With the Daytona 500 now out of the way, Marcos Ambrose will turn his focus to remaining inside the top 35 in owner points as the NASCAR Sprint Cup heads to Fontana this weekend for the Auto Club 500.
The former V8 Supercar ace made history last weekend when he become the first Australian to take part in the Daytona 500 and secured a solid 17th place finish on his first attempt at NASCAR's blue riband event.
Now he will be keen to add more points to his tally to remain in the top 35 through to the sixth round of the season to avoid being forced to qualify on speed, with the top 35 in owner points being guaranteed a slot in the field.
The Auto Club Speedway will be the first venue that Ambrose has previously raced on in the Sprint Cup, having finish 32nd on his penultimate run for the Wood Brothers Racing team last year, and he admitted it is a venue he enjoys.
“Auto Club Speedway is a great place to race and it's a tough track with a lot of character,” he said. “The turns are nice and wide and it gives you a few options in terms of lines. But it is one of those places where if you have a good car you can really get amongst it and pass a lot of cars – and if your car is not happy then you can be in for a long race.
“Shock packages are essential. I'm grateful I have some laps there in a Cup car as well as four Nationwide races under my belt. It's the first time I've run at the same track twice at the Cup level. It's not a massive thing but every little bit helps. At least I know what the place looks like and the character of the track. We hope to leave there with a strong finish.”
Like a number of his rivals, Ambrose admitted that Fontana is akin to the start of the 'real' season after the week long event that is the Daytona 500 and he said a good result would be crucial for the races ahead.
“Daytona is such an enormous event and it has a feeling and a race format all of its own,” he said. “You're on track for a week and the qualifying system with the Duels means it's really quite unique, and restrictor plate races always throw up some different scenarios.
“Getting to California is like 'getting down to business' in some ways. Getting momentum early in the season is quite important, which makes running well at Fontana pretty crucial. We want to run well and keep growing as a team. To post another solid result here and have a good points day puts us another step closer to being well inside the top 35 by the sixth race, so bringing the Little Debbie car home in one piece and in a strong position is important.”