MAJOR MILESTONE FOR AMBROSE AFTER EIGHTH IN DEBUT BUSCH SERIES SEASON
Marcos Ambrose has achieved a major milestone by finishing his debut season in the NASCAR Busch Series with his sixth top 10 finish of the year with 10th place in the Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida today.
Ambrose claimed eighth in this year's NASCAR Busch Series standings, making him the first non-North American driver to finish in the top 10 in any of NASCAR's three national championship divisions -- the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
The last non-United States driver to achieve the feat was Canadian Earl Ross, who finished eighth in the NASCAR Nextel Cup standings in 1974.
Ambrose's strong performance today in the 35th and final race of the season confirmed a major goal for the Australian in his rookie year in the NASCAR Busch Series, finishing in the top 10 in the championship standings.
Ambrose finished eighth in the overall standings in the Aussie Vineyards-backed #59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford Fusion. He scored a pole position in Memphis as well as a top five finish at that same track with fourth place, his best finish for the season.
The Australian also scored top 10 finishes in Mexico City, Las Vegas, Dover, Montreal and today in Homestead.
Ambrose was the top rookie in today's race, the seventh time this season he has collected the Raybestos Rookie of the Race Award.
Ambrose and fellow Ford driver David Ragan have dominated the Rookie honours this season, taking over half the Raybestos Rookie of the Race Awards for this season between them. Ragan clinched the overall rookie title today, with Ambrose second in what was an impressive year for rookie talent in the NASCAR Busch Series.
Ambrose qualified a solid 18th for today's Ford 300 and ran well in the early laps, which were plagued by several caution periods.
Ambrose was trapped a lap down in the first half of the race but earned the Lucky Dog on lap 98 to jump back onto the lead lap in 27th position.
He then climbed his way up the order to reach the top 20 and some smart pit strategy jumped the Australian into the top 10 with 30 laps remaining.
Jeff Burton won today's Ford 300 ahead of Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth. Ford driver Carl Edwards was fourth, having already secured the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series championship crown.
Marcos Ambrose -- Aussie Vineyards-backed #59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford Fusion
"It's been a great end to the season," said Ambrose.
"We had some issues tonight out of our control that hurt our car speed but we got the strategy right and hung on there for a top 10 in the end.
"It's better to be lucky that good.
"We kept pushing on and working hard tonight and it paid off. It's great to finish in the top 10 in this final race of the season because it gives us a boost as we enter the off-season and continue to work hard to be better for next year.
"I am absolutely loving being a part of NASCAR. To finish in the top 10 in the points as a driver who has come from the other side of the world is very special.
"I have to thank my entire team, sponsors and everyone that's helped me get here. My car owner Tad Geschickter has been great and everyone in this team has been so supportive of not just me, but my entire family.
"We are getting better and better each week and next year is going to be even better and we are all excited about it.
"We've had a solid year. It was a big goal of ours to get that top 10 in the points and we also got a pole and a top five. We've still got room for improvement and we're excited about next year."
"We've had some good cars and not had top-10s and today we were able to turn it around. We're in the Top 10 in Driver's points, and Top 20 in owner's points so everyone back at the shop is no doubt really happy.
"It's been a really solid year for us. Performance wise, I'd probably give us a B-minus, for everything else, it's been an A-plus year.
"I'm secure with my sponsor Kingsford, I'm so proud of their support. I'm here in this series and now I have 12 months of experience under my belt.
"The team believes in me and Ford supports me. We've got a lot of great things going on. We have a great future for next year and I'm really excited about it.
"We've got a lot of hard work to do before next year. But I feel like we've achieved something - something to be proud of as a team. My guys have worked hard all year, we've struggled a bit, but it's great to give them something they can enjoy over the break."
MARCOS AMBROSE -- Raybestos Rookie of the Race Press Conference
Q: YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED A LOT OF THINGS IN YOUR CAREER. WHERE DOES THIS SEASON FIT IN?
MA: "I really feel like we've come a long way as a team. It's been a journey for us. It's a bounce-back for the 59 Kingsford team. They've had a couple of years outside of the top-10 so we're going better with that. I've grown as a driver. We've grown together as a team. Our morale is high, we're confident going into next year and it's just going to be real exciting."
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR?
MA: "I'm driving the 59 Kingsford Charcoal car next year. That's locked in. They haven't kicked me out yet so I'm going to turn up in January at Daytona expecting to sit in that seat and we'll find out I guess [smiles]. We just wanted to finish this year the right way and not get confused about what we're doing for 2008. Busch Series again full-time for sure."
Q: YOU GUYS MIGHT BE ABLE TO WIN A RACE OR TWO NEXT YEAR.
MA: "I think next year we've got to win races if we want to call it a success. Championship points can get broken by bad luck, misfortunate and incidents that are outside of your own control. But in general, if we don't get race wins next year, I won't call it a success. I think we've really got to step up on the results side of the business. We've done really well on everything else. I've grown, I've learned, our team has come together. We're passionate about our racing and we're getting good people around us. There's a lot of good stuff happening. We've just got to make sure to keep that going and we've got to win races. That will be the goal for me next year to come out of the box strong, try to win a race and try to secure ourselves well inside the top-10."
Q: WHAT'S THE MAIN THING THAT YOU LEARNED THIS YEAR?
MA: "It's a lot harder than it looks [laughs]. It's just really tough. It's really tough racing and it's a long season, too. It's the first time I've ever taken on a 35-race scheduled and I'll be honest with you: I'm worn out. I want to get home, I want to chase some kangaroos and go fishing. It's been a long season and I'm looking forward to seeing friends and family."
-credit: team australia