Road racer Marcos Ambrose finds oval competition to his liking DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 3, 2006) -- The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' next big star well might be a southerner. But not from the geographical region of the United ...
Road racer Marcos Ambrose finds oval competition to his liking
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 3, 2006) -- The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' next big star well might be a southerner.
But not from the geographical region of the United States.
Marcos Ambrose (No. 20 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Ford) hails from the southern hemisphere -- the Australian state of Tasmania, to be exact -- and last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, in just his ninth series start, he proved that adapting to high-speed ovals may not be as difficult as it once appeared.
Ambrose, who drives for JTG/Wood Brothers Racing, led the first lap of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250. He also ran among the top 10 despite surrendering positions on pit road.
At the end, it came down to a battle for third place between Ambrose, Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 Harrah's Dodge) and 1995 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Skinner (No. 5 Team Tundra Toyota).
Skinner found out he couldn't budge the Aussie, never mind his experience.
And Gaughan used every trick to keep the Raybestos Rookie of the Year challenger at bay. He did so until the fourth turn of the last lap where Ambrose guided his truck into the outside lane and out-hustled Gaughan to the checkered flag; the margin between third and fourth places literally was inches.
"Coming this year, I've never driven on an oval -- ever," said Ambrose, 30, a two-time Australian V8 SuperCars champion. "I've never driven a (NASCAR-style) stock car ever. I've come from a road racing background so it's been a very difficult transition and wasn't one we expected to be easy."
Saturday's performance was a far cry from Ambrose's first stop on a 1.5-mile oval. He completed only four laps at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May before an accident sent the driver -- known Down Under as "Devil Racer" -- to the garage with a 36th-place finish.
His three most recent starts from a top-10 position, including a fourth at Kansas Speedway, pointed to Ambrose's potential. His best finish before Saturday, however, was an 18th recorded June 23 at The Milwaukee Mile.
Ambrose admits to having received a great deal of counsel -- and not just from his crew chief Gary Cogswell and the rest of the team's cadre of drivers that include teammate Bobby East, a former USAC National Champion, and NASCAR Busch Series veterans Stacy Compton and Jon Wood.
"Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) and Brendan Gaughan have been great to me, too and I've been able to go up to them and ask questions," he said. "But it's kind of hard (as a rookie) to race against people you know (and respect)."
After Saturday's performance, the teaching veterans likely are thinking, "Class dismissed."