Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion, qualified for the Sprint All-Star Race by virtue of his first series victory last year at Watkins Glen International. Ambrose followed Kenseth in the media center and answered questions from members of the press.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE A CHANCE AT $1 MILLION? “It feels pretty good right now. I’m watching the practice here that I was in last year thinking I’m pleased I’m in the media center and not my race car right now. It’s not often you can say that, but I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to be part of the All-Star. It’s one of the biggest races you can do for money. I think dollar per mile it would probably be the biggest race in the world for the amount of money you can win and the amount of miles you can compete in, so I’m here to do it and here to be part of the action and put ourselves in contention at the end. We’ve got a great race team and I’m looking forward to qualifying tonight with the three-lap deal. I think it’s gonna be real interesting and my first time at it I’ll probably make a mistake or two, but it’s definitely gonna be good to learn and good to be part of that and race for the cash tomorrow night.”
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR ROAD COURSE SUCCESS AND OVAL RACING? “I guess you’re right and I’ve thought about those same questions a lot. To be candid, I know what I’m doing on the road racing stuff. I’ve made a career and grown up racing road courses. I know how to drive big, heavy cars around those places and it’s always compromise when you go road racing. You can’t get the perfect balance in the race car. You never look for the perfect balance, you’re just looking for something that can get you around the course, fairly linear handling left to right, and not worry so much about the dynamics of the race car. When you come to these ovals, there’s so much going on behind the suspensions that it’s hard to keep up with and it’s hard to really feel the individual wheels, so I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to win on an oval. It’s going to come, I know that but I’ve just got to be patient with it. There is definitely a link between our successful runs on road racing compared to ovals and that link is me and I continue to work on it. It’s a tough sport. I jumped in the 9 car with the Stanley/DeWalt sponsorship and we’ve carried the team forward. I feel good about where we’re at. I think we’re more competitive now than what we were this time last year and we’re gonna keep getting better and better. It’s just a matter of pulling good people around you and having clear direction and we’ve got that. We just have to give it time.”
AFTER WINNING WATKINS GLEN WHEN DID IT HIT YOU THAT YOU WERE IN THE ALL-STAR RACE? “It was probably the off-season when you start thinking about the next year coming up and you realize you’re locked into the Bud Shootout, you’re locked into the All-Star events, and you look forward to them. I’ve been looking forward to this event all year. It’s great to be part of the big boys and part of the All-Star crew. We’ve raced our way in here on merit. We won a race in the Sprint Cup Series. We deserve to be here and we’ve got a chance to win the money, so I’m excited to be in the race. I feel good about being in the race and been looking forward to it all year, but, to answer your question, it’s probably not the moment that you win the race that you realize you’re in the All-Star Race, it’s really when you start planning or think about the next season and what we’re gonna do and how it was shaping up.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT CHEVY ANNOUNCING THEY’RE GOING TO RACE A CAR BASED OFF THE COMMADORE, WHICH HAS AUSTRALIAN ROOTS? “It is the wrong make, so I want to be a little careful of what I say here, but I’m really proud to think that Australia can produce with their people and infrastructure that they can produce a world-standard car that Chevrolet would like to bring to the U.S. and sell it here. It’s even better that they’ve decided to make it one of their focus marks, it’s gonna be a rear-wheel drive car, which I’ve grown up driving rear-wheel drive cars, manual cars, it’s just a standard thing out there. It’s a world-class product and I look forward to racing against them and beating them, but it’s definitely made a buzz in Australia. There’s been a lot of talk about it and been a surprise to a lot of people. I think they kept it pretty quiet and it’s amazing to see. Even the photo I saw with all the checkered flag print over it, it was really hard to see the lines on it, so I’ll be interested to see how it really looks when they get the proper decals on it.”
DOES IT BOTHER YOU TO BE VIEWED AS A ROAD COURSE SPECIALIST? “Not at all. We’re in front of a lot of really good oval racers in points and I’m here talking to you and there are 1,000 drivers that wish they could be me right now, so I don’t feel bad about it for one second. I’m proud that I’m here. I’m proud that I’m talking to you and I can race with the best of them on ovals and road courses, it’s just that we’re gonna get this first oval win, we’ve got to get it out of the way pretty soon and you guys are gonna quit talking about it.”
HOW FAR ARE YOU WILLING TO GO TO WIN TOMORROW NIGHT? “I went three-wide on the bottom at Darlington on the green-white-checker, which, if you look back, you probably wouldn’t want to do again, but that was just instinct taking over, and I’m just gonna let that happen again. I don’t mind mixing it up with the best of them. I’ve been very respectful in this sport to get here and I’ve always known my place, but I’ve got a chance to win $1 million. I’ve spent the last six years trying to build friends in the garage and I’m probably gonna lose them all in one night. We’ll see what happens.”
WHAT MAKES THE ELITE DRIVERS DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS IN THE SPORT? “You’ve just got to have everything going for you. You could have a great team around you. You’ve got to have the sponsorship lined up. You’ve got to have manufacturer support. You’ve got to have good mechanics and crew, and then when you get the chance to get behind the wheel you’ve got to know what you’re doing. What makes Jimmie Johnson win five in a row? I think there’s a magic source there that we’re all looking for, but some guys have crazy talent and other guys are working hard to try to find it.”