Marcos Ambrose will start his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the daunting Bristol Motor Speedway when he runs the Food City 500 this weekend but, based on past experiences of the venue, is looking forward to it.
The steep banks of the half-mile 'bullring' are as hostile a racing environment as you will find anywhere around the world, especially with 43 Sprint Cup cars racing door-to-door for 500 laps, but Ambrose insists that he is eager to get going on the first of two consecutive half-mile ovals.
''Bristol is a really tough, really fast short track and it tests everyone and makes even the veterans nervous,” the Australian said, “It's definitely one of my favourites places though. It's so unbelievable, you have to see it for yourself. I've run there in Truck and Nationwide and, every time I've left there, I've felt that I've learned something and improved my form there for the next time.''
Ambrose has recently tested at the half-mile Little Rock facility in North Carolina to prepare for the two forthcoming short-track races, which come at a crucial time in this year's series. After this weekend's race in Bristol, each week's 35 guaranteed starters will be based on the top 35 cars in the owners' standings entering that weekend's event. Ambrose's #47 entry currently sits 28th in the owners' standings.
“It will be my first Sprint Cup race at Bristol and 500 laps is going to be a massive challenge,'' he admitted, ''In some respects, I'm glad we go there after the off-week so that we are well rested.
“We've had the tyre test this week to warm ourselves back up, and I think we've just got to roll the Little Debbie #47 off the hauler and see what we've got. It's the first short-track of the year and, while I think we have shown that we have a good package on the intermediate tracks, the short tracks are different.
“The DNF last time out in Atlanta knocked our momentum, but I'm very confident that we can get back on form in Bristol. I love every race I run there and this one will be at another level again. It should be great, but we are going into the unknown a little.”
The first of four off-weekends in the 2009 Cup Series schedule was not an entirely inactive time for Ambrose, who participated in a two-day tyre test for Goodyear at the 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday. Ambrose was the Toyota representative at the test, running alongside Chevrolet's Jimmie Johnson, Ford's Paul Menard and the Dodge of Kasey Kahne.
His challenge at Bristol will be hampered slightly by the absence of regular 'gas man', and the #47 JTG Daughterty Racing crew will be forced to field a substitute refueller for the next four races following Jimmy Watts' suspension as a result of an incident in Atlanta two weeks ago. Watts will be absent until 22 April for rule violations during the Kobalt Tools 500, when he was found to have transgressed Sections 12-1 - actions detrimental to stock car racing - and 9-15-U - prohibiting crew members from the actual race track during running. He has also been placed on NASCAR probation until 31 December.
In addition, Frank Kerr, crew chief for the #47 entry, has been placed on similar probation under the clause of Sections 12-1 and 9-4-A that specify that a crew chief assumes responsibility for the actions of the team.