Ambrose double duty weekend at Sonoma, Milwaukee

CUP DEBUT THIS WEEKEND AS PART OF DOUBLE DUTY FOR AMBROSE Marcos Ambrose will aim to make his highly anticipated NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend as he performs 'double duty' in what the Australian driver is calling "one of...

CUP DEBUT THIS WEEKEND AS PART OF DOUBLE DUTY FOR AMBROSE

Marcos Ambrose will aim to make his highly anticipated NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend as he performs 'double duty' in what the Australian driver is calling "one of the biggest weeks of his career".

Ambrose will attempt to qualify the #21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion of the famous Wood Brothers Racing team in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Qualifying for the event will be held on Friday 20 June, with the race held on Sunday.

Ambrose will also continue his campaign in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series after finishing sixth at Kentucky last weekend. Ambrose will pilot his 'usual ride', the #59 STP Ford Fusion for JTG Racing, in the Camping World RV Rental 250 at The Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 21.

Ambrose will have to qualify on speed in the #21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion for Wood Brothers Racing, as that car lies outside the Top 35 in Owner's Points and is therefore not guaranteed a starting spot.

If the Australian qualifies on Friday, he will then stay on in California and complete two further practice sessions at Infineon Raceway on Saturday, while Robert Pressley will act as a back-up driver in Milwaukee and run Ambrose's #59 STP Ford Fusion in Nationwide Series practice and qualifying.

Ambrose will then fly in for the race in Milwaukee, starting from the rear. Should Ambrose fail to qualify in Sonoma on Friday, he will fly to Milwaukee and participate in all practice and qualifying sessions for Race 17 in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Ambrose moved to the United States in 2006 to pursue a career in NASCAR after winning back-to-back Australian V8 Supercar Championships in 2003 and 2004 with Ford.

So far the Australian has 22 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts and 51 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts to his name, with two pole positions (one Truck in Kentucky in 2006, one Nationwide in Memphis in 2007) and a second place finish in Mexico City earlier this year.

Ambrose is scheduled to run 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season, all with Little Debbie as major sponsor. Eight races will be in the #21 of Wood Brothers Racing, with a further four in the #47 of JTG Racing, the team Ambrose drives for in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Ambrose will jet to California early this week, spending a day filming a television commercial for Little Debbie before heading to Infineon Raceway.

STATS AND FACTS

- the last Australian driver to start a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was Geoff Brabham in 1994 in the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on 6 August 1994

- the last Wood Brothers Racing win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came in 2001 with Elliott Sadler driving at Bristol Motor Speedway on 25 March 2001

- the last Wood Brothers Racing pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series came in 2004 with Ricky Rudd driving at Talladega Superspeedway on 25 April 2004

- Wood Brothers Racing has 97 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins and is the oldest team in NASCAR

- if Ambrose qualifies for his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend he will become only the sixth Australian to start a Cup race. Dick Johnson is the only other Australian to race a Cup event at Infineon Raceway, qualifying 11th and finishing 32nd in Sonoma, California on 11 June 1989.

- Tony Spanos holds the record for the highest finish by an Australian in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, finishing 18th at Martinsville Speedway on 26 April 1987. Johnson's qualifying effort at Infineon remains the best qualifying performance by an Australian in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.

- if Ambrose qualifies on Friday for his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut, he will then participate in two further Cup practice sessions on Saturday June 21. In these practice sessions, the #21 Ford will run without Little Debbie signage, as McKee Foods, owner of the Little Debbie Snack Foods brand, is a company owned by the McKee family, who are Seventh Day Adventists. The McKee family observes its Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and while their products may be sold on their Sabbath, the business of promoting sales stops for one day each week.

- Ambrose will have Robert Pressley as a back-up driver at The Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Pressley has worked closely with Ambrose since the Australian moved to the United States to race in NASCAR in 2006. As well as being a driver coach for Ambrose, Pressley is also a former driver for JTG Racing and is a 10-time NASCAR Nationwide Series race winner.

- the #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Fusion is currently 43rd in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Owner's Points Standings, sitting on 750 points.

- NASCAR rules allow the Top 35 cars in terms of Owner's Points to have a guaranteed start for each race, meaning that cars outside the top 35 attempt to qualify for seven remaining spots.

- The 43rd and final starting spot is reserved for the 'Champion's Provisional', which is awarded to the most recent Sprint Cup Series champion driver who does not qualify for the race. Past champions may only use this provisional six times a season. If no past champions require or are eligible for the provisional, the 43rd starting position goes to the eighth fastest driver in qualifying who is outside of the Top 35 in Owner's Points.

- Ambrose has entered one previous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, at Watkins Glen International last season in the #77 Camping World/Kingsford Ford Fusion for Robby Gordon Motorsports. Ambrose completed a solitary practice session before qualifying was rained out and Ambrose was denied his chance to qualify, as his entry was not in the Top 35 in Owner's Points.

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Q & A with Marcos Ambrose

Q: TALK ABOUT RACING AT INFINEON NEXT WEEK.

"There's a level of excitement, trepidation and anticipation. If I didn't have to qualify that car in, I'd have a totally different mind set, I'd just be totally fizzed to get it there.

"The very start of the weekend is the most difficult it's going to get. I'm anxious about getting the car in on speed, get it solid in for the race and that's what I'm focused on. I'm really focused on that. I'm anxious to get that car in, running for the Wood Brothers is special and I just want to do them proud and hopefully put on a good for my first Cup start."

Q: ARE YOU A LITTLE MORE COMFORTABLE BECAUSE IT IS A ROAD COURSE?

"There's no doubt that road racing is my cup of tea. I mean, A.J. Allmendinger is qualifying in, [Dario] Franchitti is going to qualify in and maybe [Sam] Hornish as well. There's a lot of really good road racers, Boris Said is trying to get his car in.

"There's a lot of people that's going to try and get in the race. There's no guarantee to get us in there. I'm anxious about it. I really want to do well.

"I think I've done everything I can to get ready for it. We've tested with the 21 car a couple of weeks back at VIR. We feel like we've got a decent package underneath us. I went out to Sonoma on my own and drove the track in some west coast stock cars to try and get up to speed around that track.

"I feel like I've done everything I can; now it's really just down to getting dubbed on. My focus is fully on just getting that car in the show. Once I do that, I'll be able to relax and enjoy my first Cup start. I'm really excited about it and hopefully it's the first of more to come."

Q: HOW DO YOU FIND THE SONOMA TRACK?

"It's a small track. It's a lot smaller than I thought. TV makes it look a lot bigger than it really is. There's a lot more undulation to it is well as some crazy corners in it. It is a little more technical, but everyone is a good road course racer at the Cup level, so I don't expect to have any domination there at all.

"I want to get my head around the track the best I can and get that Cup car in, sort of like I said. Each track is unique and different and I just have to learn the nuances of it in time before qualifying starts."

Q: HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HANDLE THE NATIONWIDE RACE NEXT WEEK WHILE ATTEMPTING TO MAKE THE CUP RACE?

"We're going to play it by ear. We've got all the planes and helicopters and stuff that we need to try and get it done. The first thing is to get that car [Sprint Cup #21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion] in the race in Sonoma and then we really activate that plan.

"If we don't, then I'll just make my way to Milwaukee in time to practice and qualify the car and just do the weekend as per normal. We intend to try and do both. We're going to try to, depending on how that works.

"But if I get the 21 Wood Brothers car in the race, my focus is going to be primarily on that package. I'll stay for both practices out there in Sonoma and make our way to Milwaukee to get that race done if we can."

Q: WHERE ARE YOUR EMOTIONS THINKING ABOUT GOING FROM MILWAUKEE NATIONWIDE TO SONOMA CUP?

"It's a big week. It's one of the biggest weeks of my career, logistically and the pressure and the expectation and everything. As professionals you've got to deal with all of that. I think it will be okay. I'm looking forward to it.

"I've got a great week. I'm doing an ad, a TV commercial shooting in LA during the week for Little Debbie, which is going to be a lot of fun. Then we get out to California early, so we're on the west coast time zone, which is going to help us. I'm just looking forward to it. I'm anxious about it, but at the same time, I'm really keen to get it going."

Q: DO YOU HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN FOR MILWAUKEE IF YOU MAKE THE SONOMA RACE?

"Yeah, Robert Pressley is going to do the practice for us and if I don't make it in time, he'll probably do the race for us too."

Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WORKING WITH TEAM OWNERS EDDIE AND LEN WOOD?

"Eddie is a pretty cool cat and Len. I've worked with them the last couple of years, so it's not like I'm learning them from scratch. The first time I've been in their car which comes with a burden of responsibility, but they're great team owners to work for and I just home I can get them in the race solid and do them proud and get the Wood Brothers name back out there."

Q: BECAUSE OF THE PAST WORKING RELATIONSHIP, DO YOU HAVE A GOOD CHEMISTRY WITH THE CREW?

"Yeah, it's going really well. We've been sharing the same shop, so you say 'g'day' to them as you walk pass everyday and you wave. So, they know who I am and hopefully they're getting to know what I'm all about.

"I'm not a guy that's going to cause trouble or ask a lot of them. I'm just going to jump in the car and go. I think that's what they're looking for too, and to get themselves out of the hole. They're in a position where they're qualifying in each week and that's got to be a lot of pressure for them and to have a guy just come in, jump in and go and not complain too much, that's really all I can hope to do for them."

Q: IS THERE A LOT OF PRESSURE FOR RACING FOR A TEAM WITH THEIR HISTORY?

"Not really. There's pressure every week to perform. But it's a performance business and I want to do them proud. Those guys deserve a break and hopefully I can play my part and get them back on track."

-credit: bam media

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup , NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Boris Said , Robby Gordon , Robert Pressley , Marcos Ambrose , A.J. Allmendinger , Elliott Sadler , Dick Johnson , Geoff Brabham
Teams Wood Brothers Racing