Random Lugnuts: Kangaroo Meat & Other Rookies
Topics: Marcos Ambrose
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August 13, 2007
Unfortunately, Marcos Ambrose was unable to make his first Nextel Cup start in Robby Gordon's car this weekend. I would have loved to have seen it. Marcos Ambrose was a 2-time champion in V8 Touring Cars, the series that is now known as V8 Supercars Australia. They run road courses in V8 powered, rear drive Australian sedans (Holden Monaros and Ford Falcons) with front splitters and rear wings. If those aero features really make a difference in how the car handles, it could be said that Marcos Ambrose has won 2 road-course series championships in a car very similar to a vehicle in which the rest of NASCAR has only run one road course race in. If Robby provided a fast car, a strong possibility considering his own fifth place finish, we may well have seen someone win in their first Cup start, something that has not happened since, well, the very first NASCAR race.
|Marcos Ambrose at Queensland in 2005|
Front splitter, rear wing...look familiar?
Photo by Gary Tierney/Trolistal Photography
Full version, 2,902KB
Drawing drivers from American open wheel racing, such as A.J. Allmendinger, Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish, Jr., or ARCA competitor/NASCAR hopeful Michael McDowell is just the tip of the iceberg for NASCAR's expanding talent pool.
Australian native Marcos Ambrose is hardly NASCAR's only newcomer from outside the United States recently. Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya won at Infineon earlier this year, Japanese manufacturer Toyota has begun competition in the Nextel Cup and Busch Series, and Venezuelan driver Alex Garcia is trying to make it in the Busch Series. NASCAR had Patrick Carpentier tag along on the trip back from Canada as he drove at Watkins Glen.
This is what happens when you put on a world-class show: you start attracting competition from around the world. This is a better measure of NASCAR's success than, say, beating the IRL in ratings or attracting the biggest sponsor contracts. On one hand, expansion has pulled NASCAR away from its southern roots at tracks like Rockingham, but then it also propels places like Charlotte and Darlington onto a worldwide stage as Canada, Australia, Colombia and other places around the world follow the careers of their nation's top drivers.
Ever since the Montreal incident with Robby Gordon, Marcos Ambrose has been getting a lot of airtime in the NASCAR media. One thing I noticed was his nickname listed as "Kangaroo Meat" on the screen during a broadcast. At first I thought it was some weird Australian thing, but no, it turns out the originator of that unusual moniker is none other than Kevin "Happy" Harvick.
By now you've heard that Ray Evernham is now Gillet Evernham Motorsports as the Montreal Canadiens/Liverpool owner George Gillet, Jr. is partner in the team. To all those who say racing is not a sport, take notice of just who is investing in NASCAR teams these days: the owners of other sports teams. Deals such as this one and Roush Fenway won't end the argument, and I don't think anything ever will, but it makes a nice statement.
Add this to Troy Aikman/Roger Staubach's Hall of Fame Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, and there's increasing connections between NASCAR and other major North American sports. The Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Montreal Canadiens, and Boston Red Sox are now all connected in some way to a NASCAR team.
It does give me hope that maybe one day Mike Illitch, the owner of my beloved wintertime team, the Detroit Red Wings, will get involved in a NASCAR operation. He was involved as a sponsor before, when his Little Caesars was on John Andretti's car in the 1990's, but it was only as a sponsor, Michael Kranefuss was the owner. (you can see a picture at http://www.gomotorbids.com/LotImage.cfm?Lot_ID=179591)
So here's a question for the readers: what sports team or athlete would you like to see own a NASCAR team, and why? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and your response could be in the next column.
The Record Book
This week in NASCAR's past:
Random Lugnuts is a semi-regular column by The Crittenden Automotive Library's owner, Bill Crittenden. For a list of past issues, go to the Random Lugnuts page of the Library.
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