AMBROSE FINISHES 14TH IN DIRT-TRACK PRELUDE TO THE DREAM AT ELDORA Australian NASCAR ace Marcos Ambrose has finished in a commendable 14th place racing out of his comfort zone on the fast Eldora Speedway in the Gillette Young Guns Prelude...
AMBROSE FINISHES 14TH IN DIRT-TRACK PRELUDE TO THE DREAM AT ELDORA
Australian NASCAR ace Marcos Ambrose has finished in a commendable 14th place racing out of his comfort zone on the fast Eldora Speedway in the Gillette Young Guns Prelude to the Dream in Ohio today.
Ambrose finished on the lead lap in an encouraging performance for the Sprint Cup Series regular in a star-studded field of 23 drivers in the high-profile charity event in front of over 23,000 fans and a significant television audience.
The race was won by Eldora Speedway owner and event organiser Tony Stewart, who currently leads the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, with Clint Bowyer second and Kyle Busch third.
For Ambrose it was a baptism of fire running an 850-horsepower Late Model machine around the high-banks of the fast half-mile dirt speedway, racing against drivers who grew up on dirt track racing.
Ambrose's racing education came on the kart tracks and racing circuits of Tasmania, but now as a NASCAR regular the 33-year-old was invited by Stewart to participate in the HBO Pay-Per-View event, an honour in itself for Ambrose in his fourth season in NASCAR competition since leaving Australia after two V8 Supercar championship wins.
The Prelude to the Dream is an annual Late Model event involving NASCAR stars as well as other North American motorsport personalities.
Tonight's fifth running of the event raised over US$1million for military-themed charities, with Stewart winning the event for the third time, with Carl Edwards and Kenny Wallace the other race winners in the event's history.
Ambrose will this weekend line-up for the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway aboard the #47 Clorox entry of JTG Daugherty Racing.
Ambrose finished in 11th place in May this year at the 0.75-mile D-shaped oval and is keen to improve on his four top-five and seven top10 finishes already this season.
WHAT MARCOS HAS TO SAY --
QUESTION: 14th place and on the lead lap is a great result given you are so far out of your comfort zone on the dirt. And you overcame some damage in your heat race?
"I got into the fence in Turn 3 there in the heat race and just damaged the lower control arm so we had to fix that and start at the back for the feature," said Ambrose.
"I just stayed out of trouble and learned a lot and had a lot of fun and finished 14th.
"By the end of the race I started to feel a lot more comfortable running up against the fence around the outside and gained a lot of speed. It went great and I can't complain.
"It's a tough field and a lot of these guys have grown up doing this kind of racing. I felt pretty vulnerable out there in the heats and in qualifying and just didn't know where I should and shouldn't be on the race track and what I should be doing.
"By the end I was feeling pretty good about it and I'm looking forward to getting the chance to do it again."
QUESTION: It must be a massive learning curve adjusting to the dirt and it's obviously a lot harder than it looks. How would you describe it to someone who comes from a circuit racing background?
"Well, you've pretty much got to turn right to go left and you use the throttle to steer it and the brake to turn it into the corner.
"It's just a very foreign world and the more the car moves around the more in control you are. I guess it's a bit like a driving a rally car; you've got to run them sideways to really have control.
"So it was a blast. The cars are not easy to drive. They have over 850 horsepower and they're pretty light. It keeps you busy for the entire race."
QUESTION: It must be a thrill to not only get the invitation from Tony Stewart to race at Eldora, but also just to be a part of a race that not only raises so much money for charity but has also become a massive event in its own right?
"Yeah, all the drivers take it really seriously and everyone wants to try and do well there. You get a lot of people who tune in and buy the Pay-Per-View TV for it. It raises over US$1million for Tony's charities and this year it was supporting the army-themed charities, so it was for a great cause and I was really excited to be included in it.
"It's pretty select territory up there and you've got to get invited by one of the best drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, so it was just great to be part of it."
On the Richmond Sprint Cup event this weekend --
"We had a strong finish at Richmond earlier this year and we are hoping to bounce back following a 23rd-place finish at Atlanta (Motor Speedway)," said Ambrose.
"Richmond is a track I enjoy racing because it is a short track that feels like a mile-and-a-half track. It's just really fast and smooth."
"We've had a respectable season and a goal now is for us to finish in the top-15 in points," said Ambrose.
"I'm confident and I have a great crew. It's a realistic goal for us with the way we have been running this season."