NASCAR Preseason Fan Festival
January 17, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
ANDREW BOOTH: We're joined by Marcos Ambrose. Take us through your off-season, talk about getting ready for '09 and starting in the Daytona 500.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, very excited about the Daytona 500. My off-season has probably been unique compared to most on the Monday after Homestead I flew out to Australia. We had some family issues there. My dad wasn't too well and my grandfather was ill. So I went back, spent some great quality time with those guys and had a great Christmas with the family, and I came back on Tuesday. It's been a great summer for me over the last few weeks, because it is summer in Australia, and I've tried to get my body in shape and my mind in shape and have a good rest and think about what I really need to do to attack 2009 well and with hopefully some good form.
My worry is that I haven't done any running in a car, and that is a concern for me, so I need to get some laps to get my head up to speed, to get used to the speed again, really, and just get your body used to it and your mind used to it. But hopefully in the buildup to the 500 I'll have enough laps and be ready.
Q. I was going to ask you, with the Super Car School that you might have been able to get all the laps you needed there, but I guess not?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Unfortunately not. Australia is a big place. You might not realize that, but it's as big as America, and Tasmania where I'm from is down at the bottom like living in the Florida Keys, and with your acing school being over in California, so I didn't get a chance to go there. I've had this before once or twice in seasons where I haven't been able to do much preseason testing, and I know it's been a challenge but I have been able to overcome it. I just hope that this time at these speeds that I do get comfortable, because it's all about comfort out there. If you feel confident and comfortable in your surroundings, I'll go well. And when you don't, that's when you have to be that little bit careful and that's when performance really becomes a factor.
You know, I just want to make sure that I'm going to be comfortable and confident lining up for that 500-miler.
Q. The other day Michael said that your program was completely funded. He didn't go into any details, so could you give us a little detail about who and how many races, and will you be doing anything in the Nationwide series in addition to the full Sprint Cup?
MARCOS AMBROSE: It's a great question. I'm really pleased to answer it because it is a long question, a difficult question to answer. The 47 entry is owned by JTG Daugherty Racing. We were given points from Michael Waltrip Racing that was formerly the 00, but even that's been switched around a little bit recently.
Now, the team will be run and separated by Michael Waltrip Racing, so basically the cars, the employees, the equipment is all MWR stuff, and our sponsorship has been fully funded from JTG Daugherty Racing. So effectively JTG Daugherty has climbed into the Cup Series and is using the equipment and the personnel and experience of MWR to get things rolling. It's a great position for me. I've got some fantastic equipment to drive in, and I have some great people to reference off and to look at and learn from. So for me it's a fantastic way to get into the Cup Series. It is a pinnacle team, and I've been able to plug myself in and our sponsor straight in. Now we have Little Debbie coming on board for 18 or 19 races, I think. We have Busch's Baked Beans on for a couple and Kingsford are on for the remainder. We have some associates with Tums and Glad and a few others, so we have a fully-funded race team. It's very rare in 2009. We're very proud of it, and it goes down to Tad and Jodi Geshickter and the JTG Daugherty team for having the vision of how they wanted to go cup racing and how they wanted to do it. They predicted 2009 was going to be a good year for them to enter, considering car counts and their position and their sponsorships that they have had some time that have grown with them and up to this point for getting them to the Cup level. I'm very excited to give Kingsford their first chance at the Cup level and take on, too, Busch's Beans who haven't raced at the Cup Series before. They've all been Nationwide sponsors for JTG Daugherty. We're all friends, and Tad and his team have been able to give them programs that give them value, and that's why they want to be with us, and hopefully the performance on track will follow.
Q. Anything in Nationwide?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Right now I don't have anything in Nationwide. I assume that I'll be a shoe-in for a couple of road course races. We're going to plan towards that but we haven't got anything to announce there. I feel like I want to do those races in Nationwide. I feel like I've got a chance to win again there, and we'll do our best to do that.
Q. Growing up what did you know about the Daytona 500? Did you watch it on TV? What was the perception of that race for you?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, the first thing is I'm a race fan. I've been a race fan since I was old enough to know what a race car was, basically. So I knew of the Daytona 500. I knew of NASCAR. It always intrigued me because we didn't get TV about it. Up until 2000, early 2000s, there was no NASCAR on Australian television. So it was difficult to follow and understand and really for me, NASCAR was intriguing. I look at the old photos, I'm a bit of a historian, I love the old racing, you see these early 1970s shots of Daytona with Richard Petty winning or whatever, and there's like hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd. At the same time Formula One was an amateur sport, you know, reading through the old magazines and stuff.
So it always intrigued me and I always had a lot of regard for what the sport was and found out a lot about it through the years. But until I had experienced it and seen this place first hand, I really had no idea what this style of racing was all about and how great it really is and how this place really does have something special about it. I mean, when you turn up here and you look at the banking and you get here for race day, it is a special place.
Q. Can you identify any advantages or disadvantages to not racing in your home country?
MARCOS AMBROSE: As in the off-season or since I haven't been there?
Q. The fact that you're not racing in your home country, in other words, you don't have your family there, don't have your friends there.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Right, right. The first thing is I'm trying to raise a family so I'm trying to be a dad and a professional racer at the same time, and there's a balance between the two. Anyone who tries to raise a good family and race will tell you the same thing, it's not easy. Some days are good, some days are bad. For my wife and kids it's especially difficult because we're racing and I'm racing in a country that's 14 odd thousand miles away from family. I feel a responsibility to them, and so when I race on Sunday and I get home at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and at 6:30 it's time for breakfast I want to be there for breakfast with them to let them know they've got a dad. And for mom and kids and for me racing away from home has its disadvantages, but I'm here for a reason. I'm here to challenge myself and do something special and be part of the biggest form of racing in the world, and that comes with a price.
We all pay a price as a family, and that's -- we're aware of those and we're prepared to take those problems in stride. At the same time, we're very happy. I've got a great life here in America, I love racing in NASCAR, and my wife and kids love to be here, and we have a great -- we have two worlds. Right now the kids are in Australia with mom and they're having a great summer, and they'll have an endless summer if this NASCAR thing works out for me because they'll just go from one summer to the next. That's cool. That's something that's unique, and not many families and people get a chance to experience the inner world of NASCAR and get to live in a great country like America, even though 2009 is going to be a year of challenges for everybody. It's still a wonderful country and a great place to be.
ANDREW BOOTH: Thank you very much for coming in. Appreciate it.
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