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Ambrose Has Had To Adjust Goals for 2010

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 17 2010

For Marcos Ambrose, the smiles are getting a bit tough to muster these days. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

That trademark ebullience was in short supply when Marcos Ambrose talked to the media this week. In its place was a mixture of frustration and uncertainty.

Nobody needed to ask why:

Jacked-up hopes that Ambrose would become the first Australian to win a Sprint Cup race and make the Chase are on the run as the non-playoff portion of the 2010 schedule moves deeper into its second half.

“Well, it’s been a really tough season, no doubt about it,” Ambrose said. “We’ve had a couple of non-finishes, finishes with mechanical problems.  We’ve had a points penalty, 150-odd points there a few races back which hurt us in the points title.  We’ve had a lot of non-finishes for crashes, some my fault, some not.  So we’ve got a lot of things going on.

“Sure my confidence has been hit, our team confidence has been hit.”

In February, confidence was falling from the rafters in Ambrose’s shop at JTG/Daugherty Racing. Ambrose, who had point finishes of 10th and eighth in 2008 and 2007 respectively in the Nationwide Series, was coming off his first full-time Cup season 18th in points.

He had seven top-10 finishes and for a low-budget team like his, that’s exciting.

The hope was – the expectation was – that 2010 would be even better.

It has not been.

Ambrose finished 41st at Daytona and the struggles there have not abated much at all. He has one top-10 finish – he was ninth at Richmond – compared to five bottom-10 finishes.

This week, Week 16, finds him 30th in points. Not only are Chase hopes gone, he could soon be falling from the top 35 in owner points.

And if that happens, well, Ambrose is well acquainted with the fate of drivers who don’t finish well.

“I fear for my job every Sunday,” he said. “You’re only as good as your last race, and racing is a tough business. You get in a slump and people start looking at you, you start looking at yourself. As a race driver, as a person, as a dad, you’ve got to look at the commitment you’re making to racing and then when it starts to go pear shaped like it has for us this year, you start reflecting on what am I doing wrong? Have I lost my touch?  Have I lost focus? All of those things come into play.”

What’s gone wrong? As usual, no one thing.

But most of the things simply have to revolve around that fact that even with big support from Michael Waltrip Racing, JTG/Daugherty is out spent every time it takes to a track.

Asked about that, Ambrose plays the good soldier.

“I can’t complain about my package,” he said. “I’ve got a dream job. I’ve got awesome equipment from MWR. They supply fantastic equipment and personnel and services. We’ve had some issues, we’re working through them.  We’re a good group.  I have no complaints about the effort that’s going into our package and what I’ve got.

“We’ve got enough stuff to run around the front every single weekend. So there are no complaints there from me.”

The goals have shifted at JTG/Daugherty. With Chase, and certainly championship, goals now gone, the team has began to focus on simple improvement.

“Our goal now is to start gaining momentum, start getting consistency, start stringing up those top 10s, and hopefully then we can get back on track,” Ambrose said. “We’ve lost time.  We’ve lost a month here, a lot of races in the doldrums.  Hopefully we can pull ourselves out and finish the second half of the season strong.”

Ambrose and team would appear to be the perfect place to get back on track this weekend.

Sunday’s race is at the Infineon Raceway road course and Ambrose is a road course demon. He finished second at Watkins Glen last year and third at Infineon. His two NASCAR victorues – which came in the Nationwide Series – was at Watkins Glen in 2008 and ’09.

“We expect to run well at Sonoma,” Ambrose said. “We should be somewhere in the top 10 in practice, in qualifying trim, which sets us up well for the race.

“That race is what it is. If you get caught up in someone else’s problems, so be it. You just put your best foot forward and try to apply yourself. So I think a race like Sonoma this weekend, I’ll be breathing a little easier knowing that it’s my forte. It’s what I’ve grown up doing. I should have as good a chance of any of running at the front.

“Any time I’ve been there I’ve run at the front both years I’ve attempted the race.  We’ve done a lot of practice, lot of research on the car, we’ve done a lot of development.  Fingers crossed, it’s going to work out.”

This weekend and for the rest of the season.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 17 2010
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