16 August 2011
Ambrose: 'Cup win is a dream come true'
The latest first-time winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, Australia's Marcos Ambrose, was celebrating getting into victory lane for the first time at Watkins Glen International.
The weekend in US motorsports turned out to be a tale of two Australians: in IndyCar, you had one very angry Queenslander in Will Power. But over in NASCAR less than 24 hours later you had one ecstatic Tasmanian by the name of Marcos Ambrose. Who was - wait for it - standing in victory lane. At last!
"It's just a dream day," he said at the winner's press conference. "Winning in the Cup series is just an incredible feeling and I'm very, very proud."
It hadn't come easy, that's for sure. "I drove pretty much 100 percent the whole day and it's not often you need to do that around this place," he agreed. "With the rain imminent and the fog imminent, the strategy all messed up with fuel strategies, you never knew who was gonna be in the lead, you had to go the whole time ... It was frantic. It was tough all day. It seemed everytime I looked in my mirror there was someone there."
The shifting strategies meant that Kyle Busch led the most laps in the race, and was still in front going into the final laps. Ambrose had to charge him down - and then find a way past him.
"I had a run at him and had a couple chances and he locked up a tyre and I missed a shift and locked up my tyres and got all frazzled, so I was cooling everything back down to have one more shot at him," he said. "I knew the laps were winding down, but he was struggling. He was fighting his car. I could see that he was really loose up over the esses. I was gonna have another shot at him. If I was within three or four lengths coming into the last brake zone, I was gonna go through him to try to win."
The game changed when Paul Menard hit the wall and caused a late caution, throwing the race into a green-white-chequered situation.
"On the restart, I tried to actually blend in behind him because I knew I was never gonna outbrake the #18," he said. "He was gonna just saddle up in there trying to win the race and that's exactly what he did, but I couldn't find a hole, so I kind of got stuck into turn one and just saddled off in there and tried to make a hole, which worked out for me."
Busch ended up overrunning turn 1 and and lost the lead to Brad Keselowski - who, ironically, was the driver that Ambrose had been shooting the breeze with in the motorhome on the wet Sunday afternoon. "And there we were, the two of us, duking it out for the victory.
"I got through the bus stop really good and just forced the issue on him. I never touched him, I don't think, but I got him aero-free and I was able to slide past," said Ambrose of the penultimate lap before a major wreck involving David Ragan and David Reutimann brought out an early chequered before Keselowski could regroup and fight back.
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