Richard Petty Motorsports has announced that the driver of its #9 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry, Marcos Ambrose, will leave the team at the end of the current season.

The team said that Ambrose, who has been with them since 2011 after two Cup seasons at JTG Daugherty Racing, had made a "personal decision" to return to his native Australia next year where it's thought that he may resume his former V8 Supercar career where he is two-time former champion.

Ambrose originally moved to the US in 2006 to race in the Truck Series for JTG before stepping up to the Nationwide Series where he successfully applied his road racing expertise to pick up four wins at Watkins Glen and another in Montreal.

Ambrose also scored two Cup wins at the Glen making him one of the most successful drivers to ever race under the Petty banner, but a much-wanted victory on an oval circuit has proved elusive. This year Ambrose failed to make the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase while his team mate Aric Almirola made the cut thanks to victory in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July.

However Ambrose subsequently told reporters at Chicagoland Speedway that his decision to leave NASCAR had not been related to the Chase and had instead been taken much earlier during the summer, in the belief that his Sprint Cup career had "plateaued."

"I haven't kicked off the next level," Ambrose admitted. "I've always said that if I felt like I had flattened off my learning curve or my success, that I was only in the US to win and if I wasn't able to content like I want to, then I need to look at my situation - and that has been the case."

Ambrose nonetheless received a glowing testimonial from his team boss and NASCAR icon, Richard Petty. "Marcos will always be a part of our extended racing family," said the seven-time Cup champion. "He came over to the US with his family and dedicated his time here to giving it the best he had each week.

"I couldn't ask anything more from Marcos and his commitment on and off of the track to our race team and our partners," Petty added. "Away from the track, he's a family person first. That's something I respect and we'll miss Marcos, Sonja and their children."

"First of all I need to thank everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports, it has been a great four years together," responded Ambrose. "It has been incredible to drive for the King and [sponsor] Stanley DeWalt and Ford Racing and everybody.

"They understand and have been very open and frank with each other all the way through and RPM has been a great team to drive for and fully understand my situation and have worked together on this," he said. "I feel like I've left them better than when I entered with them. I feel I've contributed to the turnaround. They are a great team that is moving forward with a car in the Chase this year and we have won races.

"When I first joined them in the turmoil of the Gillette changeover there were a lot of grey clouds circling around them," he recalled. "[Now] they are on a great path and I wish them the best. I value Richard's friendship greatly and the family and everybody here at RPM. They are a great company and I wish them the most success.

"The time is just right for me to stop. I feel like the timing is right for myself and my family to return to Australia and that is what we are going to do," he explained.

"I just want to get my kids home to enjoy the Australian lifestyle as well so they can make a good choice when they grow up. This is really a racing choice for me and I feel like the time is right for me to stop in the US and personally I think it is a great time to move back home to Australia with my family."

"I never thought I would achieve what I have at the Sprint Cup level," he added. "I have survived here for years and I have had some wins but not enough and I feel like I was up against it early on from my background. I came from a country that doesn't have any asphalt oval racing at all and so I feel like I have achieved a lot and am really satisfied."

The team said that it is currently evaluating several potential candidates to take over at the wheel of the #9 car in 2015 and that no decisions had yet been made. Among those rumoured to be in contention for the race seat is David Ragan, the former Roush Fenway Racing driver who is currently competing for Front Row Motorsports.

An announcement on who will succeed Ambrose in the team's line-up will be made in due course, the team added. Team sponsor Stanley Black & Decker has not yet announced its own plans for NASCAR involvement next season. If Ambrose does return to V8 Supercars then it's thought possible that he might join up with Team Penske, which is believed to be considering expanding its racing operations into Australia next season.

"Today is not the day to talk about anything about my racing future," Ambrose said in response to questions about what he would do in 2015. " I feel like personally this is the right choice for myself and my family to call it a day here in the US and move on to our next chapter.

"RPM did not try to sway me one way or another. It took me time to get to the decision but when I did it was a really natural choice," he added. "It is not a financial decision at all, it is a personal choice.

"I have a lot to be thankful for and a great family and looking forward to spending more time with them and getting back to Australia and the culture and lifestyle there."



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