2009 marks Marcos Ambrose’s fourth season in NASCAR and his first in the top-level Sprint Cup Series.
It’s the culmination of a dream for the driver from Launceston, Tasmania, who left Australia as a two-time V8 Supercar Champion to pursue a career in NASCAR in the United States.
The Australian has worked his way up through the Truck Series and Nationwide Series, making 11 Sprint Cup starts in 2008 in preparation for the biggest season of his career in 2009.
Ambrose will drive the #47 Toyota Camry of JTG Daugherty Racing, the team he was been with throughout his entire NASCAR career. Major sponsorship for the car will be shared among Little Debbie, Kingsford, Clorox and Bush’s Beans.
Marcos’ car will be built and maintained by Michael Waltrip Racing as part of a new technical alliance between MWR and JTGDR, with Ambrose’s car and crew based out of the 140,000 square foot facility in Cornelius, North Carolina, along with the Sprint Cup cars of MWR’s David Reutimann (#00) and team co-owner Michael Waltrip (#55).
Ambrose, already the first Australian to race in NASCAR full-time, becomes the first Australian to race in the world famous Daytona 500 in 2009 as he strives to cement his place in arguably the world’s toughest motorsport series.
THE MAKING OF MARCOS …
It was at an early age Ambrose showed signs of his motor racing ability and won four Tasmanian Junior karting titles before commencing senior competition at an age of 16. Leaving Australia to chase the elusive Formula One dream in England in 1996, he learned quickly and won regularly, but despite his success, Ambrose needed further financial backing to continue chasing his elusive F1 dream, so it was time to come home to Australia.
The Stone Brothers Racing team and Ford signed Ambrose in 2001 to compete in the V8 Supercar Championship Series and he backed up their confidence by sensationally earning pole for his first ever event at Albert Park and finishing eighth in the championship in his rookie season. Marcos earned four poles in his debut season, including pole at the biggest and most daunting race of the year at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. The 2002 season started with a bang with Ambrose snaring the pole position at Phillip Island before recording his debut race win in the first race. Marcos finished the year third in the standings.
With a new BA Ford Falcon, Ambrose gave the Ford team a great start to the 2003 season with victory in the first race of the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide. He followed this fantastic start with a third career win at Eastern Creek Raceway where he led Ford home to a memorable 1-2-3 at the Sydney track—Ford’s first clean sweep of the podium since Eastern Creek ‘97 and Ambrose’s first round win for the season. After 13 rounds in the 2003 V8 Supercar Series, Ambrose was presented with the driver’s series trophy, 102 points clear of second place.
In 2004, Ambrose continued to shine. He claimed three pole positions and five round wins and went into the final round at Eastern Creek with a virtually unbeatable lead. In the end he collected his second championship in the opening Saturday night race and then went on to clean-sweep the round in record-breaking style in his Pirtek Falcon.
He started 2005 the way he ended ‘04 with a clean sweep of the opening round in Adelaide. He remained in the championship lead until after round 11 at Bathurst when he was taken out of the race and settled for second in the final standings.
2006 offered a new opportunity to Ambrose as he embarked on his debut season in NASCAR. Joining forces with Wood Brothers/JTG Racing, Ambrose performed strongly achieving his first pole position and two third place finishes in a season that included nine top ten qualifying positions and four top ten finishes. Ambrose, driving the #20 Aussie Vineyards Ford F-150, made his mark in his debut season, leading to a promotion into the NASCAR Busch Series for 2007.
Ambrose made history in 2007, becoming the first non-North American driver to finish in the top 10 of a NASCAR championship (NSCS, NNS, NCTS) with eighth overall in his rookie season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (formerly NASCAR Busch Series). Ambrose was second to fellow Ford driver David Ragan in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings and achieved a best finish of fourth along with pole position at Memphis in November.
During 2007 Ambrose achieved six top 10 and 19 top 20 finishes but undoubtedly the highest-profile moment of the year came in Montreal, Canada, when Ambrose dominated the race only to be taken out of the race by Robby Gordon with a few laps remaining. Ambrose led more laps than any other driver and was on his way to his debut NASCAR win until the Gordon incident.
As a result of the clash Gordon was suspended from the following day’s NASCAR Nextel Cup event, but as a gesture of goodwill, Gordon offered Ambrose a drive in one of his Cup cars for the following weekend’s Cup race at Watkins Glen. Unfortunately Ambrose was denied the chance to qualify for the race when qualifying was rained out and the field set on championship owner’s points.
2008 saw Ambrose again suit up for a full season in the Nationwide Series and like 2007, Ambrose finished the season in the top 10 in the series points score.
The undoubted highlight was Ambrose’s sensational win on the Watkins Glen road course in the spectacular STP livery of the #59 Ford Fusion. It came just one week after Ambrose dominated the Montreal event for the second-consecutive year, only to be denied the win, this time by torrential rain.
The Watkins Glen win made Ambrose just the second non-North American to win a NASCAR event, after former Formula One driver and Columbian Juan Pablo Montoya, who claimed two wins in 2007.
The 2008 season also saw Ambrose make his Sprint Cup debut, running as high as second in his first race at the top level before gearbox failure on the Sonoma road course.
Ambrose would make 11 Sprint Cup starts in 2008, with a best finish of third at Watkins Glen after starting from last position. Ambrose also finished 22nd on his Sprint Cup oval debut at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.