Q&A: Ambrose on second career Sprint Cup win
Marcos Ambrose faced a full press box at Watkins Glen following his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race victory.
The Australian took the Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen in dramatic style – passing Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski on the final lap as oil on the circuit through an unexpected challenge at the field.
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com’s race report, results, points and video of a dramatic finish
QUESTION: What do you recall after Brad hit Kyle and he spun?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I didn’t know Brad hit Kyle. I thought Kyle got loose first on some oil, so you can’t blame Brad for hitting Kyle. The guy was sliding across the track, he was gonna spin out and Brad finished him off. I’m like, ‘Man, there’s one, I’ve got one more to go.’
I went up over the hill there and I thought I was gonna hit the fence and kept it off the wall and then we get down to the chicane and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m just gonna follow Brad because he’ll see the oil before I do and I might be able to save myself,’ and I went straight off the track with him. That wasn’t a good plan, so then I dove to the inside thinking I was gonna get off the oil that way and slid through it through the carousel and then he slid through it afterwards, so then when I got some momentum on him I gave him a shot there to try and clear him away and we sailed off into turn six and I’m like, ‘All I want to do is be offline.’ If I can be offline, there’s a fair chance because up until that point it felt like it was on the racing groove so I thought if I can just brake off the racing groove, I’ve got a chance to whoa it up and then I’ll work it out from there.
I turned in and slid through the oil and I thought I had blown my chance in turn six, and then I got good drive because I went over the curb and I shot back up the inside of Brad and put him on the oil and then he slid on the oil and we snuck through for the win. But he couldn’t see the oil. You just couldn’t see where it was at. If it was a black streak, it would be OK. It was almost like a fine spray and just really hard to pick. I was the first one to start sliding on it for whatever reason.
I slid into turn one and I slid up the hill, and then I slid through the bus stop and allowed Brad to get past me, and I thought I was blowing up. I thought it was my oil, not knowing what was really going on, and it wasn’t until I saw Kyle and Brad sliding as well that I thought, ‘OK, there’s something down here on the track and we’re just gonna have to deal with it.’ But I think a big shout out goes to NASCAR. A lot of guys are gonna say, ‘Should they have thrown a caution or should they not?’ No one wants to see these races finish under caution or bunch back up in these two-by-twos and making a random finish. We had the three fastest cars duking it out for the win and that’s the way it should be. I think they made the right call.
QUESTION: Can you believe how fate has smiled on you here?
AMBROSE: Well, she’s been frowning on my all year, so it’s nice to get a change. You’ve just got to put yourself in good positions and wins will come. That’s what we did today. We had a fast car. We were in position to take advantage when it went crazy and we got the win. We didn’t luck into it. We deserved to get this win and we’ll take it.
QUESTION: If the oil didn’t go down could you have passed Kyle?
AMBROSE: If we had track position at the end there, we would have pulled away from Kyle. Even around these places aero is big thing because you can’t get air on the brakes and you can’t get the nose down, so we could chip away at him, but I was just burning my stuff up to catch him at the end.
We led a lot of the race in the middle part. If the caution hadn’t come out when we were in our window to pit for the last time, we would have been fine, but we had to pit because we were in our window when the caution was out. We came out ninth or tenth and then I knew I had a lot of work to do because it wasn’t gonna come easy. It wasn’t gonna be handed to me. I had to get myself back up there.
I actually got back up to second when Smoke (Tony Stewart) spun out and I thought, ‘I’ve got a chance to win this,’ and then Kyle did an awesome move on the inside. Give the guy props. He did exactly what he needed to do took us three-wide into turn one and then I knew I was toast. I knew I was in trouble. I managed to fight my way past Brad and then I tried to chase Kyle down, but he wasn’t making any mistakes and he had a fast car and I just burned my stuff up trying to get to him. I was thinking, ‘OK, it may be second-place here.’ But then the oil came down and I slipped to third and I thought, ‘That’s not the plan.’ So I just put my head down and just kept trying and made less mistakes than the other two I guess.
QUESTION: Have you ever raced in those conditions before?
AMBROSE: I have raced in those conditions before, but not when there’s so much at stake. We’re racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series here and wins are hard to come by, so it’s just a lot of pressure and you’re up against the best drivers in the world.
I’ve got to take a second here to say Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch are two of the best road racers I’ve been around. They’re amazing drivers. It was just a lot of fun to be driving against them, around them, and put ourselves in contention for the win.
When it gets to a situation like that, it’s similar to rain or drizzle on the track. You never quite know what you’re gonna get when you arrive at the corners, so I’ve had a lot of experience like that, but this was unusual because there was a lot of grip or there was none. Two or three times there I thought, ‘OK, I’m good here,’ I hit the gas pedal down and almost spun out. I thought, ‘Man, I just don’t know what’s happening.’ You just couldn’t see the oil. Normally you can see it on the race track, but I couldn’t see it. It was kind of just wait until the car slides and try to save it.”
QUESTION: Did it feel safer out there after the big wreck last year?
AMBROSE: Watkins Glen has done a great job with this facility. It still races the same, yet safety is improving every year we come up here. Clearly last year’s accidents put alarms out for a lot of folks and they did a great job correcting the issues that they found and they’ve actually made the track faster. A lot of the kerbs on the inside they’ve added some concrete in there, so it allows us to really run through the inner-loop a lot faster. Turn one is a lot safer and faster because you can run off on the rumble strip, so all-around a huge thumbs-up. I think the three races here this weekend have been the best three races Watkins Glen has seen for a long time.”
QUESTION: How is it to have your family here this year?
AMBROSE: Yeah, it’s just great. That’s why I’ve got them up here because they haven’t ever shared this. My kids haven’t shared this in America and it’s a special thing to win a NASCAR race, especially a Sprint Cup race, so it’s fantastic. I’ve got my in-laws sitting in the back here, too. They’re here on vacation, so a big shout out to them. My dad is in the hospital right now, so I hope this makes him feel better and gets him going.
It’s a tough life when you’re racing, especially I’m from Australia and my immediate family is down home and I feel a long way away a lot of days. We feel like, ‘OK, I’m chasing a dream here and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, and so too has my family.’ It’s just great to have them here and great to let them celebrate with me. These days don’t come around every day.
QUESTION: It looks like you need one more win to get in the Chase. Where is it coming?
AMBROSE: Next week! We got the pole (last time we were) at Michigan. We were running top five all day there. There’s no reason why we can’t go there and surprise them again.