Chicagoland: Marcos Ambrose pre-race notes

Q & A WITH MARCOS AMBROSE AHEAD OF CHICAGO Marcos Ambrose will be out to continue his climb towards the top 10 in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series standings in the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois this ...

Q & A WITH MARCOS AMBROSE AHEAD OF CHICAGO

Marcos Ambrose will be out to continue his climb towards the top 10 in the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series standings in the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois this weekend.

Ambrose and his JTG Racing crew are recovering from a fire in the #59 Kingsford hauler on it's way back from New Hampshire Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

Only minimal equipment was burnt in the fire, caused when a wheel bearing failed in the JTG Racing trailer, but smoke and excessive heat damaged both race cars in the hauler as well as many vital parts such as shock absorbers and suspension parts.

Q & A with MARCOS AMBROSE

"On my last big oval, at Kentucky, we ran sixth and qualified third and ran strong all day," said Ambrose.

"It was a good day for us. I think our intermediate program is probably our strongest suit, right now, that and road racing. So, I'm looking forward to Chicago.

"I've only raced there once. It's a little unique, with the turn on the backstretch, but I can't wait to get there. I think it's going to be a good event for us.

"We've got a good car, I know that, a car that's not smoked damage, which is a good thing because we've got a couple of badly damaged cars with smoke now, so we're doing good.

"I think that's a good weekend for us. I think the next stretch coming up here is going to be a lot of fun. We had a decent day at New Hampshire, not a great day, but decent. We've been working on our short-track stuff. It's getting better and better.

"And our intermediate stuff, I'm looking forward to getting another run on that. We've got some road races coming up. So, we should have a pretty good stretch here."

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACKS?

"They're tough race tracks. They're the bread and butter that we go to, they are the majority of the race tracks that we race on. You've got to be good on an intermediate-style race track, and it takes a lot of engineering to get the cars to run. It's not hard to miss it.

"It's a tough series, and we are under-resourced to a degree. It's not about finances, it's about having the knowledge to make these cars go fast. And that's going to be tough -- these big teams have more resources to tap into, and that's always been our problem.

"But, I feel like we can fight with them on a mile-and-a-half race track, and we can run strong. We should be able to run top 10."

Q: NOW THAT YOU'VE RACED AT THE CUP LEVEL -- QUALIFYING IN THE TOP 10 AND RUNNING UP FRONT AT SONOMA AND NOT QUALIFYING AT NEW HAMPSHIRE -- DO YOU APPROACH THIS SPORT ANY DIFFERENTLY?

"No, not at all. Last week was a classic example of going from hero to zero in five days. I felt like I had forgotten how to drive. But, that's just the way it is. It's a tough sport. If you get confident for one second in this game, it's finished. It's going to bite you.

"This sport has a habit of nipping at your heels the whole time. If you get too far in front of yourself, you'll get levelled off pretty quick. And that's what I think I've been able to bring to the table is I don't get too high and I don't get too low, I'm a pretty stable-kind of character. It's important to have that approach in NASCAR, and I'm still learning to deal with the difficulties of the sport -- the travel, the logistics and all that.

"We're with the big boys, but we're not playing with the big boys. We're flying around on commercial flights, we're struggling, we're putting deals together that aren't as flashy, so you short-change yourself here and there. I always feel like the underdog, even though we run strong a lot. And until I win races or I'm with a superteam, I'll feel that way."

Q: RACING AT THE CUP LEVEL HAS BEEN YOUR STARTED GOAL. NOW THAT YOU'VE SEEN IT UP CLOSE, IS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?

"The Sonoma deal was just fantastic. It was just a real thrill to pass Jeff Gordon on the race track. It's dream. Who gets a chance to rub fenders with Jeff and pass him, and Jimmie [Johnson] and Smoke [Tony Stewart]? Racing against these guys, it's way cool. It's cooler than I ever could've imagined.

"At the same time, I don't quite feel worthy of being there yet, and it will take time. I've got question marks that I can't answer -- is it me, is it the equipment, is it the team? And, hopefully, I'll get myself in position where I can answer those questions. And if I can't match my pace on a road course on the ovals, I'll be the first to put my hand up and say, 'It's just not my deal.'

"But, right now, I can't answer that question, I can't tell you whether I'm the weak link or whether I'm doing okay, because I just don't know. I just have to put myself in a position to be able to really get to the point where I can answer that question. And until I get to that point, I don't feel like I'm not worthy to be there because I just don't know."

Q: DID THE RECENT HAULER FIRE PUT YOUR TEAM BEHIND?

"No doubt. Massively behind, especially for a small team like ours. There's a lot of damage. We lost two race cars with smoke and heat -- they didn't catch fire but they got a lot of damage to them. And then all the parts that were in the truck have been damaged with the oxidization from the fire extinguishers.

"It's a big hit. It put us back. It's a short week as well. We're lucky we had a spare trailer, and we've been able to borrow and scrimp and scrape from the truck team that shut down to get through it. But, it puts you back, there's no doubt -- especially in the middle of this long spell here. We've got a lot of races back to back, and it's tough. Real tough."

Q: WHEN WOULD THOSE CARS HAVE BEEN USED AGAIN?

"We would've used those cars at Memphis and ORP. But, a lot of the components -- we don't have components for each car, we swap stuff around, steering wheels, steering boxes, cool-down units, cool boxes, dashes, axles, suspension parts, all that stuff was going to be re-used [this] week, so, yeah, it's going to put us back.

"We're lucky that the fire was contained to the back, so all the gear at the front had a lot of smoke damage, but it didn't have any flame damage."

Q: YOU HAD CARS PREPARED ALREADY FOR CHICAGO?

"Those had already been prepared. You're not going to feel the impact of a problem like that for two or three weeks. Once we get past Chicago, that's when it's going to hit us. We're going to get to ORP with cars that have to be rebuilt, and that puts everything behind.

"If we get through the next couple of weeks without crashing, that's going to help, too, because that gives people a chance to catch up."

-credit: maPR/bam

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Marcos Ambrose