AMBROSE ON A FIVE-YEAR PLAN Team Australia NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Marcos Ambrose might not be collecting race trophies at the rate he became familiar with in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship, but that is not a concern for...
AMBROSE ON A FIVE-YEAR PLAN
Team Australia NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Marcos Ambrose might not be collecting race trophies at the rate he became familiar with in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship, but that is not a concern for team owner Tad Geschickter.
Ambrose, who was born and raised in Tasmania, but who owns a property on Queensland's Gold Coast, has been on a steep learning curve since rolling out for his first ever oval race at Martinsville in March.
The highlight so far was a third in qualifying at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte last month with his highest race finish being 23rd at Mansfield the following week.
This weekend is the 10th round of the series at the 2-mile (3.2km) Michigan International Speedway, but will be only Ambrose's seventh event after he missed the first three races because of his rookie ranking.
In recent weeks he seems to have found his "groove" in his Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Ford F-150.
He has completed 610 of 618 possible laps in the last three races, pumping new energy into the first-year team at Wood Brothers/JTG Racing.
Ambrose appeared headed to a Top 15 finish last week at Texas when he was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel.
This weekend he heads to Michigan knowing that his team owns 11 past victories at the track -- a record for the Nextel Cup Series.
The Wood Brothers won the first Cup race at Michigan in 1969. Saturday's race will be the company's first effort at Michigan in the truck series.
"Marcos is one of the smoothest and most talented drivers that we have seen in quite some time," said Geschickter.
"There is a huge difference between road course racing and oval track racing.
"Marcos has been quite fast when he is on the track by himself; he can already qualify up front with drivers who have been doing this their entire lives.
"When the race starts he just needs some time to get accustomed to cars racing close together, the air moving around, and the speeds that you see in NASCAR.
"We knew going into this venture that Marcos' learning curve would be steep. He has the talent to do this and we have the patience to allow him to learn this form of racing one step at a time.
"We are focused on what he will be able to do for us in the top series of NASCAR in 5 years, not on where he is finishing during this learning process."
During his five-year V8 Supercar career, which is regarded as the most competitive touring car championship in the world, Ambrose had 65 starts for 18 poles, 27 races wins and 15 round wins.
He won the title in both 2003 and 2004, was third in 2005 and 2002 and was seventh in his debut season in 2001.
Despite his current lack of NASCAR race results, Ambrose is enjoying the challenge of trying to "make it" in the world's toughest motorsport market.
"There is no doubt that this has been a very steep learning curve, but nothing we were not expecting," said Ambrose.
"We came here with a plan and so far so good.
"Sure, I would love to be winning races, but that is just not reality at this stage of the program.
"I have been like a sponge over the last four or five months, just soaking everything in and learning something every time I am in the car or just walking into the race shop.
"I have a fantastic team of people around me, NASCAR has been supportive and the Team Australia relationship with the team has provided even more focus.
"I am really looking forward to getting back out there at Michigan this weekend and seeing what we can achieve."
Team Australia concept creator, Queensland businessman Craig Gore, has also continually thrown his weight behind Ambrose and the Wood Brothers/JTG Racing operation.
"Comparing oval racing to road course or street racing is like comparing baseball to cricket -- they both use a bat and ball, but they are totally different animals," said Gore.
"Marcos has just got so much to learn on an off the track and he is doing a terrific job.
"If I had a choice of an Australian driver to be representing Team Australia, Aussie Vineyards and all out partners in NASCAR, then Marcos would be that driver.
"Marcos just had so much success in Australia that many people are just expecting way too much of him in these early stages because they don't understand the enormity of task."
Ambrose, who has competed in five of the nine rounds of the championship, now sits in 33rd position in the championship and has earned $US52,588 in prizemoney.