Q&A WITH MARCOS AMBROSE ON 2007 BUSCH RIDE The following is a transcript of an interview with Team Australia's Marcos Ambrose, who was confirmed as driver of the Woods Brothers/JTG Racing's ...
Q&A WITH MARCOS AMBROSE ON 2007 BUSCH RIDE
The following is a transcript of an interview with Team Australia's Marcos Ambrose, who was confirmed as driver of the Woods Brothers/JTG Racing's #59 Kingsford Charcoal® Ford Fusion for the 2007 NASCAR Busch season earlier today.
The interview was conducted by a group of Australian journalists who are at Mt Panorama, two hours drive West of Sydney, for this weekend's Bathurst 1000 -- one of the world's most famous endurance events.
Ambrose, a native of Tasmania, joined the NASCAR ranks this season after a successful V8 Supercar career in Australia where he won two championships for Ford.
He had not driven an oval race before his NASCAR Craftsman Truck debut Martinsville in April, but since then he has finished with two third-place finishes (Kansas and Nashville) and a pole (Kentucky).
He was also the WIX Filters "Lap Leader" at Kentucky and currently sits fourth in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, despite missing the first three rounds of the championship.
The 26th season of Busch Series competition begins on February 17 at Daytona International Speedway, includes two international stops, and ends November 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
The Busch Series is scheduled for 26 combination events with the Nextel Cup Series in 2007. The Busch Series will race together with the Craftsman Truck Series twice.
There will be eight Busch Series "stand-alone" events: Mexico City (March 4), Nashville (April 7 and June 9), Kentucky (June 16), Milwaukee (June 23), Indianapolis (July 28), Montreal (Aug 4) and Memphis (Oct. 27).
Q: Marcos, great news that you have signed the deal for next year's Busch Series with Wood Brothers/JTG Racing
MA: It's great news and I'm really excited about it. I really had to take my time and learn the hard lessons early on and build up for it.
Q: What will it mean to step up to Busch next year?
MA: It's a huge change. The schedule is much more hectic and rewarding. The competition is much tougher with a lot of Nextel Cup regulars running, so it's definitely a step up in performance. There is a lot more work to do within the team, the workload is much higher and the prestige is much greater.
Q: What happens with your team at the moment? Does the whole team step up or do you have to form a relationship with a whole new bunch of guys?
MA: Our whole team in going through a huge shake-up right now. The guys I've got with me may not come, but we may pick up one or two from the bunch that we have. One of the tough things here is that a lot of the crew chiefs and mechanics in the Truck Series are in there because they don't want to run a full schedule and the people we've got in the Busch Series right now don't want to leave it. I've got my eyes on a couple of guys that I'd like to bring with me because I know them well and we've got a repour, but right now we haven't really discussed the finer details.
Q: Marcos, are you going to get the chance to get a ride in the Nextel Cup at any stage next year?
MA: Don't rule anything out of the equation, but the big news right now is that we've got a Busch deal confirmed with Busch sponsorship in place already. It's a long-standing relationship in place with ST Motorsports and Kingsford Charcoal® for the #59 Ford. We've made huge inroads now and we've got a genuine American sponsor behind an international driver, so I think that's big news right at the moment.
Q: Marcos, do you think you will benefit from the road races on the schedule given your V8 Supercar background?
MA: I came over here (the US) to run the ovals. That's what excites me and that's what I like talking about. We'll be set-up for the road course races, we know we are going to go OK and it will be a nice surprise for the team when we do run a road course. But that's not my focus. I'm here to run the ovals. If running road courses was what I wanted to do I probably wouldn't be over here in NASCAR. It's really not the point of this deal. The Busch Series has a lot of big ovals and the team has trust in me that I can do the job on those tracks.
Q: The Busch Series is a bigger commitment, with an extra 10 races on the schedule compared to the Truck Series. How do you handle that commitment?
MA: I'm already doing that. I've actually gone out and bought a motorcoach and other things, so we are a lot more organised now than we were at the start of the year. You have got to be organised. You fly out on a Wednesday night or a Thursday morning and spend three or four days at a race track, come back and have Monday off and start all over again on Tuesday. It's probably easier to do that than to race where I used to in V8 Supercar, where it is a little bit spasmodic with only 13 or 14 races for the year. You gear up for a weekend and then all of a sudden you have got to wait a couple of weeks before you gear up again. I think the challenge of racing every week and getting yourself geared up for it is part of the attraction to be honest and it's something I'm really looking forward to. I don't see it as daunting, I'm just anxious for it to get started.
Q: You were restricted with your testing in the Trucks. Is this going to open up a bit more in Busch?
MA: There is still a fairly strict set of testing restrictions and they don't allow you to test at any of the circuits that you race at. There are really only a couple of race tracks over a mile that the Busch Series don't actually race at, so it's really restricted. That's one of the really big factors for people like me doing what I am trying to do and coming through. You are really spending all your time during the week getting ready for the races and the track time is pretty similar to what I had in V8 Supercars. The experience of the Trucks is a really valuable tool to have in your back pocket and it's been a great learning experience for me. I've still got a few races to go and I want to try and win one if I can, but really it's just about getting those miles because I know for me and the team, when we start revisiting some of these tracks, I'm going to be ready from the first lap of practice and that is so important.
Q: Given that you have gone so well on the longer tracks this year are you setting your sights higher in Busch next year than in Truck given there are more of the larger tracks in Busch?
MA: If you're a Busch Series regular and you don't run Nextel Cup, running in Busch is a huge opportunity because you have so many Cup drivers coming into the category from week to week on top of their other program. On race results, compared to what I have done this year, perhaps not. I want to be more consistent and run competitively more often. It has taken me some time to get comfortable in the races, maybe after the first 30-40 laps is when I can start to move forward in the pack and that's what I want to eradicate for next year. I want to get rid of those problems, those rookie problems. I want to be a more complete package and move forward from week-to-week and be more consistent than what I have been.
Q: How much influence will you have on the team next year and how much will you just be a driver?
MA: The role of a driver here is different to what it is over in Australia. I hope that over the next six months I can roll out some of my experiences of the past and that's one of the good things here in NASCAR. With me and the team this year it's all been about learning and I haven't had much of a say about what is said and done. You've got to tread very carefully over here and the team I'm with has been in NASCAR for decades, so I'm not going to go up to them in the first five minutes and tell them how it's done. It's a fine line between trying to learn and what I believe I can bring to the table over here and going too far and making them mad. So we'll pick it up but we'll be very careful and do that over time with that sort of stuff. I think the team is looking for that to be honest, going to a driver to get the whole team to step up and take it to the next level. Whether we are ready for that is a big question. It may take me a little more time to learn race tracks and get experience.
Q: Are there any restrictions on you next year? Do you have to do certain things in the Busch Series?
MA: Technically if you are a rookie you have to go to all the rookie meetings. Certainly we are going to be going for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award and will have that in our sight. The only restriction is that if you do more than seven races in Cup you loose your ability to run for the rookie prize in Nextel Cup, but that is a long way down the road and something that we are not even contemplating. The only thing you have to do is run a yellow strip on your back bumper and I think that is really just a target for the veterans to get past you. A rookie or a veteran can win a race here. There is no restriction on the points. There were a couple of times this year where we were learning so we started from the back, but we've progressed past that point.
Q: Trucks has been a mix of the veterans and the rookies, now you are going to go against the 'Buschwhackers'. You've got fair opposition with a number of Cup guys who contest the Busch Series.
MA: The Truck Series is very competitive and you have had Cup guys come into the Truck Series this year and they don't win, so it's a pretty tough category. There were a lot of genuine rookies in the Truck Series and there will be four or five genuine rookies in the Busch Series next year and of course the Cup drivers that will be in it will change from week to week depending on their Nextel Cup programs. Even to run top 20 in the Busch Series will be a big effort - don't forget they start 43 every week and they might try and qualify 50.
Q: How is your ride going to fit into the existing sponsor package of Wood Brothers/JTG Racing and what's going to happen with the link with Team Australia?
MA: The #59 car that I will be driving will be sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal® and we have a number of subsidiary sponsors that are associated with the charcoal brand. Craig Gore and his Team Australia program has been a great supporter of mine this year and he's negotiating with the team to run with us in 2007. The deal is done with the team, but I know that they are talking and I know they are keen to work something out, we'll just have to wait and see. I think over the next few weeks we are going to have a better indication of how Craig is going to fit into this whole program.
Q: Kevin Harvick leads the Busch Series this season with five races to go and he has earned around $US1.13million in prizemoney so far this season in Busch. Is that a motivating factor for you?
MA: Just being here is a motivating factor to be honest! NASCAR is big, it really is, whether you are in the Cup Series, Busch Series or Truck Series. It's a carrot over here but it's not my motivating factor to be honest with you. I've always said it's about the challenge, trying something different and being a bit of a pioneer. There is no doubt that when I step up to the Busch Series with all this money, it also costs a lot of money to run as a driver. You've got to run a coach for the year and pay a coach driver for the year and you've got to cover all your other expenses, because you are travelling all the time, for 36-38 weekends a year, the cost goes up. I'm not really looking at that because Kevin Harvick has won a lot of races and a lot of money.
-credit: bam media