FOUR LIVERIES FOR AMBROSE IN 2009 SPRINT CUP CAMPAIGN Marcos Ambrose will campaign four different liveries on his Michael Waltrip Racing-built machinery in his first full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2009. Ambrose and JTG ...
FOUR LIVERIES FOR AMBROSE IN 2009 SPRINT CUP CAMPAIGN
Marcos Ambrose will campaign four different liveries on his Michael Waltrip Racing-built machinery in his first full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2009.
Ambrose and JTG Daugherty Racing will alternate the livery of the #47 entry throughout the season, with Little Debbie, Kingsford, Clorox and Bush's Beans all part of the 2009 program.
Ambrose will have around 14 cars at his disposal for the 36 races in this year's Sprint Cup Series, the top level of NASCAR. As part of the technical alliance that JTG Daugherty Racing has formed with Michael Waltrip Racing, Ambrose's cars will be built and maintained out of the 140,000 square foot MWR facility in Cornelius, North Carolina.
The MWR team was formed in 2007 and is co-owned by two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and businessman Robert Kaufmann.
At the helm of MWR's engineering department are Adelaide-born Technical Director Nick Hughes and newly appointed Director of Competition Steve Hallam, who joined the team in the off-season from the McLaren Formula One team.
Hughes moved to the United States to work for Penske Racing Shocks, before moving into the NASCAR industry with Evernham Motorsports, working on the #9 car of Kasey Kahne.
While working with that team, Hughes gave Ambrose a tour of the team garage at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2003. This was Ambrose's first taste of NASCAR action and the start of his switch from V8 Supercar racing to NASCAR.
Hughes and Ambrose will now be working together, the two countrymen excited about the prospects of the MWR operation and the #47 JTG Daugherty Racing entry ahead of this season.
"I've always had a huge amount of respect for Marcos, I've paid a lot of attention to his career over the years in Australia," said Hughes.
"I really never imagined that he would be over here racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and I would be working with him, but that fact that that's happened I think is fantastic."
Hallam comes to MWR with 27 years of experience in Formula One with Lotus and McLaren. In the role as Head of Race Operations at McLaren, Hallam played a pivotal role in Lewis Hamilton winning last year's F1 world title, the fifth world championship that Hallam has been involved with in his time in F1.
"It would have been easy to stay at McLaren until I retired," said Hallam.
"But what attracted me to Michael Waltrip Racing was the opportunity to work with a young team and, in particular, to be part of the continued development and growth of the multi-car Cup operation as they strive to provide the best equipment and support for their teams."
With MWR's expertise in charge of Ambrose's machinery for 2009, JTG Daugherty Racing has also confirmed a full sponsorship program for Ambrose's #47 machine.
Little Debbie Snack Foods will have the largest presence with at least 18 races this season featuring the McKee Foods brand on the #47 Toyota Camry.
The Clorox Company, a long time sponsor of Tad and Jodi Geschickter's team, will sponsor Ambrose in at least 12 races this season with it's Kingsford and Clorox brands, making this the third-straight season that Ambrose will suit up in the colours of Kingsford Charcoal.
Bush's Beans, an associate sponsor on Ambrose's #59 Nationwide Series entry for the past two seasons, is stepping up with Ambrose to also make its debut in the top level of NASCAR. Bush's Beans will serve as the primary sponsor for two races this season in back to back races in Richmond and Darlington in May.
Jay Bush and 'Duke' even came along to Charlotte to see the new #47 Bush's Beans Toyota Camry first hand.
"We have some sensational sponsors on board for this season and the cars all look great," said Ambrose.
"We are very lucky to have such great sponsors and they are all great people as well and really part of the JTG Daugherty Racing family.
"It's going to be great to get out on track in these race cars. MWR is a team on the up and they really have very smart people involved in the engineering side of things.
"When you put it all together we have some really great things happening this season."
Ambrose's participation in NASCAR Nationwide Series is still to be confirmed, but whatever the case it will not be a full-time schedule, with full attention going towards the Australian's first season in the top-level Sprint Cup Series.
Ambrose is a likely, but unconfirmed, starter for the two Nationwide Series races in August, at Watkins Glen International -- where Ambrose is the defending race winner -- and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada, where Ambrose has led the most laps for two consecutive years only to have luck go against him.
Ambrose will become the first Australian to race in the world-famous Daytona 500 when he takes the start for the opening race in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next month.
Ambrose will be on-track at the 2.5-mile superspeedway in Daytona Beach, Florida when the first Sprint Cup practice session for the season kicks off on February 7.
Q & A with Michael Waltrip Racing Technical Director Nick Hughes.
Hughes is originally from Adelaide in South Australia and oversees design and preparation of MWR's three Sprint Cup entries, including the #47 entry of fellow Australian Marcos Ambrose.
QUESTION: What part of Australia are you from?
NICK HUGHES: I grew up in Adelaide, it's a city of about a million people, so it's one of Australia's biggest cities. It's in South Australia on the south coast.
Q: At what age did you get into racing?
I started racing go-karts when I was about 12 years old, I raced those for a while. Then I raced Formula Ford back in Australia. So yeah, I was pretty young when I first got into it.
Q: How did you get into it? Was there anyone in particular who had an influence on you to start racing? Maybe a family member, a friend, or a driver?
Um -- no, not really. Adelaide used to host the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix and the first race that they had there was in 1985. I would have been 11 years old and my parents took me to watch the race and I think that's probably what sparked my interest in road racing.
Q: What led to you leaving Australia to come and pursue a career here in the U.S.?
I started working in motor racing in Australia after I graduated from university and I'd actually been working for a distributor of Penske Racing Shocks, which is a U.S. owned company so I made some contacts with people in the U.S. through Penske and after working for the distributor in Australia for about a year and a half I made the swap over to working in their main design office in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Q: What were your feelings when you heard you were going to take over the as Technical Director here at MWR?
Yeah obviously I had a working relationship with Eric Warren so to see him going was disappointing. He's a smart guy, I think he's contributed a lot to the company so it was a little bit bitter-sweet.
I think sad to see him go but I am excited about the opportunity to step into that role. So yeah, it was a little bitter-sweet initially but at this point I am really just looking forward now and pretty excited about the group of people that we have here.
Q: So what do you feel that you bring to the table that will help the teams here and the organization as a whole?
Well I think that one of my advantages, just personally, is that I can relate pretty well to most of the people in the shop. I feel like I do that pretty well. I have spent quite a bit of time on the road with the race teams, so I think I sort of balance the engineering with more of the traditional approach.
I realise there is a balance to be struck between experience and an engineering approach and I think that finding that balance point between those two things is something I can do.
Q: From your point of view, what are some of the strengths MWR has to build on, and what are some of the weaknesses you will try to address?
I think one of our major strengths is our people. I think we have good people here. It's something that's difficult to find, a good group of people that have good chemistry. I think that chemistry between people is something that we need to keep working on, but I'll tell you that I think our people are the biggest asset that we have.
I think one of the areas we need to work on is improving communication between the different groups and different people throughout the organisation. From an engineering side I think it is always a process of continuous improvement. On the car there is always something we can improve from a performance aspect and at this point it's just a matter of prioritising what is going to give us the biggest impact out on the track.
Q: What do you think about MWR's alliance with JTG Daugherty Racing bringing in fellow Aussie Marcos Ambrose?
I think its great actually, we share a common history. We both raced Formula Fords in Australia, I have to look back and double check this, I am not sure if we ever raced in the same race or not because I think I was leaving to come over here at about the time he was running successfully down there.
I've always had a huge amount of respect for Marcos, I've paid a lot of attention to his career over the years in Australia. I really never imagined that he would be over here racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and I would be working with him, but that fact that that's happened I think is fantastic.
I am really excited to work with him and there are other aspects of that relationship as well. Him bringing Frankie Kerr (#47 crew chief) over and Ken Douglas (formerly of SBR in V8 Supercars, now JTGD/MWR engineer) as well, both of those guys bring a lot to the table so the whole relationship is quite exciting.
Q: So you are not sure if you have raced against him before, but have your paths crossed otherwise?
We definitely have crossed paths before, I have to look back to see if we competed against each other, but he came over to the states, I think it was probably in 2003, I think it was to look around.
He went to a few NASCAR races, and that was the first time I actually met him. I took him for a tour of Evernham's shop when I was working there, that was the first time we really got to meet. We hung out at the Bristol race as well, so yeah our paths have crossed.
Q: Where do you see MWR going in the next three or so years? What are some of the short and long term goals of the team?
I think, just looking back, we set goals at the beginning of the year to get all of the cars in the top 35 after the first five races. For the end of the year it was to have a car in the top 20, a car in the top 30, and a car in the top 35 and I think we are very close to reaching those goals.
Moving forward to next year we would like to win our first race in the Sprint Cup series and have a car run in the top 15, and you know at that point you are knocking on the door to the Chase.
I think for next year it is a realistic goal, especially considering the way we have run towards the latter end of this year, to be running in the top 15. It is an achievable goal. You know, you've got to be realistic, we can't set ourselves unrealistic goals and say we want to win the championship. Of course, everyone does. But as for realistic goals, I think the top 15 for next year, and if we can achieve that then our next goal will be to make the Chase, and then the year after that looking to be competitive in the Chase and challenge for a championship.