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May 22, 2014 - 05:41 PM
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2014 Charlotte (Coca Cola 600) Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Marcos Ambrose
Posted by: ASkyler on May 22, 2014 - 05:41 PM
2014 Charlotte (Coca Cola 600) Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Marcos Ambrose

Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Twisted Tea Ford Fusion, is still looking for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win on an oval. He’s hoping to get that this weekend and spoke about what it’s going to take during a Q&A session with media members today at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

MARCOS AMBROSE - No. 9 Twisted Tea Ford Fusion - CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TWISTED TEA COMING ON BOARD? "It’s pretty exciting to bring a new sponsor into the sport. Twisted Tea has been around since the early 2000’s, so they’re a fairly new brand and it’s just great to have them at the Sprint Cup level. We’ve got them here as the naming right sponsor for the 600 and also the second race at Dover, so we’ve announced earlier that they’re an associate sponsor for the entire year, but to get a car naming rights is a big step forward for them and we hope to run well in the 600 for Twisted Tea. They’re bringing a lot of folks out here to check us out, so I hope we run well."

HOW IS THE CAR? "The car is pretty good. The track is hot and slick. Charlotte in the afternoon when it’s hot like this is normally pretty nasty and the track was fairly treacherous out there and didn’t have a lot of grip. The cars are very aggressive with the setups we run these days, they seem to be pretty stiff and jumpy, and when the track has lost grip like it has in the heat of the day they’re always tough to hang on to, but we’re OK. We were 15th or 14th in the practice there and we just don’t want to overreact to the conditions this afternoon because the 600 is gonna be run in the coolness of night and we know we’ve got to be ready for that and not ready for the heat."


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SHOULD THIS RACE ALWAYS BE 600 MILES? "Our mindset going into this race is certainly different than the other events that we go to. We know it’s going to be a much longer race. Physically, it’s a lot more demanding on the drivers and we have to make sure the car is comfortable enough to tick off a lot of laps around here. I’ve done well in the 600. I like the length. I like the fact that it is different and the endurance factor certainly comes into play for the 600, so I like it. I don’t think we need to change it. We used to have a couple other big mileage races back in the day. This is the last one standing and I think it’s a bit of NASCAR history that should remain."

WHAT’S YOUR APPROACH TO THIS RACE? "I think the mindset for most crew chiefs and drivers out there is that the race is gonna be won at night, so your car has to be the best at the end. You just have to be able to get there by staying on the lead lap and not spinning or crashing out by having a loose race car to start. I think that’s really the mindset going in is that you don’t overreact to the heat of the day. We were lucky enough to run well last week in the All-Star prelim and that allowed us to really get a feel for what our package is gonna be for the 600 when the night comes, and we’re gonna just tweak on that setup a little bit and not really think too much about what it’s feeling like out there right now."

WHAT IS YOUR TESTING STRATEGY THIS YEAR? ARE YOU GOING TO TEST ROAD COURSES? "It’s certainly gonna be the easiest way for us to get locked into the Chase. We need to win races, so the road courses are obviously very important to us, but I would say that we’ve put effort into the road course program, but no less anywhere else. I think that our short track program is pretty strong. Our intermediate program is an area we’ve been testing at a lot and been thinking about a lot. We came here and tested about two-and-a-half or three weeks ago and that was a big help to us. We’re gonna go to Michigan next week, so we have intermediates and big oval tracks that we really need to focus on to get our balance right. I would say that the road course is a factor, it’s a factor we’re thinking about but we’re not necessarily putting all of our eggs in that basket."

CAN YOU LOOK AHEAD TO DOVER? "I haven’t thought too much about it, to be honest with you. It’s a concrete race track and you always fight the rubber build-up there, so I think that the bottom is always the place to run at Dover. I’d like to think with these new cars and the setups we’ve got that perhaps the middle and top might come in a little bit, but that could just be wishful thinking, I don’t know. You’ve got to really manage the tires that NASCAR and Goodyear bring and you just don’t know what that rubber build-up is gonna be like until you see it in practice."

HAS THIS FORMAT CAUSED TEAMS TO CHANGE THERE STRATEGY WITH TESTING? "We certainly had to change the structure in our company to accommodate the extra testing and the extra workload on our employees that we seem to be testing a lot more. Goodyear is testing a lot more, so whenever you get invited to a Goodyear test you would be crazy not to accept, so we’ve done a lot more miles this year in practice and testing and we have to change our mindset as far as what we need to do to make the Chase. You’ve just got to win a race. You pick a couple of tracks that you think you’re gonna be your best and certainly hope it works out, but it would be a long year if you’re just relying on two tracks. You’ve got to build your team to try to win anywhere and that consistency is what you need to win races. If you can run Top-5 once, the chances of you winning are pretty slim. If you can run Top-5 a lot, the chances of you winning are a lot greater. For me, that’s really the approach is that we have to be strong everywhere, but the workload has definitely increased the last couple of years with the extra testing and the mileage that Goodyear and NASCAR are letting the teams do."

ARE OTHER TEAMS IN THE GARAGE TESTING MORE? "We’re always playing catch-up at RPM, so I’m not sure what the leading teams are up to - I’m only part of their deal - but we certainly see and hear a lot of testing going on around the place, and a lot of focus once teams have made the Chase they’re starting to strategize about once you’re locked in where do you want to put your test days. You certainly don’t want to stack them at the front end of the season because you want to save them up to be ready for the Chase."

DO YOU ANTICIPATE RACING IN THE U.S. NEXT YEAR? "Yeah, I do. I do anticipate racing in the U.S. There are a lot of changes in the midst at RPM and I’m part of that. I have to renew my contract with them, but I’m gonna do whatever I can to get Richard Petty where he wants to go and his whole company."

HAS YOUR MANAGEMENT TALKED TO YOU ABOUT A MANUFACTURER AND HAVE YOU GIVEN THEM INPUT? "No, I haven’t given them input, but we have a great opportunity at Richard Petty Motorsports to improve the situation. Whenever you get a period of time like this where you can shuffle the cards and shuffle the deck, it allows your team to get better. So I think they’re in a great position. They’ve got choices, which is the most important thing, and I’m sure they’ll make the right choices for Richard Petty Motorsports and I fully support them whatever they choose to do."

HAVE YOU SEEN RPM DO MORE TESTING AND IMPROVE WITH MORE FINANCES AT ITS DISPOSAL? "Yeah. Look, I’ve been part of the Petty Motorsport family since they went through all the turmoil with the Gillett crossover and they’ve gone through various stages. Obviously, they had to really just get some stability and then now we’ve gotten past stability and we’re working toward the future and bringing new sponsors to NASCAR. We definitely have more funding, we have more infrastructure, we have better people around us, and I think you’re going to the next level for Richard Petty Motorsports. I have seen direct results of the extra money that’s gone into our company. I think we needed to to keep up and we certainly have made up some ground since 2013, but we’ve got a ways to go. You’ve got to look at everything to get better and I know that everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports is doing that, they really are looking at it from the outside-in, seeing what they can do and where they need to go to be the best they can be."

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED -- CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BEN RHODES? HE STARTED HIS CAREER WITH MARCOS AMBROSE MOTORSPORTS, SO DO YOU COMMUNICATE WITH HIM? "I have no official association with Ben, but I obviously watch him closely. He’s a great kid and a fantastic talent and he’s certainly somebody that needs be kept an eye on. He’s doing great things. He’s taken an opportunity that he had with Turner and he’s made the most of it, and he’s a great young kid and a great young driver, but I don’t have any official association with him. I still speak to him from time to time and see him at the track, and I wish him the most success."

DID YOU OR YOUR FATHER HAVE ANY PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LATE JACK BRABHAM? "My father knew the family a little bit. I know David Brabham and I guess the next generation of Brabhams, and now there’s a third-generation of racers coming through with David and Geoff’s sons coming through doing very, very well in their own racing careers. They are Australia’s version of the Petty family. The great thing about Jack Brabham was not only was he a fantastic race car driver, but he built his own cars. He was the engineer, he was the mechanic and he was the driver. To think of what he was able to achieve from very humble beginnings, he took himself to Europe and started his own company, building his own race cars for himself. It’s a pretty amazing story and a lot of those guys back then were like that. Bruce McLaren was like that from New Zealand and Denny Hulme to a certain extent and Jack is certainly a big figure head in Australian racing and paved the way for guys like me to go to Europe and have a go. He was a great man. I’ve met him a few times and was sorry to see him go, but he left a great legacy for Australian racing no doubt."

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