One Year Later, Ambrose Still Awed By NASCAR Experience *Bobby Hamilton Jr. Fastest at Wednesday's First Test Session at Richmond International Raceway *Drivers, Teams Depart Richmond, Head Toward First Open Weekend of Season DAYTONA BEACH,...
One Year Later, Ambrose Still Awed By NASCAR Experience
*Bobby Hamilton Jr. Fastest at Wednesday's First Test Session at Richmond International Raceway
*Drivers, Teams Depart Richmond, Head Toward First Open Weekend of Season
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 28, 2007) -- One year ago this weekend, Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Ford) made his NASCAR debut at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
To call the experience daunting for the native of Tasmania who had previously raced in V8 Supercars, was hardly an exaggeration.
"I had never raced an oval of any kind until I got to Martinsville," he said in his unmistakable accent.
A year later, Ambrose is laying down laps in a NASCAR Busch Series stock car during testing at Richmond International Raceway. And despite being one of the biggest early-season surprises in the series -- he's seventh in the point standings and second to Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year rankings -- he still maintains he's somewhat awestruck.
"Twelve months this weekend," he said. "To think that now we're in the NASCAR Busch Series. I've come a long way, but I still feel like I've learned nothing. I still feel like I'm at the very beginning of my learning curve because it's so daunting, so challenging.
"I have no idea how we've ended up (seventh)."
Ambrose isn't giving himself enough credit. Through the first six races of the season, he's registered two top-10 finishes and hasn't had a result lower than 28th. He's also the top Closer in the series according to NASCAR's Loop Data Statistics with 20 total positions improved over the last 10 percent of races. Additionally, he's ninth in Green Flag Passes with 251.
After finishing 21st in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck standings last year for Wood Brothers/JTG Racing, Ambrose joined Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/American Red Cross Ford) to give the organization's NASCAR Busch Series outfit a formidable -- albeit unusual -- teammate combination: the affable Aussie and the free-spirited youngster from Stuart, Va.
"We're really on the up," he said. "We're learning about each other and learning to race each other on the track. Our team is really starting to develop and mature. The communication is great and the friendships are strong."
The kinship he feels with his team is an important factor in his overall racing development as he works his way through a new adventure.
"There are so many experienced drivers it's tough to just stay afloat when you're a rookie," he said. "Two years ago I was watching TV thinking 'how cool are those guys?' Now, you not only have to let them pass but you've got to try to race them. I've been letting them pass a lot, but eventually I'm going to have to challenge them for race position.
"It's a tough sport, this."
BOBBY HAMILTON JR. TOPS WEDNESDAY'S FIRST SESSION SPEED CHART
Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) produced the fastest time to lead the first session of testing on Day Two at Richmond.
Hamilton, who moved to 10th in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings following last Saturday's race at Bristol, had the top lap at 21.694 seconds, 124.458 mph.
Jeff Burton (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) was the fastest in both sessions on Tuesday, posting the quick time of 21.554 seconds (125.267) in the afternoon. Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Arby's Ford) was best in Tuesday's evening session at 21.745 seconds (124.166).
DOWN TIME: FIRST OPEN WEEK OF SEASON FOR SERIES DRIVERS, TEAMS
With the conclusion of two days of testing at Richmond, the drivers and teams of the NASCAR Busch Series can look forward to their first open week of the season. It's been a whirlwind schedule since mid-January when testing for the new year began at Daytona International Speedway. Since then, the series has tested at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, returned to Daytona for Speed Weeks and the season-opening race before moving on to California Speedway.
Next up was the trek to Mexico City, then a return to Las Vegas followed by races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway before this week's test sessions at Richmond.
"The teams have been working hard since the weeks before we left for testing in Daytona," said Joe Balash, NASCAR Busch Series director. "We've covered a lot of travel miles and a lot of race miles. Now we're ready to get some quality time to adjust strategies and programs for the next phase of the season."
Racing resumes April 7 at Nashville Superspeedway with the running of the Pepsi 300.