Homestead: Marcos Ambrose qualifying report

AMBROSE QUALIFIES THIRD FOR SEASON FINALE IN HOMESTEAD Marcos Ambrose has equalled his best qualifying performance of the season and will start from third position in the final race of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Ford 400 ...

AMBROSE QUALIFIES THIRD FOR SEASON FINALE IN HOMESTEAD

Marcos Ambrose has equalled his best qualifying performance of the season and will start from third position in the final race of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, after a sensation performance in qualifying today.

"We're really pleased as a team with our efforts here today," said Ambrose,

"I didn't know how I was going to stack up this weekend. This track was a real challenge for me last season."

Ambrose was fortunate to have a late qualifying draw.

"Going out later in qualifying definitely helped," said Ambrose.

"If we would have gone out early - maybe with the first 10 cars - Scott Speed (second place getter) and I probably wouldn't be up here right now. Some tracks it doesn't matter so much. When the sun starts going down here and it cools off obviously the lap times are faster at this track."

As Ambrose was finishing up his post-qualifying interviews, polesitter Jimmie Johnson patted him on the back on his way into the media centre. At that moment, Ambrose reiterated that Johnson is deserving of his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

"Jimmie Johnson has a halo bar around his car," said Ambrose.

"He has been consistent all year and is well deserving of his fourth championship. I think he has to finish 25th or better to clinch it on Sunday. I know that I don't want to be the guy that ruins his chance. He clearly deserves it. He has dominated the last four years. I will be following him into Turn 1 with a safe distance behind him - kind of like the interstate (highway) rule.

"With Jimmy, he has been able to avoid mistakes. You can see like the disaster that happened to him at Texas (Motor Speedway), how easily that can come undone. You don't want to be the guy that does that to him. He's not going to do it on his own. He's so talented. It's not that we don't race him. If I can pass him, I'm going to pass him. You just have to treat everybody with respect as I hope the same courtesy is given to me."

Ambrose's effort in the # Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcakes entry of JTG Daugherty Racing matched his career-best starting position that occurred at Infineon Raceway in June where he also finished third.

Scott Speed, who needed to qualify in on time and had the advantage of going out last, snatched second place from Ambrose in the closing stages of qualifying. Mark Martin was fourth and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five starting order.

For Ambrose, his season has somewhat exceeded his JTG Daugherty Racing team's expectations as they currently sit 18th in the championship standings with four top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

The Australian driver knows there are no guarantees in this business, but he feels his JTG Daugherty Racing team will be able to build a strong case for a spot in the Chase in 2010.

WHAT MARCOS HAD TO SAY --

QUESTION: How was your qualifying run today?

"It was great until Scott Speed just bumped me off the front row.

"We had a chance at our first front row spot and just lost it there on the last couple cars that ran. We're really pleased - it's about a second faster than what I qualified here last year. It's pretty much got the same springs underneath so it just shows you how far I've come as a driver and how far we've come as a team.

"I really didn't know how I was going to stack up this weekend, this track was my worst of last season. I was worried about coming down here, but I guess it worked out well and we had a great draw for qualifying. I drew 35th and you can't do much better than that in those conditions. We made the most of it."

QUESTION: How do you view Jimmie Johnson at the start of the race?

"I will be following him into turn one because I guarantee that he knows the right line around this place. I will just try to fall in behind him and try to stay at the front to the first pit stop. He's got a halo around his car this weekend and you just don't want to be the guy that takes his championship away.

"He deserves it and he's clearly dominated the last four years and I just don't want to do the wrong thing by him so I will be following him into turn one, but I won't be on his bumper - I will be a safe distance behind and letting him do his thing."

QUESTION: Where have you made your greatest gains this year?

"There isn't one thing that you can pinpoint to say that's what gave me half-a-second. I think inner confidence is very important, feeling that you belong in the sport, knowing that you can save a car when it gets out of shape because it gets out of shape about four or five times a lap.

"You just have to believe in yourself and have your crew believe in you and believe in what you're telling them as far as feedback goes.

"Just learning to drive the heck out of these race cars because they don't want to go as fast as we push them. You just have to really be on your game. There's nowhere to hide out there in the Cup series. All the cars are very good, the drivers are very good and the competition is very high."

How much of a factor was going out in cooler temperatures?

"No doubt it helps. If we had gone out in the top-10, we wouldn't be up here. This practice and qualifying time is critical.

"Some tracks it doesn't matter as much when you qualify early in the afternoon, but when you have the sun going down like it does here in the South fast, the track cools off a lot. We all know a cool track has faster lap times."

QUESTION: What are your plans for the off season?

"My off season started yesterday - I left the house, locked it up and I'm not going back to it. Basically, I'm flying out from Miami on Monday straight back to Australia. Going to hang out with my friends and family and just get my mind and body back in shape.

"I've got some TV stuff to do down there. I've got an American film crew coming down to do some filming during testing in Tasmania, which is exciting.

"I'm going to go to the last round of the Australian V8 Super Car Series and do some television work as well for SPEED.

"We've got a little bit of stuff to do, but primarily it's just about getting back home, forgetting about turning left for a while and get back to normal living.

"I've got a little townhouse in Launceston, my hometown and I like going down and getting the milk and paper in the mornings from the local store. Just being a normal, average Joe.

"It's a crazy world we live in and sometimes you just need a moment to reflect on what you're all about and I use my off season well. I really try to get back, get my feet on the ground and not move for a while."

QUESTION: How much racing should you be able to do with Jimmie Johnson?

"I try to race people hard, but fair. I'm just conscious of the fact - the way the points are and the way the Chase is run and everything.

"With the exception of Jimmie (Johnson), you don't win the Cup, you avoid mistakes to win the Cup. You could see with the disaster he had at Texas, how easily it came undone. You don't want to be the guy that does that to him, he's not going to do it on his own, most likely - he's so talented.

"It's not that we don't race him - if I'm faster, I'm going to pass him. You just have to treat everyone with respect because of what they've done and where they're at in the points. You know that what goes around comes around and if I get myself in a position like he's in, I would like to be treated a little kindly as well. It's a fine line between looking out for yourself and looking at the bigger picture."

QUESTION: Would you consider running at the V8 Supercar final?

"I tried to, but they wouldn't give me a license. I got turned down - I had sponsors in play and everything ready to go. I was going to go back and do it this year. The last race is in two weeks, it's at a street track around Sydney.

"I thought it would be very cool to go back and see old friends and have a race or two and they wouldn't let me in.

"The series is different down there, they have franchises. The teams own a contract to race, a Racing Entitlements Contract.

"There's 30 of them, one of them went broke so they didn't renew it. One of them the series bought back and kept in their back pocket so they were reduced to 29 so I wanted to use the 30th license for that one event, which the series owned and the series said they didn't want to do it."

Reflecting on first full season in the Sprint Cup Series --

"It's just been a great year for the #47 Little Debbie JTG Daugherty Racing team in the Sprint Cup Series. We didn't expect that we would be in position to finish in the top 20 in points because we were just hoping to finish in the top 30.

"We have exceeded our expectations and we have been very competitive. We have seven top-10 finishes, but were so close to having more. We had at least three 11th-place finishes that with a bit of luck would have been top 10s. But, it doesn't really matter. We've done plenty this year."

"Our team is growing and our results this year prove that. I'm a lot more confident as a driver and secure in myself that I can do the job. All those things will play a part. You can't guarantee you are going to move forward. It's a challenging world we live in. We are very focused on understanding that not every step is going to be forward and sometimes you may take a step backwards.

"(Next year) we want to win a race and make the Chase.

"Sure, it's a lofty goal, but I think it's achievable if everything goes well. I think we are worthy of it and can do it. We know we gave away 300 points before the Chase started and we were about 200 points behind in the end.

"We were in a crash (last year at Homestead). I'm hoping to end the season on a better note this time. I'm ready for a fresh start. It's been a long year and I'm pretty tired. I'm not starting to wilt, but I feel the effects of the season.

"I'm looking forward to refreshing my mind and body by getting back into training and forgetting about going in circles for a while. I'm looking forward to joining my family in Australia and starting a new year in NASCAR."

-credit: ma/bam

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Marcos Ambrose , Scott Speed , Mark Martin
Teams JTG Daugherty Racing