Thursday, November 13, 2014

Has Marcos made his mark?

On the eve of his final Cup race weekend beginning, I figured it was a fine time for me to give my thoughts on Marcos Ambrose’s NASCAR career.
The raw numbers say the following:
  •  22 starts in the Truck series, with one pole position and four top tens.
  • 77 starts in Nationwide, four poles, 18 top tens and five wins (all on road courses).
  • 226 starts in Cup, three poles, 46 top tens and two wins at the Glen.
But I honestly think you have to look beyond the stats here. Unlike other drivers who made the jump, Ambrose was more than willing to start at the bottom of the ladder and work his way up. That won him a few fans as pretty much everything he went on to achieve was down to his talent rather than a silver spoon. I believe he gained even more fans after the 2007 Montreal Busch series race where he was taken out towards the end of it having been the guy to beat all day. I reckon very few of us would have shrugged our shoulders and said ‘that’s racing’, let alone smiling, when the microphone got shoved under our face afterwards.
However, that is what Marcos did his entire career over here. In every interview, you knew he would say how happy he was to be racing in NASCAR at some point, something I liked to hear as I take that as meaning they’re having fun.

So what will I most remember about Marcos Ambrose in NASCAR?

Well, I could go with the obvious meeting at Sonoma on race morning, or his first win…but I think I’ll go with something a little less obvious; the Truck series race in Kansas back in 2006.
Ambrose started fourth that day, his best qualifying of the season to that point I believe…he didn’t stay there for long. Sweeping around the front row off the start, the Aussie showed for the first time that maybe he might get the hang of this ‘turning left only’ deal. It was such a surprise that the commentators didn’t realise it was Marcos until he’d crossed the line to lead the lap. In the end he finished up third, something I doubt many would have thought possible in his first season.

Other memorable racing moments for me include;
  • His first Cup start at Watkins Glen in 2008. Coming from the back when qualifying was rained out, Ambrose dragged the Wood Bros #21 to finish third.
  • His first night Bristol race in 2009 where he finished third, behind Kyle Busch (who became the first, and so far only, driver to win all three races in a weekend).
  • Finally getting that long overdue win at Montreal in 2011…having been the recipient of a bonehead move by Jacques Villeneuve at turn 2 halfway through the race.
  • And lastly, the battle with Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch to see who would come out on top at Watkins Glen in 2012. 
If there is one thing that might be labelled as his legacy, it would be his prowess on the road courses. His career coincided with those races producing some of the best racing of the season. Now that could be down to the rules package, but it doesn’t matter; you knew that when those tracks rolled around, Marcos Ambrose was one guy you would have to contend with if you wanted to head home with the trophy.

Doing what he did best; giving it all on the road courses.

Darrell Waltrip believes Ambrose to be one of the best road course drivers he’s ever seen…now I’m sure people around the world will roll their eyes at that, but given the rarity of that type of racing in NASCAR, I can get where he’s coming from. So if raising the bar on the road courses while wearing his customary grin is all he’ll be remembered for, I’m ok with that.

Good luck back in the V8 Supercars, Marcos…hopefully the partnership with Roger Penske and DJR works out just fine.

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