who dug deep and fought hard. We had great pit stops today. We worked really hard on that. Coming here last year our pit stops weren’t that good and we changed some things up for the pit stops today and we picked up two to two-and-a-half seconds on pit stops compared to what we had last year, so that was a gain and a positive. We made good adjustments on the car, I feel like. He was a little happier with the way it went there, so we were in position. You put yourself in position and you’re gonna win races and that’s what we did today.”

SAMMY JOHNS, Director of Competition – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – “It’s a lot of fun. Todd and myself and everybody, we’ve been talking about this race for a while and we just knew we had to come here and not make mistakes. We’ve got Marcos Ambrose driving the race car and if we could just not make mistakes and have a good, solid day and put him in position, he’d take care of the rest for us and, sure enough, he did. We were in position at the end to take advantage of it and I can’t be any prouder. Like Todd said, he got out and worked on his pit stops the last two weeks with the guys and switched some things around to benefit that, and I’m just really proud of everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports. It’s just a lot of fun to be part of it right now. A lot of guys are pulling on the rope in the same direction and working hard and it’s just a lot of fun to be part of it. We’ve been in position to have some more top fives this year. We haven’t capitalized, but we did today so hopefully this is a good look at the next half of the season and we’ll capitalize on those.”

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED – WHAT DO YOU RECALL AFTER BRAD HIT KYLE AND HE SPUN? “I didn’t know Brad hit Kyle. I thought Kyle got loose first on some oil, so you can’t blame Brad for hitting Kyle. The guy was sliding across the track, he was gonna spin out and Brad finished him off. I’m like, ‘Man, there’s one, I’ve got one more to go.’ I went up over the hill there and I thought I was gonna hit the fence and kept it off the wall and then we get down to the chicane and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m just gonna follow Brad because he’ll see the oil before I do and I might be able to save myself,’ and I went straight off the track with him. That wasn’t a good plan, so then I dove to the inside thinking I was gonna get off the oil that way and slid through it through the carousel and then he slid through it afterwards, so then when I got some momentum on him I gave him a shot there to try and clear him away and we sailed off into turn six and I’m like, ‘All I want to do is be offline.’

"If I can be offline, there’s a fair chance – because up until that point it felt like it was on the racing groove – so I thought if I can just brake off the racing groove, I’ve got a chance to whoa it up and then I’ll work it out from there. I turned in and slid through the oil and I thought I had blown my chance in turn six, and then I got good drive because I went over the curb and I shot back up the inside of Brad and put him on the oil and then he slid on the oil and we snuck through for the win. But he couldn’t see the oil. You just couldn’t see where it was at. If it was a black streak, it would be OK. It was almost like a fine spray and just really hard to pick. I was the first one to start sliding on it for whatever reason. My line, I slid into turn one and I slid up the hill, and then I slid through the bus stop and allowed Brad to get past me, and I thought I was blowing up. I thought it was my oil, not knowing what was really going on, and it wasn’t until I saw Kyle and Brad sliding as well that I thought, ‘OK, there’s something down here on the track and we’re just gonna have to deal with it.’ But I think a big shout out goes to NASCAR. A lot of guys are gonna say, ‘Should they have thrown a caution or should they not?’ No one wants to see these races finish under caution or bunch back up in these two-by-twos and making a random finish. We had the three fastest cars duking it out for the win and that’s the way it should be. I think they made the right call.”

Marcos Ambrose and Richard Petty
Marcos Ambrose and Richard Petty

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW FATE HAS SMILED ON YOU HERE? “Well, she’s been frowning on my all year, so it’s nice to get a change. Like Todd said, you’ve just got to put yourself in good positions and wins will come. That’s what we did today. We had a fast car. We were in position to take advantage when it went crazy and we got the win. We didn’t luck into it. We deserved to get this win and we’ll take it.”

RICHARD PETTY CONTINUED – DID THAT BRING BACK ANY MEMORIES OF YOU AND DAVID PEARSON? “Yeah, but not on a road course (laughing). You get down to the last of the race. I know some of you old guys remember me and Allison used to do a lot of beating and bashing the last two or three laps – me and Pearson have been in a couple of different ones. I’ve been in there with a lot of them, I’ll put it that way. You go and you run and you do the best you can and then you try to take advantage of the circumstances that are there. That’s what Marcos did today. He didn’t create any of those circumstances, he took advantage of those circumstances. So we’ve been in some of them before like that.”

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED – IF THE OIL DOESN’T HAPPEN COULD YOU HAVE PASSED KYLE? “If we had track position at the end there, we would have pulled away from Kyle. Even around these places aero is big thing because you can’t get air on the brakes and you can’t get the nose down, so we could chip away at him, but I was just burning my stuff up to catch him at the end. We led a lot of the race in the middle part. If the caution hadn’t come out when we were in our window to pit for the last time, we would have been fine, but we had to pit because we were in our window when the caution was out. We came out ninth or tenth and then I knew I had a lot of work to do because it wasn’t gonna come easy. It wasn’t gonna be handed to me.

""I had to get myself back up there and we actually got back up to second when Smoke spun out and I thought, ‘I’ve got a chance to win this,’ and then Kyle did an awesome move on the inside. Give the guy props. He did exactly what he needed to do – took us three-wide into turn one and then I knew I was toast. I knew I was in trouble. I managed to fight my way past Brad and then I tried to chase Kyle down, but he wasn’t making any mistakes and he had a fast car and I just burned my stuff up trying to get to him. I was thinking, ‘OK, it may be second-place here.’ But then the oil came down and I slipped to third and I thought, ‘That’s not the plan.’ So I just put my head down and just kept trying and made less mistakes than the other two I guess.”

IT LOOKS LIKE YOU NEED ONE MORE WIN TO GET IN THE CHASE? WHERE IS IT COMING? “Next week. We got the pole at Michigan. We were running top five all day there. There’s no reason why we can’t go there and surprise them again.”

HAVE YOU EVER RACED IN THOSE CONDITIONS BEFORE? “I have raced in those conditions before, but not when there’s so much at stake. We’re racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series here and wins are hard to come by, so it’s just a lot of pressure and you’re up against the best drivers in the world. I’ve got to take a second here to say Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch are two of the best road racers I’ve been around. They’re amazing drivers. It was just a lot of fun to be driving against them, around them, and put ourselves in contention for the win. When it gets to a situation like that, it’s similar to rain or drizzle on the track. You never quite know what you’re gonna get when you arrive at the corners, so I’ve had a lot of experience like that, but this was unusual because there was a lot of grip or there was none. Two or three times there I thought, ‘OK, I’m good here,’ I hit the gas pedal down and almost spun out. I thought, ‘Man, I just don’t know what’s happening.’ You just couldn’t see the oil. Normally you can see it on the race track, but I couldn’t see it. It was kind of just wait until the car slides and try to save it.”

TODD PARROTT CONTINUED – RODNEY FETTERS IS ON YOUR PIT CREW. WHAT HAS HIS CONTRIBUTION BEEN? “Rodney does a good job. He’s a good jack man and, like I said, I had to rally the troops a little bit this week. Coming into this race and looking at things we did here last year to try to get better, we had to be better in the pits. If it came down to one of the two cars making green flag pit stops, and track position is so important, we went to work this week. We switched up some tire changers and we really worked hard on their steps and the movements they made around the car – tried to clean that up a lot – and the whole pit crew did a great job. Rodney is a heck of a jack man. He’s been around for a long time and he’s worked for me a couple times now and does a great job. But the whole pit crew rallied together today and every guy that went over the wall did their job and did the very best at it in a long time.”

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED – DID IF FEEL SAFER OUT THERE AFTER THE BIG WRECK LAST YEAR? “Watkins Glen has done a great job with this facility. It still races the same, yet safety is improving every year we come up here. Clearly last year’s accidents put alarms out for a lot of folks and they did a great job correcting the issues that they found and they’ve actually made the track faster. A lot of the curbs on the inside they’ve added some concrete in there, so it allows us to really run through the inner-loop a lot faster. Turn one is a lot safer and faster because you can run off on the rumble strip, so all-around a huge thumbs-up. I think the three races here this weekend have been the best three races Watkins Glen has seen for a long time.”

HOW WAS THE RACING WITH KYLE BEFORE THE LAST LAP AND WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MOVE WHEN HE PASSED YOU AND BRAD? “You’re around pro racers and they’re taking every advantage they can when they get them. It was tough race. It was a fast race. I felt like I was pushing my car hard all day and I was worried that I was actually driving the car too aggressively to stay in front, and then when I was chasing Kyle down there I was really pushing as hard as I could. He was driving a great race. He always races well here. Every year I come here I look at his car and it looks the same handling-wise and it’s as fast as it always is. He does a great job around here and Brad Keselowski and the 2 car, they’ve been really great here too the last couple of years. They’re a force to be reckoned with, no doubt. I thought the race was clean. I thought it was a fast pace and I thought it was a good day and a good showing for NASCAR.”

TODD PARROTT CONTINUED – HOW WOULD YOU RATE THAT FINISH AND WHAT WERE YOUR EMOTIONS DOWN THE STRETCH? “I was pretty emotional there again at the end. I’ve been around a lot of great races. I’ve been associated with a lot of great wins, but that one right there probably ranks up there in the top two or three as far as the excitement level on the last lap. You go to take the white flag and you’re not sure if you’re gonna finish second or third, and then half a lap later you’re saying you’re gonna win the race. It’s just a lot of emotion and that was a heck of a race. The fans got their money’s worth on that one. I know from my seat, Richard was sitting behind me, and it was crazy.”

RICHARD PETTY CONTINUED – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING INVOLVED WITH THE SOUTHERN TIER FOOD PANTRY THIS WEEKEND? “We did a deal opening with Smithfield and they gave away 60,000 pounds of food to the food bank when we were in Daytona, and then when we had the Charlotte race they did a deal with the food bank in Greensboro, North Carolina – so we went up there for that. Then Friday we went over to Watkins Glen downtown and they gave away 30,000 pounds of ham down there. It just makes you feel good from my standpoint to be working with people like Smithfield that gives back to the community. I think we try to do it as the Petty family and Petty crowd anyway, but then when you’re working with people that think the same way you do, it just makes it that much better.”

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED – HOW IS IT TO HAVE YOUR FAMILY HERE THIS YEAR? “Yeah, it’s just great. That’s why I’ve got them up here because they haven’t ever shared this. My kids haven’t shared this in America and it’s a special thing to win a NASCAR race, especially a Sprint Cup race, so it’s fantastic. I’ve got my in-laws sitting in the back here, too. They’re here on vacation, so a big shout out to them. My dad is in the hospital right now, so I hope this makes him feel better and gets him going. It’s a tough life when you’re racing, especially I’m from Australia and my immediate family is down home and I feel a long way away a lot of days. We feel like, ‘OK, I’m chasing a dream here and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, and so too has my family.’ It’s just great to have them here and great to let them celebrate with me. These days don’t come around every day.”

Source: Ford Racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Press conference
Tags ambrose, ford, johns, parrott, petty, the glen, winner