Australian Rookie Reflects On His First Year in NASCAR
DEARBORN, Mich., April 12 - To say Marcos Ambrose moved from the south a little over a year ago with a dream to pursue a new job in NASCAR racing would be an understatement.
Over the past year, the Tasmania native has moved up the NASCAR ladder of racing to the NASCAR Busch Series after running 2006 in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he won a pole and posted top-five finishes. During that time, Ambrose earned the respect of his fellow competitors, moved to the United States and learned that his ‘southern accent’ is not the traditional southern drawl heard around a NASCAR garage.
Before joining Wood Brothers/JTG Racing last season as a relative unknown in the United States, Ambrose drove an Australian-built Ford Falcon to back-to-back 2003-2004 V8 Supercar championships. Having never raced on an oval in his career, Ambrose had to sit out the first three races of the 2006 season. Once approved for oval racing, Ambrose posted two top-five finishes, four top-10 finishes and a pole position in 22 truck series starts in the No. 20 F-150. His performance and skill earned him a spot in the No. 59 Fusion for the 2007 Busch Series season.
Since his big move, Ambrose, accustomed to being a fan-favorite in his V8 Supercar days, has been learning about American culture and just how big NASCAR is in America. “I had a good understanding of what I was getting myself in to,” said Ambrose. “This NASCAR world, it’s bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. Everything that you think is grand and large and exciting in Australia, it’s times about 20 and that’s America.”
As far as trying to fit into the NASCAR culture, one thing Ambrose is working one is adjusting his southern accent. “I’m learning to talk like Ward Burton,” Ambrose says with a chuckle. “I’ve got Chip Warren, my PR guy; he’s unique, too, with a bit of a southern drawl. I’ve just tried to blend in. I’m trying my best to slow my speech down and talk like a southern guy.”
As a rookie in the truck series last year, Ambrose says he never dreamt he would this year be a rookie in the NASCAR Busch Series. In addition to running a complete Busch Series schedule this season, he will also be running a handful of Nextel Cup races, including two road courses.
* “To even contemplate doing a Cup race after 12-and-a-half months is just a dream come true,” said Ambrose. “I’m trying not to think about it because I have so much more work to do here in the Busch Series that I don’t want to think about the Cup stuff yet because, to me, it is still very daunting.”
Ambrose is a humble and immediately likable racer with his easygoing attitude and ever-present grin. Not one to take himself too seriously, his sense of humor shines through in a commercial currently airing for the Busch Series.
In the commercial, two fellow drivers refer to Ambrose as ‘Kangaroo Meat’ and the ‘Australian Turtle’. “Kevin Harvick called me ‘Kangaroo Meat’ on a commercial, and that seems to have stuck pretty good,” said Ambrose. “Everyone is calling me ‘Kangaroo Meat’ now, so I guess I have no option but to like that.”
During the off-season, Ambrose had a chance to go back to Australia and has already seen an increase in interest in his NASCAR racing. “W e’ve got more coverage in Australia now than I did when I won my two championships down there,” he said. “That’s just because I’m different. I’m one guy taking on the world from Australia, and it’s a good story.”
By moving up a series in only a year, Ambrose is continually working to learn as much as possible each year. “All I wanted to do was just get into the sport to start off with,” said Ambrose. “We’ve blown that out of the water. Now we’re in the sport, we’re in there with a great team, and we’re in the Busch Series already. I’m three years ahead of where I thought I would be, so I’m way in front. Now our goals have changed somewhat.
“My goals are shifting on a weekly basis. The first thing I wanted to do was just get in sport. The second thing I wanted to do was just hang around for a while. The third thing I need to do is win races and be competitive.”
Ambrose’s long-term goal is to win races and a championship for the Wood Brothers team. In order to get to that point, Ambrose says he needs to be, “Competitive every week and put ourselves in contention to win.”