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Ambrose Re-Fired Up About Returning To Infineon

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 23 2011

Marcos Ambrose was leader of the pack at Infineon Raceway last year – until a bad decision cost him the victory. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Marcos Ambrose will be searching for gold this weekend, on and off the track.

The Australian badly wants a NASCAR Sprint Cup win and it seems likely that when it does come it will be on a road course like Infineon Raceway.

A year ago, it looked like Ambrose was going to get that first Cup victory at the Sonoma, Calif., track. But, while trying to conserve fuel while leading with the laps winding down, he shut down the engine, had trouble restarting it and saw a group of contenders drive past as he sat still on the track.

He came back to finish sixth, behind winner Jimmie Johnson, but it was as frustrating a finish as anything he has faced since coming to NASCAR in 2006 in the truck series.

“I have lost enough sleep on (that decision),’’ Ambrose said as he contemplated returning to Sonoma this week. “Racing is all about split-second decisions. That one just didn’t go our way.’’

Ambrose, whose No. 9 Ford will be among the favorites on Sunday, doesn’t want to put too much pressure on himself. So he’s planning to spend some time this week on his newest hobby – panning for gold.

And what better place to do it than Northern California, home of the famed gold rush in the mid-1800s?

“I really enjoy just driving over to a few local areas near the racetrack that have some gold history and stuff like that,’’ Ambrose said. “It’s a good hobby to have. I can do research on the racetrack and then get out in the field when I travel around the country.”

Marcos Ambrose returns to the scene of a decision that didn't go his way. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Once the fun is over, though, Ambrose will get down to the business of trying to win a Cup race.

He has certainly shown is road course expertise in the stock cars, winning three straight Nationwide Series races on the serpentine circuit at Watkins Glen and racing competitively in every NASCAR road race he has entered.

Ambrose plans to approach Sunday’s race like a clean sheet of paper.

“I don’t need to look back on what happened last year; it is what it is,’’ he noted.  ”I couldn’t get the motor re-fired for whatever reason. This year we have a brand new team, brand new (crew) chief, brand new sponsor and brand new carburetor, so I should have no issues. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and trying to win it.”

Nobody doubts he could do it, but Ambrose insists road racing isn’t as easy for him as he makes it look.

“There’s just a lot going on at a road course. You really have to stay very focused on your own car and not really worry about whether a guy is pulling away for a lap or two,’’ he explained.  ”It normally balances out.

“Physically, it’s quite challenging with the heat and the amount of work that you have to do, and I think mentally it’s the toughest part. I’ve grown up road racing. I can tell you that I can run three or four hours in a road race car and I’ll be fine. But when you have not done it for a year, it just seems to mentally be really demanding, and mistakes creep in.

“Guys start locking up tires on the brakes, too much wheel spin, getting greedy on the gas pedal, coming up in the corners, and all that have stuff can make or break your race,’’ Ambrose added. “For me, I think mistakes by drivers are the biggest thing that you see road racing compared to ovals.You can follow Tony Stewart or Matt Kenseth, at the end of a 500 mile-oval race (and) they don’t make mistakes. But when you go road racing, mistakes are part of life, and I think as drivers get tired, mistakes get more prevalent.”

Don’t bet on Ambrose making one of those mistakes again, though.

“I’ve got a new motor program,’’ he said. “The FR9 Ford motor generates a lot of power and is using quite a bit of fuel. So, clearly, we are going to have to do things differently than last year.

“I have a new carburetor and systems to play with when we get there. I’m looking forward to it and I think we still have a great chance to play a fuel mileage race. I think it’s still going to be a major factor in the outcome of the race.Last year, we forced everyone to pit when we did, and it worked out in our favor. I think that fuel is going to be a talking point in the weekend. Whether it turns into a fuel mileage race, I don’t know.”

And, if he plays it right, who knows, maybe Ambrose can strike gold in those hills at Infineon.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 23 2011
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