17 May 2011
Ambrose still looking for elusive first oval win
"We had a really good day at Darlington and it didn't quite work out because we finished 13th," agreed Ambrose. "We've just had some rough luck so far this year. We've had accidents and incidents outside of our control that have really hurt our points.
"This result [at Dover], I'm really excited because I think it's going to lead to a great Charlotte, Pocono, Indy, Kansas - all these great big tracks coming. I feel like our team is really suited to those tracks and I'm excited about it."
If Ambrose can maintain the momentum then there's a big prize on the horizon. His third place at Dover has put him up to 20th position in the Sprint Cup championship, and while he's too far behind to realistically have a chance of qualifying for the Chase on points this season, there's the small matter of a precious wild card to consider. That's a new innovation in NASCAR in which the driver with the most wins in positions 11 through 20 gets to go through into the Chase.
With two road races (Infineon Raceway at Sonoma in June, Watkins Glen in August) in store, and with Ambrose still heavily wearing the "road specialist" crown, maybe it will pay off for him in 2011 after all - victory in either race would put him into the contention for the Chase. (Whisper it gently: winning both would surely guarantee it.)
"I don't think it's necessarily the track that gives me any advantage. I think it's just road racing in general," explained Ambrose about the edge he enjoys on road courses. "Road racing, big, heavy too powerful race cars suits my style, and I've been fortunate that I've done well in road courses on NASCAR, and really set me up with a lot of confidence to know what I'm looking for in that race car.
"I really know what I'm looking for [on road courses.] We don't have to muck around with trial and error, and I pretty much engineer it from the seat because I have such a clear vision of what I need to do to get around these places well. And I guess I lacked that at some ovals and other places we go to.
"On the ovals I'm a little hit and miss. I have had occasions where I've run, qualified and run top five speed; the other weekends where I don't run that well and it's a big question mark," he continued. "Clearly I'm lacking something right now on the ovals on a consistent basis, and you know, not many road racers have been able to cross over. Some have, but not many, and I hope that I'm able to prove any critics wrong and get an opportunity here to really answer that question, not just for me, but for everyone else that watches what I do."
But while road courses - and Watkins Glen International in particular, where he won twice in the Nationwide Series - may be his best hope for snatching that Chase wild card, you suspect that Ambrose would actually trade the Chase altogether in favour of that first oval victory, to answer his own critics - the inner ones as well as the media and the fans.
"I feel like if you're going to be a NASCAR driver, you need to perform on every single track and have a chance to win at every single track."
Ambrose's impressive road racing performance goes back to the start of his motor racing career in the 1990s. After four years in Australian and British Formula Ford Championships from 1996-9, Ambrose took up with Queensland-based motor racing team Stone Brothers to complete in the V8 Supercar Championship touring car series held in Australia with overseas rounds in New Zealand, Abu Dhabi and (until this year) Bahrain. He was third in his first year and then champion in the next two seasons, but missed out winning a third consecutive title, with a controversial crash at the series' Bathurst 1000 tent pole event not helping matters.
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