Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion, returns to the scene of his near win in 2010 looking for a bit of redemption and with a little extra incentive. A win for Ambrose Sunday would mean a $1 million dollar donation by Stanley to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Ambrose, who is considered the favorite to win Sunday talked about the road course racing, pressure to win and more.

Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TALK A LITTLE ABOUT BEING BACK HERE AT SONOMA THIS WEEKEND. “It is great to be back. It is a great track. This place has been a pretty good hunting ground for me. I haven’t converted to a win here yet but we have always had great speed. On the Stanley team here at Richard Petty Motorsports we knew coming in to this weekend we had a chance to win and we have tried really hard to make it happen.”

THE SEARCH FOR GRIP ON A TRACK LIKE THIS, WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THAT THAN OTHER COURSES YOU ARE AT? “Well, looking at the weather today, the cool conditions are going to good for us. It is going to present some more grip. This track is notorious for its low grip level. We are racing 3,500 lb cars which are over pounds and under tired. Grip is always and issue for us no matter where we go. It doesn’t make a difference if we are at Charlotte Motor Speedway or here. We are still looking for balance and looking for more grip than anyone else. I think for us, I need a car that is consistent across the fuel run and doesn’t do anything crazy out there. You can set these cars up to get great grip but they don’t handle very well when that happens. They start rolling around a lot and they can get set off with the slide and hitting bumps and things like that. For us, these cars just don’t want to go around this track very well. They are very heavy cars and don’t have a very big tire patch and don’t have very good brakes considering the weight of the car. They have obviously a lot of horsepower so it is a tough balance out there.”

MOST OF THE WEST GUYS HAVE LOADED THE SUMMER SONOMA SETTINGS. IS IT GOING TO BE DIFFICULT TO GET IN THAT CAR AND TRY TO GET THE SETTING INTO A RACE MODE FOR YOU IN THE PRACTICE TIME YOU HAVE? “I don’t think so. We do this every weekend and we have a set plan and agenda when we get here. We know what to expect with all the engineering support we get. We have done good tire modeling and the track grip level doesn’t change a huge amount compared to the other changes that we make to the car. Every year we come back and we seem to get the CG a little lower and we seem to get the suspension a little more refined and the tires keep changing as well when they come back here. We are on a different tire than what we had a last year’s event and I think that is much bigger than what the track will give us as far as change goes. We know what to expect, we just have to get out there and see how it feels.”

WHY HAVEN’T ROAD RINGERS BEEN SUCCESSFUL COMING INTO NASCAR ON THESE ROAD COURSES? “I think you would struggle to find another racing car that handles quite like these NASCAR Sprint Cup vehicles. They are a beast to drive. Most road racers are used to a car driving them around the track pretty much. A stock car won’t do that around here. You have to really handle it and drive aggressively and get the most out of it. The level of talent is exceptionally high. You think that half the field can’t get around the road course but that is a fallacy. That is not right. These guys know how to get around here and are seriously good. We race against each other every week and we know who we can push around and who we can’t. We know the cars really well too. We know how to tune on them. What other racing car has a truck arm rear suspension with a spring half way inboard from the tire? What other car has steel wheels? What other race car has way too much power for the level of grip? It is one of the heaviest race cars you will ever drive. 3,500 lbs is a seriously heavy car. That is what makes the sport so great. I am not surprised that road ringers can’t adapt to these vehicles because they are very unique.”

I AM CURIOUS IF ANYTHING BUT WINNING IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU HERE AND ALSO YOU GUYS HAVE SO MUCH MOMENTUM AND ARE VERY GOOD ON EVERY TRACK THIS YEAR. HOW DOES THAT IMPACT THE EXPECTATION COMING IN AS WELL? “I think it softens the expectation a little bit. You can’t say, ‘Oh, we are road racing and Marcos is going to win.’ That isn’t fair to anyone on our team, especially me. This is not a guarantee here and this track doesn’t owe me anything. I am going to have to go earn a win if I am good enough on the day. All I can do is my best and I am really proud of how my Stanley team and Richard Petty has rallied around me and given me the tools I need to keep improving on the race track. You see the form is really swinging for us. We are looking to get out of here with a really strong day. We need a top-five to kick start the start of the run to the end and we are looking for that. I am not looking here to win or else, I am looking here to continue the trend we have had over the last few months.”

LAST YEAR WE SAW TEMPERS FLAIR. DOES THAT CARRY OVER TO THE NEXT RACE OR NEXT TIME YOU RACE ON A ROAD COURSE? “Yeah, no doubt. Already this part of the year we have some guys mad at each other and this is a great track to really lay down some payback. At the same time getting out of this place unscathed is pretty hard to do. You are going to have to sort that out in the next few races as well. It is just a tough track. It is technical, tight and quite a few cautions where we all get together on these double file restarts. It is easy to get shuffled back and lose ten spots. It is tough to get them back. You have to drive very aggressively to get those sports back and contact is inevitable at this track. For me, I just try to do that cat-cat theory. I just go as fast as I can and just try to get out of dodge and try to sit at the front as long as I can. That way you look after your car because you aren’t running into everybody and then you can dictate the race. That is what I try to do to not make enemies out there. I try to be the guy out front.”

ARE YOU EXPECTING THE SAME LEVEL OF AGGRESSION HERE WE HAVE SEEN THE LAST TWO YEARS? “It has been pretty heavy the last couple years here. We saw Tony Stewart up in the tire wall and a lot of people are aggressive trying to make passes. I think the double file restarts keeps everyone bunched up more than it used to. I think the points system has changed a lot as well and you know that every point is critical. People are taking chances. I expect to see a similar race I would think.”

BLOCKING IS PART OF THIS COURSE. HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? IS IT JUST GUT FEELING? “It is gut feel for sure. You can mess up a corner and have to defend your spot because you feel like you are going to pull away over a two or three or four lap period if you don’t make another mistake. There are moments you just have to defend your sport because someone is slowing in front of you and had to check up or you made a mistake and had to lift. Consistent blocking, guys just get sick of it and will dump you for it. We know the rule. It is a self-made rule and we police it ourselves and you just have to choose who you are racing against, what time of the race it is and be smart. We aren’t Sprint Cup series drivers because we are dummies. We have earned our way to this point and we should know how to conduct business out there. You have to know who you are racing around and you have to realize what is happening around you. You have to make those choices. If the guy behind you feels you have been a (EXPLETIVE), he will get you out of the way.”

Source: Ford Racing