Ambrose - NASCAR teleconference, part 1

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Marcos Ambrose June 15, 2010 An interview with: MARCOS AMBROSE HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR Cam Video Teleconference. We're in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint...

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Marcos Ambrose
June 15, 2010

An interview with: MARCOS AMBROSE

HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR Cam Video Teleconference. We're in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Infineon Raceway out in beautiful Sonoma, California. The race is the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Special guest today, driver No. 47 Clorox/Kleenex Toyota, Marcos Ambrose. In just a very short time, a few seasons in NASCAR, he's established himself as one of our sports premier road racers. Marcos has two NASCAR Nationwide Series victories at Watkins Glen. Last year in Sprint Cup he was second at the Glen and third at Infineon.

Marcos, we'd like to start off today getting some questions from fans via our Twitter account. We have a gentleman, Gilbert, from San Diego, California. He's been following your career for a while. He wanted to know if you could maybe tell him a little about the horsepower difference between the V-8 super cars you drove in your native Australia and the cars you drive now. And maybe if there are any other similarities between the two cars on the racetrack?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Sure, both are basically push-rod V-8 engines. We use a cast lock on the car I used to drive. It was based off a Windsor block from the forward side. They run fuel injection, 75,000 RPM, 7,500 RPM rev limit. They run a slightly detuned Cup size motor, and we really are all about, you know, a lot of torque from those motors.

Six-speed gear box really helps them get off the corner. Road racing you've got to balance the car out from the bottom-end as well as the top-end speed that you need on the high side.

It's a really great series comparing the car. But I came to America to basically up spec. It's a bigger crowd, bigger events, bigger prize money, bigger responsibilities, too, and so the style of racing is very different between the two.

In NASCAR you're racing every week. You're racing on ovals predominantly. When you do get a NASCAR on the road course, they're really hard to get a handle because they have different style suspension with the truck arm rea rends and the bump rubber in the front. They're very heavy cars. Where the road car is a little lighter, less power, but they handle better.

HERB BRANHAM: Questions for today's NASCAR Cam guest, Marcos Ambrose.

Q: While we're talking about differences between Australia and here, I wanted to find out since you've been racing in NASCAR for a while and you've got your share of ovals under your belt as well, do you feel maybe more comfortable on the ovals now than you do the road courses?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, definitely when a NASCAR Sprint Cup car is handling well on ovals, it feels easy. When they're having a bad day on ovals, it's a lot of hard work. Whereas, in road racing, it's always a compromise. You never have the perfect power down. You never have the perfect brakes. You never have the perfect handling full stop. So I'm used to that compromise.

So when I have a bad handling race car on a road course in NASCAR, I deal with it better than what I have been able to high speed ovals. That being said, I think a lot of guys when the car's off on high-speed ovals, they have issues just making it into the lap let alone finishing the race.

But I came to NASCAR to race on the ovals. I enjoy the ovals. It's really why I'm in North America to compete. It's because of the oval racing that NASCAR provides. It's nice to have a couple of road course races mixed in just to let everybody know that I can still get around a road course. But predominantly I'm here for the ovals and really enjoy that aspect.

Q: Could you talk about after such an up and coming on the rise type season as you had last year to encounter the difficulties, could you talk about the difficulties and how tough it's been for you mentally and emotionally to deal with what obviously has to be some is what disappointing after a star after last season? And also, going into road courses, to Sonoma and then soon to Watkins Glen, especially to Sonoma, do you look at this as a place, okay, now I can just enjoy and do my thing, or do you feel you're putting a certain amount of pressure on yourself to use the places you do best to sort of break out of the doldrums you've been in this year?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, it's been a really tough season, no doubt about it. We've had a couple of non-finishes finishes with mechanical problems. We've had a points penalty, 150-odd points there a few races back which hurt us in the points title. We've had a lot of non-finishes for crashes, some my fault, some not. So we've got a lot of things going on.

Sure my confidence has been hit, our team confidence has been hit. We had a breakout season last year. We always were trying to keep in check the expectation because we knew that 2010 was going to be a challenge just knowing our position for a single-car team, getting constant support from Michael Waltrip Racing. So we feel independent that we have troubles of every independent team that's trying to run out there on the racetrack against super teams.

So we've wanted to keep everything in check. But that being said, we definitely haven't performed to our own expectations. And last week was good. We finished 16th after some early problems, and that hopefully will leap frog us into a good weekend at Sonoma, and if we can finally get back up into the front, it might start us on a roll and get the confidence back we need as a team.

Q: Do you feel any extra pressure to do well at Sonoma or are you just going to enjoy road racing as you know it?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, there's pressure every week. So whenever you're running badly, you've probably got more pressure than when you're running well. So expect to run well at Sonoma. We should be somewhere in the Top 10 in practice, in qualifying trim, which sets us up well for the race.

That race is what it is. If you get caught up in someone else's problems, so be it. You just put your best foot forward and try to apply yourself. So I think a race like Sonoma this weekend, I'll be breathing a little easier knowing that it's my forte. It's what I've grown up doing. I should have as good a chance of any of running at the front.

Any time I've been there I've run at the front both years I've attempted the race. We've done a lot of practice, lot of research on the car, we've done a lot of development. Fingers crossed, it's going to work out.

Q: I was just talking to Brad Daugherty on the phone a while ago. And he is very concerned that you guys are down on horsepower to the Gibbs Toyotas and the other makes. Do you think restarts might be especially tough for you? Is that a concern for you because of being down a little bit on horsepower and the restarts on the road course?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Firstly, I can't complain about my package. I've got a dream job. I've got awesome equipment from MWR. They supply fantastic equipment and personnel and services. KID trying their hardest on the engines. We've had some issues, we're working through them. We're a good group. I have no complaints about the effort that's going into our package and what I've got.

We've got enough stuff to run around the front every single weekend. So there are no complaints there from me. But even if we did have issues like you're talking about with engines, Sonoma is always using top gear. So it's all about forward drive, good car handling. Even the straightaways on the restart has a bend in it. So horsepower's really not going to play any factor.

The majority of the team when's they come to the race at Sonoma, they start to detune that engine to help forward drive, so I don't expect any issues at all with the power plant.

Q: What were your goals at the beginning of the season and how have they changed after just one Top 10 and sitting 30th in points?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Sure, we wanted to contend for the Chase and win a race. That was our motto for the start of the season. Obviously our points have definitely not gone the way we wanted to. We've had five cars, we haven't been consistent enough to run for the Top 10 on a regular basis which is where you need to be to start thinking about winning a race.

So we've got some work to do, no doubt. From this point on all we're trying to do is get our feet in and going. Get our confidence back. We've been hit pretty hard with confidence. You know, it's a tough battle. Racing is a very aggressive, tough business.

You know, when you have a bad period like we've been through, you know, you've got to get out of that hole before you can breathe. So our goal now is to start gaining momentum, start getting consistency, start stringing up those Top 10s, and hopefully then we can get back on track.

We've lost time. We've lost a month here, a lot of races in the doldrums. Hopefully we can pull ourselves out and finish the second half of the season strong.

Q: When your confidence is low, do you ever fear for your job?

MARCOS AMBROSE: I fear for my job every Sunday. You're only as good as your last race, and racing is a tough business. You get in a slump and people start looking at you, you start looking at yourself. As a race driver, as a person, as a dad, you've got to look at the commitment you're making to racing and then when it starts to go pear shaped like it has for us this year, you start reflecting on what am I doing wrong? Have I lost my touch? Have I lost focus? All of those things come into play.

But like any sportsman, I'm pretty stubborn, and I feel I'm applying myself the best I can. We've just had a rotten time of it, and we'll bounce back from it. So I guess I worry for my teammates and my team personnel more than I do about my own confidence.

Q: You were talking earlier about the differences in the cars between what you were driving in Australia and what you were driving now. How about the racing strategy when it comes to road racing? Are there things because of your extensive experience on road courses that maybe you got one up on some of the other guys? Or are there things that maybe you learned from them that you wouldn't have known otherwise?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, I'm fortunate that I really know what I need on a road course. I know where I need to affect performance, and where I need to worry about so much, and what areas of the race car I really need to focus on.

From the first lap of practice I'm ready for that and I really know what I need. I don't need to warm up to a road course. I don't need to dial myself into the track. I don't need to work on my brake markers. All of that is pretty much engrained in my brain.

So we can get straight to work on practice day and work on getting the cars better, and work on getting our sequencing for the race better. And that is a huge factor in road racing. You've got to really get in front of the car in the race weekend so you can make good adjustments for the race start.

It's a long race Sonoma. You wear your brakes out. The car wears out, tire wear is crucial. So there are a lot of things we're working on, and I feel like I have a competitive advantage against many drivers in the field, not all of them.

I think the hardest road race I've ever come across has been in NASCAR. I mean Tony Stewart did not miss a beat in Watkins Glen last year. I tried to chase him down with 15 laps to go, he never made a mistake. Kasey Kahne was the fastest car, no doubt, at Infineon last year. And these guys are as good as they get. They're very talented drivers, they're great teams and hard to beat.

Q: Typically the strategy at Infineon has been basically you back up your pit stops to the end of the race. We see a lot of cars coming in earlier in the race when you think they wouldn't need to pit, but that's planning for the end of the race. Now that we have three chances at a green/white checker finish and fuel mileage can really come into play, have you and Frank talked about what your strategy is going to be on Sunday?

MARCOS AMBROSE: No, we haven't really talked about it. We've just got to try to run at the front all day and pit when we need to for our fuel mileage. Each team has different fuel mileage numbers that they get, depending on who is driving the car or what kind of carburetor configuration they've got and what kind of RPM they'll be using on the racetrack.

So we'll go through our fuel mileage numbers during practice and qualifying practices to get ourselves as familiar with our engine and that track as we can. And then it's going to come down to trying to stay on strategy.

The last couple of road races we've had to be off strategy during practice or fuel mileage problems that we had during the race. So we've got to really make sure that we try to just stay on strategy with the majority of the field so we don't have to pass them twice, and if we can do that, we should be somewhere in the front.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kasey Kahne , Marcos Ambrose
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing