Petty Gets Touch of Ambrose

by Monte Dutton

Marcos Ambrose, the NASCAR driver from the Australian island of Tasmania, is hoping a change will put his Sprint Cup career back on track.

In his first full season, Ambrose finished a creditable 18th in the 2009 point standings while competing for JTG/Daugherty Racing, a Toyota team affiliated with Michael Waltrip Racing. He finished second at Watkins Glen, NY and had three other top-five finishes.

But he fell to 26th in the cup standings last season and moved to Richard Petty Motorsports this year. This puts Ambrose back in the Ford camp.

Ambrose, 34, has won the Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen in each of the past three seasons. He found his first success racing in Australia’s V8 SuperCar Series, winning the 2003-04 championships.

Asked about driving for a team named for NASCAR’s most successful driver, the good-natured Ambrose said, “Well, it is a little intimidating. Not only now will he say ‘Goodday, how is it going?’ but he will also want to know why I didn’t win the race. There is a lot of prestige being associated with Richard Petty Motorsports, and it is a real honor for me to drive for The King. I never thought I would get that chance.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity, and hopefully, he is going to be proud of me, just like I am of his company.”

Ambrose joked about teammate AJ Allmendinger’s laughable attempts at an Australian accent, but added, “He and I get on great. We have known each other for a few years now, and it’s going to be fun to have him as a teammate.”

While learning the ropes of oval-track racing, Ambrose has enjoyed the bulk of success in road races. Allmendinger also has a roadracing background.

“I think that both of us really want to just be known as NASCAR contenders,” said Ambrose. “I know A.J. had a really good second half last year and has momentum. I’m trying to catch up to him as quickly as I can. We just want to be known as contenders every week. We want to be known not just as road-race specialists, but NASCAR drivers in general.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at © 2011 King Features Syndicate

Australian Marcos Ambrose is driving with a new team (Petty Motorsports) in a new car (No. 9 Ford) this season. With roots in road racing, Ambrose has been honing his oval track skills. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)