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2014 Daytona 500 Q&A (Media Day): NASCAR Sprint Cup - Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola
Posted by: newsla on Feb 14, 2014 - 07:32 AM
2014 Daytona 500 Q&A (Media Day): NASCAR Sprint Cup - Marcos Ambrose, Aric Almirola

Marcos Ambrose - WILL YOUR APPOACH CHANGE TO QUALIFYING CHANGE? "It will change every single week. What you did one week will not have any impact on how you go about the following week’s strategy. Can you imagine all of us out there at Martinsville trying to put a lap down? It’s gonna be chaos, but it’s gonna be fun, too. That’s part of it."


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WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE YOUNG GUYS COMING UP? "I really like the fact that there’s a new wave of young guys coming into the sport. I certainly came in during a period of relative quiet. Now you’ve got some great talent. Kyle Larson is a great talent, Dillon is a great talent. Good luck to them. I’m not gonna do them any favors. I’ll give them a tip or two, but I’m just gonna try to beat them."

HAVE YOU RACED AGAINST DILLON? "I have raced against Austin a little bit, but not a lot. He’s clearly very talented. He’s won the Truck Series and Nationwide Series and he deserves his shot at the top no doubt."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WORK ETHIC? "You’ve got to work hard. Nothing comes to you for free. You can’t just sit on the couch and say I want to be a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and make it happen. It doesn’t happen on the couch. You’ve got to get off the couch and get to work and work hard. It’s the same for all of us. We all got here on blood, sweat and tears. That’s how I got here anyway."

DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST SET OF WHEELS? "My first set of wheels was a go-kart and I did some racing, but I’ve never been a car guy on the street. I’ve always put all my money and effort into my race cars, so I’ve always really had just average, every day street cars and nothing fancy."

YOU’VE HAD SO MUCH SUCCESS ON ROAD COURSES, HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS NEW CHASE FORMAT FROM THAT STANDPOINT? "It’s certainly going to change the pressure on those two races. There has always been pressure to win at the road course races, but now you’ve got a chance to make the Chase by just winning a race, so, naturally, if I haven’t won by then, those races become even more important and more pressure on them. So we’ll focus on them and we’ll try our very best to win not just one but both road races and we’ve got a good chance to do it."

DOES THIS MAKE THE PROGNOSIS FOR THE SEASON BRIGHTER? "There’s no doubt that the change in the rules is helping teams like us, teams that have opportunities to win races but haven’t been able to string together a run to make the old Chase format. That’s gonna lock us in if we win a race, and we can really focus on a few races that we think are gonna be our very best chance to win, and if we can do that, then we’re locked in the Chase and it’s been a guaranteed good year."

HOW CRAZY DOES IT GET THE LAST 10-15 LAPS? "I noticed a big uptick in craziness once we went to that two-by-two restart. That really shook things up as far as intensity at the end of the races. You can be at Pocono and be in the top six and by the time you get past the first corner you can be in the twenties just by being in the wrong lane of getting pushed wide or whatever it may be. It gets really crazy. We know that. It’s part of the sport and the Daytona 500 it’s probably even crazier again because guys are doing whatever they can to win the 500."

PLUS IF YOU WIN YOU’RE IN THE CHASE. "Yeah, if you win the 500 you’re effectively locked into the Chase, so that’s a pretty cool thing and a lot to race for.

DID YOUR DAD HAVE AN IMPACT ON YOUR RACING CAREER? "I certainly had the help from my family, not just my dad, but the whole family helped us get through it. My father (Ross) had raced growing up and he didn’t throw anything on me. I chose this path on my own, but once I made those choices he fully supported what I was trying to do and he’s been instrumental in my success no doubt. I owe everything to my dad to be here."

DO YOU LIKE THE CONCEPT OF HAVING A RACE FEATURING ALL DISCIPLINES? "I do. I’ve never been a part of one. They have the Race of Champions, which was cancelled this year, and they used to have the IROC Series here. Back in the 70s they used to have a Formula race for all the Formula drivers at Brands Hatch for a few years, so I’m a big fan of it, but it’s hard to really get everyone to mesh together. All of the championships are off-sequence to each other and some drivers, if you get a dirt champion to come to the Daytona 500, he’s not gonna do as well as if we all raced on dirt around him. So it’s not fair to a lot of guys, but it certainly is a lot of fun to get all of those champions together and have a good time."

WHAT DISCIPLINES WOULD YOU PICK? "I’d think you do a Sprint Car race, an off-road race, some kind of rally race, an asphalt oval and you’d do some kind of road race with a Formula car. That would be the four I would choose."

WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THAT? "Yeah, I’d do that. It would be great."

WHAT IS YOUR FONDEST MEMORY YOUR DAD HAS OF YOU RACING? "He’s just enjoying the success I’ve had. He gets a real kick out of me doing well. We’ve been though a lot together and even though he’s not here to watch me race in America, he’s certainly watching on TV and he’s by my side. I get a kick out of it all working out. Not often can things work out the way you hope and dream and it certainly has worked out for us."

HAS HE BEEN HERE TO WATCH YOU RACE? "Yeah, he’s been here quite a few times. He enjoys it."

WHAT WAS HIS IMPRESSION? "He didn’t understand why I came to America, but once he was here and saw it he certainly got a fresh appreciation of why I fell in love with the sport and why I wanted to come across here and have a go."

ARIC ALMIROLA - No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion - DO YOU THINK SOME OF THE ISSUE AROUND RICHARD PETTY’S COMMENTS CENTER ON THEY DIDN’T HEAR THE AUDIO? SOMETIMES WORDS IN PRINT OR TEXTS CAN BE MISUNDERSTOOD. "That’s the thing. People always talk about, especially me, I’d rather pick up the phone and call somebody than text them or email them because there’s no emotion in text or email. In text and a newspaper or website there’s no emotion in that. You can’t see his facial expression. You can’t hear what was talked about pre- and post- that one liner, so there is a lot that goes into it. People love a story. We all know that. People love drama, so he said one sentence that got taken out of context and blown up all over the media and now it’s gone viral. I’m sure if you asked him if he could take it back he probably would, but, at the end of the day, he said it and what he probably meant is exactly what I’m telling you. For those expectations of people to think, ‘Hey, is Danica Patrick gonna win a race this year?’ Maybe, but the likelihood probably not. I’ll go on record saying that, too. I think it’s just tough. I’m telling you, look at guys like Denny Hamlin. He goes all year until Homestead without winning a race. Dale Jr. goes all year and doesn’t win a race. You guys are the ones that know all the statistics on all the drivers who have these winless streaks. It’s not easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it and I think she does a damn good job. I think the time will come that she will go to victory lane and that’s about all I have to say about that."

DO YOU FOLLOW OTHER SERIES? "Occasionally, but we don’t have time to really follow that many other series because we stay so busy and we’re on the road traveling all the time. I occasionally catch and F-1 race or qualifying and stuff like that, but mostly I put all my focus and attention on NASCAR. I like to go to Sprint Car races every once in a while when I can bum a ride from Tony Stewart and fly with him and go watch his Sprint Cars race, but, other than that, I’m totally focused on what we’ve got going on in NASCAR."

ARE THERE ANY DRIVERS YOU’D LIKE TO SEE TAKE A CRACK AT CUP? "I don’t know. I think it would be interesting to see Sebastian Vettel. He’s dominated so well over there in F1 - for him to come over here and give it a go. You look at Juan Pablo, Kimi Raikkonen, Dario Franchitti - I know he wasn’t in F1, but he was in IndyCar - you look at those guys that have run that open wheel stuff and they come over to this sport and I know it’s different for them and it’s obviously out of their element because they’ve grown up open-wheel racing and have raced those cars that have half as much horsepower as we have and four times the amount of downforce, so it’s very different. I know if I went and did that I would be completely out of my element as well, but you see those guys come over to our sport and they don’t succeed and they’ don’t run as well as everybody expects them to, and that tells me how great and how competitive our sport is and how tough it is."

ANY CUP DRIVERS WHO COULD TRY F1? "I think so. I’m biased obviously because I race in this sport and I think we have the largest talent pool in any motorsports there is in the world, and I think these are some of the best drivers in the world. I think if you put Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart or Matt Kenseth or you could go down the list, there is guy after guy in our garage area that I think could go overseas and get in an F1 car and be extremely competitive."

DO YOU HAVE A CAR COLLECTION? "I don’t. I learned at a young age to not collect cars because they collect dust and the batteries go dead."

DO YOU LIKE OLD CARS? "I like old cars a lot. I honestly don’t have a dream car. I’d like one of those Ford GT40s. That would be pretty cool. Maybe we can get Edsel to work on that, but I really don’t. There’s no car that I think is cool enough to just store in my garage and drive every once in a while. I’m a very practical person and a very frugal person. I have a pick-up truck, and F-250 as a matter of fact, that gets me from point A to point B and that’s all I need. I don’t need anything else."

WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE NEW RULES. MARCOS SAID IT HELPS TEAMS LIKE YOURS, DO YOU AGREE? "I think it does. I think it absolutely helps teams like ours. We have a team that doesn’t have a humongous notebook to go back and look at things, so to start fresh and start clean with a clean sheet of paper on all these new rules and the way that we can set these cars up is great for us. And also to have Trent Owens as our crew chief and being fresh and new in the Sprint Cup garage with a whole new set of ideas and he can put those to use because we’re starting from scratch. We need new ideas because we have a new car, and a new setup, and new setup procedures, so I think it’s gonna be great. I think it’s gonna really show what our team is capable of and all the resources that Smithfield has put into RPM this year and the things we’ve been able to do - the on-track testing, the off-track testing as far as the windtunnel and seven-post and all that stuff, I think all of that is gonna show up when we start hitting the race track."

YOUR THOUGHTS ON SPEEDWEEKS BEING HERE. "I know the word ‘excited’ is way over-used, especially when we get down here for media day in Daytona, but ‘excited’ is the perfect word to talk about Richard Petty Motorsports and specifically this 43 team. We just have so much good momentum going behind our team throughout this off-season and we’re ready. We’ve tested more times this off-season than I’ve ever tested. We’re doing everything we can in our power to come out of the box strong. To win this Daytona 500 would be amazing. I grew up two hours away in Tampa, Florida, so I’ve sat in those grandstands and watch many races and dreamed of what it would be like to run around this race track or race on this race track. But what it would be like to win the Daytona 500 would be unbelievable. You couldn’t dream something up like that, so, hopefully next Sunday I’ll have to figure out a way to talk about that."

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