NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference Watkins Glen
An Interview With Marcos Ambrose and Todd Parrott
THE MODERATOR: Pleased to welcome our winning crew chief and driver. We have Todd Parrott, crew chief; driver Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Stanley Ford. Good note here, this is the first Ford win here since 1996, pretty significant. First win in the Cup Series for Marcos in his 105th start, fifth different first-time winner this year in the series, and Marcos is qualified for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint All-Star race and this year's Sprint Summer Showdown. Gentlemen, maybe a quick opener from each of you about that great effort today. We'll hear from the crew chief first.
TODD PARROTT: Yeah, it was just an incredible day. From the time that we unloaded this race car off the truck on Friday, it was fast, and you know, we were one of the -- the fastest car in the first practice. We elected to work on our race stuff, work on the balance on our race car and not really worried that much about setting a fast time for qualifying. But knowing that Marcos was good here and that he would be able to have a pretty good time, we weren't really that worried about it.
Awesome day. We just dedicate it to Mrs. Petty.
We really focused on the race and then worked on some more race stuff starting the second practice, switched over in qualifying and had a great car. And then today just -- it's crazy because you have a rain delay, and you have rain coming and you have all these scenarios and all these things that go through my head for two days. Can't sleep from worrying about is it going to rain at halfway, do they do this, do we do that, but we had a plan coming here after we saw what our fuel mileage and that type of stuff on Friday, and we stuck with our guns, and the rest of it, we made our pit stops, the cautions fell, and everything worked out today.
The big guy upstairs was looking out after us, and it all worked out. Just happy to get this 9 Stanley Ford Fusion team back in victory lane. It's been a while for me, 2005 with Dale Jarrett, so to get Marcos his first win in the Cup Series is something very special for me that I'll remember for a long time. Just for Richard Petty Motorsports, the things they went through in 2010, and to come back, people would not give up.
We had two of the main owners here today, Doug Bergeron and Andy Murstein were here sitting on the pit box with us, and I told those guys back earlier in the year, just hang in there, the win will come. And today we finally got it done, and I'm just -- like I say, I'm just happy to be a part of Richard Petty Motorsports and Ford Racing Team and everything that went on today at Watkins Glen.
I remember being a kid here with Rusty Wallace back in the day in victory lane when it was the Bud at the Glen. So it's a special day for me. It's a place that I've never won at, so I can add this to my bucket list.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, just a dream day. The sacrifices you make, we all make to get here, Todd and all the team, the Petty family, my family to get here, to be a contender in the Cup Series, to finally get to victory lane, it just is a dream come true for me. I've traveled halfway around the world and dragged my kids and my wife with me, and I kept telling them I was good, but until you can win in the Cup Series you can't really put that stamp on it.
I've tried for two and a half years now to get to victory lane, and I just have to thank Todd for giving me the chance. We're getting on great as a team. We're all blending well. We understand each other. We're good friends and have respect for each other, and it's very important when you get days like this where you can rely on -- I can rely on Todd to make good judgment calls on the box, and he can rely on me to go out there and do my job.
Awesome day. We just dedicate it to Mrs. Petty. She's doing it a little tough down at home. We wish her the best and dedicate this win to her.
This time last year I didn't know what I was going to be doing. I didn't know I was going to be in the Cup Series. Took some chances, was on the roller coaster with the whole Petty team when it went through the changes the end of last year, and to get into victory lane is just a dream come true on behalf of Ford and Stanley and deWalt and all the other partners that make this 9 team run. I've just got to thank them and hopefully we can get back to victory lane again soon.
I think this might open the box for me get a few more. I've felt a lot of weight and expectation and pressure to win, and sometimes that clouds judgment, and I know I've pressured myself once or twice trying to get to victory lane here in the Cup Series, and not that I was worried, but the word "choke" was starting to creep into the back of my mind.
We survived today. We fought our way back to the front. We had a late race restart. You know, fought and gouged our way to the front and got the win, just a dream day, and very thankful for the opportunity that I've got to be here and that I've made the most of it today.
Q. Marcos, I remember talking to you at Martinsville last year. Can you talk about the emotions you went through? It seems like you've kind of helped save Richard Petty Motorsports and they helped save you, as well.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, there was a time where I was sitting around the boardroom table and I was the only one there. I mean, who knew what was going to happen. It was completely out of my hands. Richard Petty and his team around him and with the help of Doug Bergeron and others have just -- Andy Murstein, saved this team. To see it pare down from four to two, get rebuilt, I think it's helped us. I think it helped all of us that have been through it to have the glue. We know what we went through, we're thankful for what we got, and we're now helping rebuild Richard Petty Motorsports back to where they want to be.
There were days, weeks where I was very anxious, but you've got to roll the dice sometimes and be patient and turn the phone off, play golf for a while, and it all worked out.
Q. It might have been hyperbole, but your teammate Carl Edwards said you could win a Formula 1 championship; you know something about that. Are you really that good? I know you're good, but you seem to be more mature this year than you were last year. How good are you?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I've got no idea, but it feels pretty good to be in victory lane. And for Carl to say that, I appreciate it. I tried to get to Formula 1 and didn't make it. If I have a chance to do it again, you know, I might be too old.
But I love racing. I'm a hobby racer. I do it because I love it, and I'm lucky enough to get paid, and I'm a historian. I love old school racing, I love knowing about the old style race cars and the drivers from back in the day, and I'm just -- I have a passion for the sport, and I think it helps me on the racetrack. I'm a good student. I watch others around me and try to do better.
We now need to win on the ovals. I've won on a road course in Sprint Cup Series, it's awesome, but for me now the next big challenge is Michigan coming up next week and Bristol the week after that because I want to win badly on those, and I'm trying hard to work out the missing link between myself and guys like Carl who can win on those ovals consistently.
And who knows, I'm going to keep trying. I'm totally dedicated to NASCAR. It's what I want to do, it's where I want to be. It's the best sport in the world, and I'm very lucky to be doing what I'm doing.
Does that answer your question? I've got no idea how good I am.
TODD PARROTT: He's great.
Q. Before the last caution came out, Kyle was able to gap you and maintain it. Were you like, oh, here we go again?
MARCOS AMBROSE: No, I had a run at him, and I had a couple chances, and he locked up a tire and I missed a shift and locked up my tires and got all frazzled. So was cooling everything back down to have one more shot at him. I knew the laps were winding down, but he was struggling. He was fighting his car. I could see that he was really loose up over the esses. I was going to have another shot at him if I was within three or four lengths coming into the last break because I knew I was going to go through him to try to win.
When the caution came out, I actually was pretty happy about it, letting everything cool down and have another shot at him.
On the restart I tried to actually blend in behind him because I knew I was never going to outbreak the 18, he was just kind of sidled off in there trying to win the race, and that's exactly what he did. But I couldn't find a hole, so I kind of got stuck in Turn 1 and just sidled off in there and tried to make a hole, which worked out for me. And with Brad, I just got through the bus stop really good and just forced the issue on him, and I never touched him I don't think, but I got him aero free and was able to slide past.
It was only motor home I was talking to Brad about how hard the Cup Series is to win, and he said, yeah, when you get a fifth place car or a third place car, you've got to be able to win with those days, and there we were, the two of us duking it out for the victory. He's an upcoming superstar and great talent.
All those guys at the front today just drove superbly and you've got to just take your chances, and today it worked out for us.
it's just a pleasure to work with a guy like this.
Q. Now with the win, you've thrust yourself pretty much right into the middle of the wild card situation, particularly with the bad day that some of the other guys in the mix had today. Any second thoughts about doing the back and forth to Montreal next week, and how are you going to manage that?
MARCOS AMBROSE: We're going to Montreal to win that one, too, and we'll go to Michigan on Sunday and try to win it. I've got -- I don't know about points, I really don't give a hoot about it, I've just got to win races. Today we won. It's a new day tomorrow. It's a new chapter for us as a team. We've got to victory lane. I think we're all going to get a bit of mojo, a bit of confidence about us and keep fighting, keep trying, and you never know. I mean, we're not out of the Chase, that's for certain, but looking at points ain't going to help you. You've just got to go out there and try to win races.
Q. Can you talk about this weekend here and not being able to run the Nationwide race which you claimed as your own?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, definitely made for an anxious couple of days. I would have loved to have done the Nationwide race, but the first thing was that we really had to stay dedicated to our Cup program, and when we couldn't do it right over at Richard Motorsports with the Nationwide car, it was the right thing to do not to attempt the Nationwide win. It would be great to win four in a row, but it's even better to be in victory lane today, and we couldn't take away from what our ultimate objective is, and that's Sprint Cup Series, and it's worked out.
Next year, though, I want to do the Nationwide race. Whoever is listening out there, I want to do it and win two on the weekend.
Q. Was this a typical Watkins Glen race, or has the intensity level these last few races really risen with the wild card spots?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, there was some stuff going on today that created a lot of aggressive driving, and I drove pretty much 100 percent the whole day. It's not often you can say you need to do that around this place. It's normally the middle part of the event where you can just cool the brakes down, look after your stuff, the pace settles down. But with the rain imminent, the fog imminent, the strategy all messed up with fuel strategies, you never knew who was going to be in the lead. You had to go the whole time.
About flat 45 I was struggling with brakes, and we had to come into the pits and pull some tape off and that helped us, and we had to drive hard all day. Yeah, it was frantic. It was tough all day. I seemed to be always looking in my mirror because this was someone there all day, and I think it's just the nature of this track and the weather conditions and also the Chase format. Everybody is just going at it with this new points system. You know the top 10s reward you well for points and top 20s don't get it done. I think it's a combination of all those things.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, it's going to get to a frenzy here before the end, I'm sure.
Q. You kind of went out of your way to tell us not to ask you about the wild card on Friday and Saturday. Are you willing to talk about it a little bit now? You're kind of -- the win is what you needed.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, the win is what we needed, no doubt. We've got to try and win two now. I don't even really know the points system that well to talk about the wild card. I just know that I have to go and win races and finish well in the top 10 from here to the end. That's what I'm going to try and do.
Q. Todd, did you kind of have to -- when you got paired with Marcos kind of tell him everything was going to be all right because things were really in turmoil at that time, and also, did you toy with the idea of going back to Australia at all during that time because of your family?
TODD PARROTT: Well, when they first started talking about it last year, when things were kind of going -- when Elliott, I think, made his decision that he was going to leave and where they were going to put me and what was going to happen and they had Marcos coming aboard, we started talking and developed a relationship toward the end of last year, and then over the winter, doing some road course testing and stuff. We got to spend a lot of time together. I kind of give him my background, where I came from, and I knew what his background was and I knew the talent that he was and just to be patient.
That's the thing about this sport is just -- if you're patient and you keep working hard, sooner or later you'll be able to celebrate with all the fruits and the excitement and all the good things that happen in it.
He's kept his head down, he's worked hard just like our whole team has, and it's just a pleasure to work with a guy like this. Like you said, we get along great, and I think each week the communication gets better, and I'm just really looking forward to the end of the season and hopefully we can go out and win a couple races. We've been good on the ovals. We've had some great runs this year, chances to win at a couple racetracks. I think, like you said, Marcos said, getting this win and getting the -- the load off his shoulders is going to help him, I think mentally, and it'll help us as a team knowing that we can win, that we can go out here with the Kyle Busches and the Juan Pablo Montoyas and the Jimmie Johnsons and all the great drivers that are out here in this sport and we can win.
MARCOS AMBROSE: I needed a change. I mean, Tad Geshickter and the Gesheckter family, Jody, were great to me, a lot of security over there, good little program, but I felt stale. I had been with them since I'd come to NASCAR in 2006. I just felt I needed a change, and so I took my chances, left JTG a year early on the contract and tried to make something happen with Gillette and RPM at the time.
It speaks leaps and bounds from where this company was a year ago.
I knew I was in for some troubles but I couldn't anticipate how much trouble it was going to go through. But at that point in time actually I was happy with any outcome. I had stuck my neck out, as you need to do sometimes to take a chance, and if it had have worked out that I was back in Australia, I was content that I had tried my best and I had made the best choices that I thought I could at the time, and it's all worked out.
Here I am in the Cup Series driving for the King, got a fantastic sponsor in Stanley and DeWalt, got Ford on side, as well, and we're in victory lane, just a huge turnaround from 12 months ago, and very thankful.
Eventually I'm going to get spat out of the sport, right? You can't drive forever unless you're Mark Martin (laughter), and I'm happy. I'm happy with what I've done. I've got to victory lane. I can go home knowing that I've won in the Sprint Cup Series, and it's a proud day for myself and my family.
We make sacrifices every day to do what we need to do. Today is my little girl's first day at school, and I wanted to take her to school, and here we are racing at Watkins Glen on a Monday and she's probably still cranky at me. But I think it's a good compromise to be here in victory lane.
You know, families and Todd and his family and all the team, we all sacrificed to try to live the dream, and here we are. We're the best on the day and we're going to enjoy it.
Q. Todd, can you talk about the evolutions of the organization you're with now because you were there when it was Yates, you were there when it was Gillette and now you're here for the second round of RPM. What has gotten you from starting point to here, and where have you seen the greatest improvements on Marcos over the course of the races that you've had to work with him?
TODD PARROTT: I think the evolution has just been people sticking -- having faith in the company and the -- it's a strong team, and that's a tricky question, but being there at the start when I left Roberts and went there in 2008 and worked with Travis, and then last year -- that's the thing, working with Elliott. I was Kenseth's crew chief the first half of the season last year and then they moved me with Elliott, and I was really happy about that because I had worked with Elliott before, and I thought that we could win.
But then as things went awry, I kind of wondered where am I going to fit in when all this shakes out, and they kind of told me that I had done a good job and were planning on putting me with Marcos. I knew what his history was and kind of followed up, did a little research on him, and I think he's a great talent.
The track itself is a first-class facility.
To me a guy that can run like he does on a road course with the finesse that it takes is the type of driver that it takes to run everywhere, short tracks, intermediate. He's got a feel for a race car like no other, and he can do this everywhere he goes. So I have total faith in him, and I hope he feels the same way about me. I just think the relationship and our cars and all that stuff is just going to get better as a team, Richard Petty Motorsports. I mean, A.J. had a great car today, leading the race and ran through the grass. I think had he not had his issues, I think you would have saw two of our cars up front today. It speaks leaps and bounds from where this company was a year ago.
Q. There were a couple of real ugly wrecks today with Denny down in Turn 1 and then at the end of the race. Is there any concern for the guardrails and the safety equipment here and the track surface?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I saw the 11, I saw a flash in the mirror. I thought, what's that, and then I look and the right-hand mirror coming off of Turn 1 and I saw him sidling towards the fence. That's a brake issue. We've got -- these cars are fast, big and heavy, and they're hard to stop. The tire, they were so good that they put extra stress on brake components. So I think part of it is maybe that. The track itself is a first-class facility. It's a great racetrack. I think they have done an awesome job in some of the safety features they've already implemented around this place. I don't drive around this place looking at any one spot saying, ooh, that looks nasty to me. I think they've done great with what they've got. If you don't have a guardrail off Turn 2, you end up going down a bank, so that's not good, either.
So I think the track itself is fine. I think we just have to keep working on safety. All the drivers walked away. I've got no complaints about this place. I think it's a safe racetrack. We're just driving these cars flat-out, and it creates problems. So I think all the accidents today were mechanical issues mostly, apart from the last one. I didn't see any of them so I'll look at the TV when I go back, but cut tires and failing brakes, that's pretty much what started it.
I think the track is a classic road racing circuit. You don't want to make it too sterile. You've got to have bumps and lumps and change of camber and roughness and all that kind of stuff that makes it what it is.
Q. I'd like to ask you about Boris Said. You've raced against him. He's an aggressive driver like you're an aggressive driver. A lot of guys seem to have problems with him. What's it about Boris Said and the way he drives that seems to aggravate people?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, this time when you're coming in -- Boris is a great driver, no doubt, and he is a great driver, but he's coming in once a year and we're running a season, and it's intense racing. We're all right on the edge and we're fine tuned, and you get another character in and you don't quite now how to predict what he's going to do or what moves he's going to make.
I haven't seen anything wrong with his driver. It's just you're adding an extra element to the day. It's nothing against Boris; I think it's just the nature of this sport. We race every week against each other, the regulars, and when you get somebody that you throw in the middle of all that, it can cause friction. I wouldn't say that Boris is a nasty driver or a dirty driver at all. He's an aggressive driver and he's a talented driver, and he's running in the Cup Series with everybody that's doing it for a living. He should be commended for that. I don't think it's fair to pass judgment on him. I haven't had any problems with him.
THE MODERATOR: Marcos, thanks for making this extra day here very memorable. Congratulations.