MARCOS AMBROSE READY FOR NASCAR TRUCK DEBUT Australian motor racing star Marcos Ambrose will make his American debut in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia this weekend -- and there are plenty talking it ...
MARCOS AMBROSE READY FOR NASCAR TRUCK DEBUT
Australian motor racing star Marcos Ambrose will make his American debut in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia this weekend -- and there are plenty talking it up.
After missing the first three rounds because of concerns about his lack of experience on the fast super speedways at Daytona, Atlanta and California, Ambrose is now ready to go.
A two-time V8 Supercar Champion in Australia, Wood Brothers/JTG Racing are hoping to transform his previous success into a successful NASCAR career.
"I don't know if this sport is ready for Marcos Ambrose," said Eddie Wood, co-owner of Ambrose's Ford F150 in Saturday's Kroger 250 at the Martinsville Speedway.
"He's something else. He's the biggest racing star the country's (Australia) has known. We believe he's going to be all of that, if not more, here in America."
Ambrose will make his NASCAR debut this Saturday. NASCAR wanted him to skip the first three races until they were convinced his success in Australia would translate to its brand of racing.
"I got here in January and I've been ready to race since the day I got here," Ambrose said.
"I've been eager to get behind the wheel and race. The one good thing about waiting for NASCAR is it gave me a chance to watch from the sidelines.
"I spent time in the shop to get a perspective of how these trucks are built, I spent time at the racetrack watching how Jon Wood worked as the driver. I learned a lot about how the truck changes during the race and how a driver and crew chief have to work to make it better.
"More important, I learned no matter what side of the ocean you're from, success always comes back to one thing - people. It's people that build these trucks, people that perform pit stops and people that drive these trucks. I believe I'm surrounded by the best people in the business. I just want to do my part."
Ambrose is one of the most-recognised athletes in his native country. He enjoys rock-star status after winning consecutive Supercar Championships. He will bring his flamboyant personality to the sport, as well as international media attention.
He will be joining a race team with impressive credentials. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest team in the Nextel Cup Series and it's fielded the most winners in Ford Racing history. Wood Brothers partner JTG Racing has the longest current relationship between a driver, team and series sponsor in Stacy Compton and Kingsford Sure Fire charcoal.
"It's an honor to be chosen from a long list of drivers who would love to be with Wood Brothers/JTG Racing," Ambrose said.
"The team provides a career path through NASCAR major series, all the way to Nextel Cup. I'm looking forward to the challenge and the next phase of my career. This is a big move in my career, but it's the next logical step. We've had a lot of success in Australia and it's going to be fun to see if we can carry some of that over here in the States."
Ambrose's toughest competition for rookie of the year honors probably will come from his Wood Brothers/JTG Racing teammate, Bobby East. He will drive the No. 21 Ford.
Ambrose was not only is the first driver in seven years to win back-to-back V8 Supercar championships, he was the first Ford driver in 30 years to win four consecutive races. He became the flagship driver for Ford Australia, and it wasn't difficult for the car company to support a move to the United States.
"Marcos and Bobby are a very important part of our driver development program," Wood said.
"It's going to be fun to watch Marcos grow as a driver in NASCAR. And it's going to be fun to see how his personality catches on. One thing's for sure, half-way around the world, everyone will be watching."
Pole qualifying for Kroger 250 is Saturday at noon. The race is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. start on Speed later that afternoon.
RECENT TESTING -- THIS WEEKEND
Ambrose recently completed a solid test at Rockingham Speedway and has been spending some time at the Woods Brothers facility most days to ensure he learns as much about his environment as quickly as possible.
His custom seat was finalised a couple of weeks ago and the team has been "tweaking" the rest of his Ford F-150 truck to make sure it fits like a glove this weekend.
Only five spots on the grid will be available this weekend for drivers of Ambrose's oval experience and about eight drivers will be vying for those positions.
"I'm excited about the first race, but I have to qualify first," said Ambrose.
"There are just five available spots up for grabs this weekend and there will be eight guys trying to fill them.
"I have to be right on the money, there will be no time to ease into this. There is no doubt that NASCASR will be making sure I am quick enough and doing the necessary things out on the track.
"They have their way of doing things and I have to adapt to the US racing system. They will certainly be evaluating me and will not give me a full licence until they are totally satisfied that I can do the job. That's the way it is and the way it should be."