Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Transcript: Macrcos Ambrose "AAA 400" preview Media conference call

Q. Marcos, you’ve been to Dover before. Tell us about your first experience here and what it’s like racing at the Monster Mile.

Marcos Ambrose, No. 47 Little Debbie/Kingsford/Clorox Toyota Camry: Dover is a wonderful track. One of the best we go to. There’s a lot of character to it. It’s very fast and very demanding on the drivers. It’s unique. It’s a wonderful event for us. I look forward to going there. Some days I run really well. Some days I can’t get it to go my way. It’s a very challenging track to prepare for and feel confident on.”

Q. Would you compare this place (Dover) to any place that you’ve raced? Is it like anything else?

Ambrose: “Maybe Bristol. It has a similar feel to Bristol. But much faster. Obviously it’s faster. One of those places that can break you in a hurry and it’s a real challenge to get around. It’s also a real thrill and I really enjoy it.”

Q. The Dover race that is coming up here in a week or so is the second race in the “Chase.” You’re not in the top-12 but what does that mean? Do you need to be mindful of those 12? Do you race any different against them?

Ambrose: “I think it gives us an opportunity to win races and try to win a race. There’s going to be a lot of guys out there that are worried about the points. The Chase can be lost in the first few but it can never be won then, so they’re going to drive a little more conservative to get their Chase up and running. It’s going to give drivers a chance who are trying to break out and get their first victory.”

Q. You were here not too long ago for a Goodyear tire test too. How was that? What did you learn? Anything that you use in your setup for the upcoming race?

Ambrose: “We really struggled in the first race there. We just couldn’t get a handle on the car. We went back there and just tried to get some laps on there for me. We worked on our setup and we felt really good about the changes we made. Felt good about how the car worked but you just don’t know. These COT cars in the Sprint Cup Series are so fine tuned that you know the wrong setup can ruin your day. We’re not overly confident, but at the same time we feel that we learned some good information for the upcoming event.”

Q. It always looks like when we see you on TV that you always look like you’re having fun. They could probably interview you even if you finished dead last. You always have a smile on your face. It looks like you’re having fun. What’s been the biggest thing you’re adjusted to throughout the course of the year because it seems more and more each week when we see you on TV that you’re running up in the top-five and top-10 most of the time. What’s been the biggest adjustment you’ve made or the team has made this year to keep you up there?

Ambrose: “I sure don’t feel like I run top-five every time. It’s a real challenge to keep these cars running at the very front up against the best drivers. I think consistency has been the biggest things and managing expectations. One week can be red hot and challenging for wins, and the next week you can be at the back of the field. It’s a very close competition and you have to make sure that you don’t get too high when things are going good and too low when you have a tough day.”

Q. This time at Dover will be the first time that you’ll have double-file restarts at Dover. So if you’re leading a race and the caution comes out and there’s a double-file restart, where would you rather be? Outside or inside lane?

Ambrose: “That’s a great question. I guess you carry a lot more momentum on the top. The bottom is a little harder and you can get a bit choked up. So if you’re in the second half of the field, for me it always works better on the top. You get a little bit more room to move, because in the front half of the field it can be different. You want to be on the bottom and get that track position and get going. I think Dover itself really runs on the bottom. So you want to be there. If you’re in the front row you’re going to want to be on the bottom. If you’re in the back of the field, even halfway back, I think you want the top.”

Q. I want to ask you about the NASCAR rules against testing. You were able to go back to Dover for the tire test, but how much has the ban on testing this season hindered your development?

Ambrose: “Great question. I think it’s hurt, and I felt that it’s helped. I believe that I can get up to speed pretty quickly on the tracks that we go to, so it allows everybody to not get too far in front of us. So it’s been a good equalizer in that respect. Especially when they start changing tires on the different tracks that we go back to. It helps keep it at a pretty equal level as far as budgets. You can’t out test somebody out of the competition, it just doesn’t happen anymore. So it’s a good leveler. The fact that I’m in my first year in the series some tracks that I’ve struggled on I would have loved to go to similar venues and get it dialed in and feel comfortable on them It’s a double-edged sword for me. I don’t think it’s necessarily hurt me because it has helped me in some other areas.”

Q. Would you like to see that rule altered a little bit in the future? Maybe have a handful of tracks that you can go to? Maybe give a team six tests that they can pick and choose where they want to go back to?

Ambrose: “Well as a driver I’m going to be selfish and say yes, I want to test every day if I could. But the question you have to ask yourself is has the racing been better or worse? I think the racing has seemed very, very good. So that’s a question for the teams. Has it become a better series because many teams can afford to run at the top level? I think it’s been a great addition. There was a lot of concern at the start of the season that the racing is going to be ruined because the teams won’t be ready to go out there are test, but it’s actually been quite the opposite. I think it’s been a great addition for our sport and I’m not sure that with the cars so finely tuned and so boxed in by NASCAR rules that you need to have all the testing that you did anyway.”

Q. You said how Dover was similar to Bristol and obviously you had a great run there a couple of weeks ago. Do you expect that to carry over?

Ambrose: “Well, not really because the setups are so far different at each track that what we ran at Bristol there’s no way that it’d work at Dover. So you have to start again on your car setup and that’s pretty much what all of the drivers are doing. We’re all working on our car setups, trying to make it the perfect way for us to get around the track. When you have a good day, or a bad day, 90% of it is about how the car is handling not necessarily how the driver is driving. The load is different. The speed is different. Everything changes. We are confident though that we have a pretty good setup there but we won’t know until we get there.”

Q. I remember back in the ’80’s NASCAR went to Australia and had some exhibition races. Does anybody remember those down in Australia?

Ambrose: “Sure do. The track’s still there. It’s not being raced on anymore. It has a lot of weeds coming up through it. Bob Jane was the original entrepreneur who built the track had a successful series there for about six years. But as there was only one big track down there and I think that the teams got a little frustrated. Things changed and things didn’t really take off after that first few years of enthusiasm. Unfortunately stock car racing isn’t around, but we have a great dirt track with sprint cars and modifieds and late models. They also have a healthy road racing circuit as well.”

Q. Back in the spring at Dover you started 20th, finished 20th. Is there a big difference between how you setup for qualifying and setup for racing?

Ambrose: “There really is. In qualifying you just setup for that one lap. You just got to get it done and close your eyes and have a sprint and really hope it sticks. In the race, you have to get the car to roll through the middle well and carry that momentum on the long runs. We had a good setup for qualifying but then come the race it was a real challenge. For me, Dover is all about being comfortable behind the wheel. If you’re in the car and twitching and nervous and moving around, there’s no way you can run that speed for 400 miles. You have to back it up, but then of course you get lapped, then things change. But for me it’s all about being comfortable so I want to make sure this time back there at Dover that I get the car as comfortable as I can. Fast. Because the longer runs are what’s going to be better for me than having a car that is a little faster on a short drive, yet very, very difficult to drive, then lose confidence and it’s hard to drive when the tires get old.”

Q. Even though you finished 20th at Dover you finished on the lead lap. Was that big for you or did that not matter so much?

Ambrose: “To be honest with you, that’s a surprising statement because I thought I was dead last. It felt terrible around there so I’m not sure. Every week is a challenge and I’ve run very well there before at Dover in a Cup car for the Wood Brothers last year so I know I can do it there. I just have to put my head down and focus on making good adjustments and make good laps during practice and hopefully be ready.”

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