BUSCH: Las Vegas: Marcos Ambrose preview

HIGH STAKES FOR AMBROSE IN LAS VEGAS Team Australia driver Marcos Ambrose has a lot to play for as he enters the fourth race of the NASCAR Busch Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend. The Australian currently...

HIGH STAKES FOR AMBROSE IN LAS VEGAS

Team Australia driver Marcos Ambrose has a lot to play for as he enters the fourth race of the NASCAR Busch Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend.

The Australian currently lies equal fifth in the NASCAR Busch Series standings and is the equal leader of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award with ex-Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya.

Ambrose will race the Aussie Vineyards-backed #59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford Fusion in familiar territory this weekend at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Not only did Ambrose perform well at the recently reconfigured speedway in the preseason test at the venue on February 5-6, the two-time Australian V8 Supercar champion also raced at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in last year's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event, where he netted a strong seventh place finish and lead 12 laps.

The Las Vegas Motor Speedway was reconfigured last season shortly before the truck race, with the banking in the turns increased from 12 degrees to 20, making for a much faster race track.

Ambrose took a liking to the fast nature of Las Vegas in last year's Truck Series event, finishing seventh and leading laps in the last half of the race despite being sent to the back of the field for speeding in pit lane early in the race.

Ambrose made a second visit to the venue in February when the drove the Aussie Vineyards-backed #59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford Fusion in preseason testing, finishing the test as seventh fastest and the leading non-Cup driver on the final day.

Coming off the back of his best Busch Series finish yet in his NASCAR road course debut in Mexico Ciity, the Australian is aiming to continue his consistent approach to the early part of the season this weekend, but is confident that the Aussie Vineyards-backed #59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford Fusion can run strongly around the fast 1.5-mile speedway.

Marcos Ambrose -- Aussie Vineyards-backed #59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford Fusion

"We had a really good test at Las Vegas in the preseason and I managed to get comfortable in the car pretty quickly," said Ambrose.

"It's really fast around Las Vegas in a Busch car -- when you are running at up to 190mph and doing 30-seconds flat around a 1.5-mile oval you're really moving.

"It's a handling track so you've really got to be comfortable in the car and know what it's doing. It's very different to driving the Busch car and the Truck around there but if you are solid in one you should carry that over to the other.

"Last year's truck race in Las Vegas was a good one for us. We had a really strong truck and had it really moving along, especially towards the end of the race. That's the key to so many of these events -- having a car that's fast in the last half of the race."

"We just need to keep doing the laps, finishing races and getting solid results. That's always been our goal for the first part of the season and so far we have finished every lap.

"The points situation is looking good for us so far so we need to keep improving and continue to finish these races in a strong position."

FORD RACING INTERVIEWS MARCOS AMBROSE

Heading into this weekend's Sam's Town 300, the fourth race in the 2007 NASCAR Busch Series, Marcos Ambrose was interviewed by Ford Racing USA. Here is what he had to say:

Marcos Ambrose, a rookie in NASCAR Busch Series competition, finds himself tied for fifth in the driver point standings heading into this weekend's fourth race of the season.

Ambrose, who finished seventh last season in the truck series event at the newly-reconfigured Las Vegas Motor Speedway, spoke about the start of his season and this weekend's Sam's Town 300.

QUESTION: HEADING INTO THE SEASON, DID YOU THINK YOU'D HAVE A TOP-FIVE START IN THE POINT STANDINGS?

MARCOS AMBROSE: "No, not in my wildest dreams did I think we'd get off to such a solid start. We just wanted to finish races early on in the season. We did that and we've been conservative and we haven't set a blistering pace, but we've been knocking off solid results and finishes, and here we are.

I don't know if we're going to stay there very long, but it's nice to get off to a good start because it takes off the pressure off of being in the top 35 in points after five races."

Q: YOU WERE FORCED TO SIT OUT THE FIRST THREE RACES OF THE TRUCK SEASON LAST YEAR, SO YOU NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO RUN FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP. HOW IS YOUR MINDSET DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?

MA: "It's huge because it gives you the opportunity to start with everybody and build a base. That's what we couldn't do in the truck series. We never felt like we had a base to work from because we missed those first three races.

It's a huge thing mentally to accept that you are never going to get into the top 10 in points even if you win a bunch of races. That's where I'm coming from. We can build a base because we started the season with everybody and we've got something to work from.

Already, we've got a nice platform to work from, but we've got to get into a quarter of the season before we can start to say that we have a real base to work from. But, it's a great start and we hope to keep it running."

Q: AS A NEWCOMER TO THE SERIES, DO YOU FEEL A TOP-FIVE START TO THE SEASON GIVES YOU ADDED RESPECT FROM YOUR COMPETITORS?

MA: "Probably not, because to gain their respect you've got to perform on the race track. The important thing is to run fast and run well in the races.

I guess Mexico helped us get some credit there on the road-course racing, but we have to match that for the ovals. My focus right is to have a couple of solid runs on the ovals and build some confidence there and get the respect that way."

Q: THE SERIES HEADS TO LAS VEGAS THIS WEEKEND, A TRACK THAT WAS RECONFIGURED LAST YEAR. CAN YOU COMMENT ON YOUR TEST SESSION THERE LAST MONTH?

MA: "It's a tough one, someone like myself -- a rookie -- trying to compete in Busch racing at a place like Las Vegas. We had a good test. We ran strong and in the top 10 both days, but I've got a lot to learn and I don't feel comfortable yet on the ovals, as much as I should.

When I'm doing a fast lap, I'm holding my breath, so I hope to get over that hurdle sooner rather than later and start to feel confident going into these oval races."

Q: YOU RAN THE TRUCK SERIES RACE AT LAS VEGAS LAST YEAR AFTER THE TRACK WAS RECONFIGURED. WILL THAT BE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE?

MA: "I think it neutralizes itself out. The Cup regulars are going to be doing twice as many laps in practice than I will, so you can't say that they're not going to have enough laps on the race track considering we've already done two days of testing there. I think it's going to balance out to nothing.

I feel like I'm not going in with any advantage into Vegas compared to California."

-credit: taus

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya