Friday, June 21, 2013

Marcos Ambrose talks about road course racing Friday at Sonoma

Ambrose was on pole last year, and was fastest in first practice Friday
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion, has two road course wins to his credit in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series but both of those have come at Watkins Glen International. Ambrose spoke about what it’s going to take to win here in Sonoma before today’s first practice session.

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND? “I think we’re all excited on the Stanley team to come here. It’s been a good track for me in the past. There’s no certainty of success here. This is one of the hardest road course races you can go to. Our cars are very heavy. They’ve got a lot of power and they don’t stop very well, plus the grip is at a premium out there. The combination of tire and car and track here makes the fall off of the grip pretty extreme, so last year we had the fastest car for one lap and got the pole position. We’d be the fastest car on the first couple of go-rounds on fresh tires, but we certainly didn’t have the endurance to keep the grip for the long run, so that’s really what we’re working on here this weekend, trying to make sure our car is good on lap 30 and not just lap three.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE GROUP QUALIFYING FORMAT THIS WEEKEND? “I actually don’t know the exact format of it, I just know that they’re gonna give us five minutes or so to bust off the fastest lap. I’m pretty sure it’s still gonna get done on lap one or two of the five minutes. I’m not sure you want to be out there for too much longer than that just with the track fall off of grip, so my strategy is not gonna change that much. I’m just gonna go out there and try to bust off that first lap as fast as I can and see if it’s good enough. I guess if you make a mistake it gives you a second chance. In the original one-lap format, if you made a mistake and you lost a second, you could lose 20 spots on the starting grid. With this format, I guess if you make a mistake you’ve got a second lap to make amends. You may not get the pole and you may not go as fast as you could have on the first lap, but you’re still gonna minimize the position loss. You’ll probably get a little more indicative lineup of cars based off their speed because last year there was a bit of randomness if you made a mistake.”

IT SEEMS THESE ROAD COURSE RACES HAVE GOTTEN MUCH ROUGHER. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? “I’ve only been around since it’s been tough. When I came in my first road course in the Sprint Cup Series was 2009 and it was hard then, so I don’t think it’s changed that much. I think the level of competition continues to get stronger in NASCAR, it just has to. There’s more money in the sport and more at stake, so everyone is putting a lot of effort in, and the level of driver on road courses is as high as anywhere I’ve seen, so there’s no gimme. If you look down the sheet of people who can win there’s at least 20 drivers that could win. Would you have put Clint Bowyer on that list last year when he went around here? Probably not, so it could be even thicker than that. It could be thirty-odd drivers that have a chance to win.”

DO YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF WARMING YOUR TIRES UP WITH THIS NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT VERSUS THE OLD BECAUSE YOU ONLY GOT HALF-A-LAP TO DO THAT BEFORE? “Yeah, that’s certainly the case, but we had the pressures matched to really bring them in. The laps that I have done here normally by the time I get to the hairpin I’ve got enough tire temperature to feel confident to sail off into turn one on the go lap, so I don’t think that’s gonna be an issue. I think what will be an issue, perhaps, is people catching other cars that are on slow-down laps or things like that. If you’re gonna wait until one minute to go to bust off your lap, you’re gonna have guys out there roaming around coming into the pits or trying to cool their stuff down. That’s probably gonna be a bigger issue than trying to get your temperature up in the tires.”

IS THERE A TENDENCY TO PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF FOR THIS RACE, KNOWING WHAT IT COULD MEAN FOR YOU IN REGARDS TO THE CHASE AND A POSSIBLE WILD CARD SPOT? “I’m very mindful that we’ve had a terrible year and this is a really good opportunity to get your year back on track, so certainly there is added pressure there. I would love to be top 10 in points coming into this weekend and just rolling through like a normal one, but it’s not for us. We need to turn our year around and this is a good opportunity for us, so we’re looking to break out and have a good weekend if we can. That does add pressure, but that’s just part of the job.”

YOU TESTED HERE. HOW DOES THIS GEN-6 CAR PERFORM FROM THE PREVIOUS ONE? “That’s a good question and it really drives very similar. We were a little bit faster over the course of a run and a single lap, so I think the trend of this car has continued where it’s a faster race car than the old style Cup car that we ran last year. But the balance and the challenges we’re fighting are very similar. There’s not a lot of difference, so we’re just going faster when it goes bad. That’s pretty much how it works.”

THREE YEARS AGO YOU HAD A CHANCE TO WIN AND HAVE GOTTEN OVER IT. HOW MOTIVATED ARE YOU TO DO WELL THIS YEAR AND HOW WILL THE NEW CAR PLAY INTO YOUR SETUP PLAN? “It’s just another race. This track has certainly eluded me for the victory. Some things were in my control and some have been outside, but this track is tough. It’s not gonna give it to you and we feel like we’ve got as good a shot as anyone here to win it.”

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RACING IN AUSTRALIA AND AMERICA? “In Australia we drive on the other side of the car. That’s a pretty big difference right there (laughing). I have to be honest with you, when I first came to America driving on the left-hand side of the car was very foreign to me and the other thing is just the size of this country. It’s got a lot of people in it and when there are a lot of people it tends to produce a lot of great race car drivers, so there are a lot of great, talented drivers here in America. In Australia or other countries around the world there are great drivers too, but there are not as many in one place, so when you come to Sprint Cup competition it’s a combination of all the junior categories and all the drivers that have shown promise and talent and have won races and championships they all end up here in the Sprint Cup Series and that’s tough because that level of competition is very high.”

JASON LEFFLER DIDN’T HAVE ANY LIFE INSURANCE. HAVE YOU HAD TROUBLE GETTING IT COMING THROUGH YOUR CAREER? HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO GET AND CAN YOU TOUCH ON SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF THAT? “I can’t speak for other drivers, but I have life insurance and I’ve always had life insurance. I’ve got a family. It’s tough to protect. When we do a dangerous job we have to understand those risks and be ready for all the consequences.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE AGGRESSIVENESS OF THE RESTARTS HERE? “There’s not a really good way to address it. It does get crazy out there and it’s just the way the rules are. If you’re gonna line us up 43 deep with two laps to go, you’re gonna do things that you probably shouldn’t. It’s just the nature of racing. This track shows it more than other tracks because if it’s a Martinsville, once you file through turn one and turn two – or even the first couple of laps – everything calms down because everyone finds a groove they want to be in and makes it work. Whereas, on a road course, you don’t have that opportunity because you’re side-by-side on lanes of the race track that have never had a car on it before. You’re trying to get into position and it’s just an opportunity to really let the field settle down, so, certainly it’s not perfect, especially when you’re deep in the pack. For every wrong you do to somebody, someone is gonna do the wrong to you, so you’re best off just staying aggressive and trying to make the most of it.”

DO THE ROAD COURSES AND SUPERSPEEDWAY TRACKS LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD BETWEEN THE LARGER AND SMALLER TEAMS? “Yeah, certainly this is a different style of race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and car handling is very important like it is every single week, as is drafting. You’ve got to have a slippery car in the draft to win the race, but it allows some of the engineering to be taken away from the sport. When you’re running a one-and-a-half mile oval and the track is smooth and you’re working an aero platform, a lot of science goes into that to make us run as fast as we do, whereas here these tracks are more about getting a car that’s comfortable, more linear, and then letting the driver do the rest. It’s a little bit the same with plate racing. If you’ve got a really slippery car in a plate race, you’ll get the pole position, but it’s no guarantee that you’re gonna win the race because the guy who can work that pack better than the others can position his car and get himself pushed to the front at the end. So I agree with that to some degree, although they’re very different disciplines – superspeedway versus road course – but he’s right in what he’s saying that it takes some of the engineering out of the result.”

HOW IS IT TO COMPETE AGAINST JACQUES VILLENEUVE THIS WEEKEND? “I’ve got no issues. I think there are plenty of other drivers that have more issues than me. It’s good. I really like Jacques. I watched him win all of those Formula One races and the world championship and I’m really excited that I get to race against a guy of that caliber and reputation, so there are no problems with me. It’s good to have him here.”

WHAT KIND OF WINE WOULD YOU BE? “I’d be an Australian wine, how about that? I don’t know. I’m certainly not a wine connoisseur. If there was a bee tree, I’d be a bee tree. That’s what I’d be. I’d be a little bit dry. I’d be a dry chardonnay from Barossa Valley in Australia.”

- PCGCampbell for Ford Racing

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