Continued from part 1 Q: I was just curious if you could recap last year at Sonoma for us? You were quickest in practice and then got in a late accident at the end of practice and had to drive your way up through the field. Take us ...
Continued from part 1
Q: I was just curious if you could recap last year at Sonoma for us? You were quickest in practice and then got in a late accident at the end of practice and had to drive your way up through the field. Take us through what that was like and what you remember about that whole thing.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, it was a real cluster on the Saturday practice. We lost an engine in the first practice. Had a rapid switch out, had the motor replaced, and got out the last ten minutes in the second practice and ran into Jimmie Johnson at the hairpin and tore the front of the car up.
So we had a difficult weekend. Harder than what it needed to be. Then we had to start off in the back of the field for the race. Had to pass the entire field on probably the tightest road course in the world. So we had a lot of work to do.
We kept the car straight. We got off sequence with our strategy to try to pass in the middle part of the field. We had to do it on the racetrack and try to do it through strategy which helped somewhat. Then we got on the end of the race, and we were off sequence with our tires. And I was on older tires than the other drivers around me and battled to bring it home in third place.
But you can't expect to win races at this level. You've just got to put yourself in contention, and so I think we're looking for a lot smoother practice Friday and Saturday getting ourselves ready for the race.
Q: I understand you swapped cars with Jeff Gordon a few weeks ago at Watkins Glen during a tire test. I was just curious what was it like to drive the 24 car?
MARCOS AMBROSE: First thing I'd like to say is it is really tight seats. A lot tighter than what this Australian is used to. Once I got shoe horned in the car, I wasn't getting out. I just told them put the steering wheel on and let me at it.
It was a real privilege to be asked to drive his car. I couldn't say no once we got the clearance from the powers that be on both ends to make it all work out.
We're doing a Goodyear test trying to make a tire that's better for Watkins Glen. So Goodyear were happy to let the drivers sample each other's car and get a feel for what each other are doing, and get a feel for the tires, too.
So I was really pleased to be asked and felt privileged to be part of it. I only did a few laps because I didn't want to bend it on him, because that would be the worst thing you can ever do is crash Jeff Gordon's car. I was very cautious, knowing that I wasn't fitting in the seat very well and knowing it wasn't my car to crash.
That being said, I was interested to note how similar the cars were in their characteristics. Clearly what Jeff is looking for to get around Watkins Glen is very similar to what I'm looking for, and we're both fighting the same problems. Brakes are always going to fade, the gear box is always going to be a little crunchy, and gear selection is an issue. The way the car sits up on the bump rubbers and so forth is a challenge.
Both cars were surprisingly similar in their characteristics and feel. There are obviously a lot of differences in motors and tires and brake configurations and so forth, but generally I was surprised how close both Jeff and myself are trying to set our cars up.
Q: I know JTG Daugherty is not fielding a Nationwide car this year. But are there any plans to try to run the Nationwide Race at Watkins Glen in August considering you're the defending champion there from last season?
MARCOS AMBROSE: We intend to run both Montreal and Watkins Glen in the Nationwide Series. We have a car there that's ready to go. We haven't got a crew yet. We might get some Cup guys to help us run that for us.
But we want to defend our title at Watkins Glen, and giving away the last three Montreals just by bad luck or timing or mistakes. So I'm looking to make amends up there as well and trying to get a win up in Montreal.
Q: I was wondering, Owen Kelly said that you helped him get a late-model ride with Robert Pressley, and he's making his NASCAR debut at Road America. Just your thoughts on the challenge that he has ahead of him?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Sure, Owen's a good friend of mine. We grew up together in Tasmania. We actually raced against each other in go-karts at 12 or 13 years of age. So I've know Owen in the very beginning of my racing days. I wish him the best of luck.
He's going to have a big challenge ahead of him for sure. But he's used to big, heavy stock cars on road courses. He's growing up doing that in Australia. He was right on the edge of becoming a full-time driver in Australia. So he knows his stuff. He knows what he needs to do.
Spoke to him already this week on the phone. He's came forward and asked for a few tips and pointers on the way. But he's a big guy, big man, and he's going to take it by the throat, I think, and really get it done. I'm looking forward to seeing him have a go.
Q: All your years racing road courses over your lifetime, what are some of the crazier things or some of the wildest things that have ever happened to you on a road course?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Oh, there's plenty. I've raced in the snow. I've spun it on oil. I've competed against the world's best all over the world. You never know what you're going to get on a road course.
You think that oval racing is a challenge. But you start doing these longer distance road course races where the tires are wearing out and the brakes are completely gone and you're just trying to make it home, that is a real challenge.
One memory that does strike me was Tampa in 2001. My wheel actually fell off. And I was pulled over to the side of the road watching this tire roll down for half a mile or so, just watch it roll down the front stretch and then actually bounce and flip itself on to a stack of tires that were sitting in the middle of the track making a chicane.
It actually made YouTube's all time greatest hits. I guess goes down in the history books as something I'm not too proud of that I'm one of the all time hit videos on YouTube.
Q: I've seen it. Is that the funniest thing, you think?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, it wasn't funny at the time, but I look back at it and it's pretty funny.
Q: I was just wondering with the way the season has gone and the Chase now out of reach, how much more emphasis you guys have put on Sonoma and Watkins Glen? I know you've talked about how you've done additional research and development. How much more are you guys focusing on that as a way you can establish a season with a win? And how much additional pressure are you putting on yourself for those two races knowing how much they can mean to your race team?
MARCOS AMBROSE: We feel we can win any week, so we're not putting any extra pressure on ourselves at Infineon. We believe any week we can break out and have a standout day and get our first win. It's definitely on my shoulders, the pressure of having to win a race at the Cup level.
I managed to do it in Nationwide, but haven't managed to get our first win in the Sprint Cup Series. So I'd like to get the first one out of the way. I'd like it to be this week. There's no guarantee. There is no extra pressure for my team. It's hard enough to deal with the pressure on a week-to-week basis let alone the expectation of trying to go out there and win your first race.
So we're down playing our chances. We're just trying to stay cool and calm. But we have our primary sponsors Clarke and Kingsford that are based in California, so we have 130-odd guests coming out for the race, so that has its pressures too.
So you have to do your best and go out there and try as hard as it can, and it is what it is. Hopefully my first win is not too far away. It could be this weekend, it could be in three or four, who knows.
Q: What is the approach by NASCAR meant to you, and how does that approach compare to the rules that you've raced and the other sanctions that you've raced all around the world?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I've raced in a lot around the world. And most of them have drama in the steward's room or in the truck at the end of the race. The fans don't get to see it. The audience is confused. You go through two or three weeks for a judicial process to find out who the actual winner of the race is. That's just a real mess. It's a cluster.
I think what NASCAR does really, really well is they let the racers have it out on the track. They let the emotions come to the surface so the fans can see it and the drivers can work it out between themselves. We don't have to duke it out in a stewards hearing or officials hearing on a Tuesday down in Daytona Beach. Nobody wants to see that. That's just a mess.
You've got to watch it, obviously, that you don't let it go too far out of hand. But I think as a racing series, we take it very seriously. All the drivers race for their pride. They race for their families, their teams, their sponsors. And don't forget the prize money. It's substantial prize money we race for each week.
So that emotion is there and it really makes the driver who he is. And you see tempers flair, and you see guys lose their cool and at least you can see it on the racetrack. The fans engage to it. The fans want to get out and hear it. And the way it is right now, I think it's a great mix.
Q: Could you explain to a fan, you obviously know a lot about road courts, the biggest difference between racing an oval with the sensations that you feel and racing a road course?
MARCOS AMBROSE: The biggest thing for me, if you can get around a road course, you can probably get around an oval pretty good within half a second. But half a second is first or last in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. So you've got to start setting your own vehicle to suit your own style and characteristics.
And I have to learn to feel each tire individually when I'm on an oval. The left front tire is giving me trouble. The right rim of the tire. So you've got to pick individual tires. Whereas on a road course, you're really only worried about left and right. You're not so much worried about, you know, working in twos.
When you're on the brakes you're looking for balance between front and rear. When you turn through a corner, you're really just worried about the outside tire because you know that there's a switch back coming down the strait, and you have to get the outside of the car tire ready for that.
So I feel like setting up a car on a road course is a lot easier for me because it's simpler. Whereas on an oval it becomes much more complex because each wheel is independent from each other.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you for joining us today and taking time out of your schedule. Best of luck this weekend at Infineon.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Thank you very much.