Marcos Ambrose, a two-time V8 Supercar champion in Australia, qualified for his first Craftsman Truck Series race with his 20th-place qualifying effort at Martinsville Speedway this afternoon. Ambrose, who needed to qualify for the race on time, became the first native of Tasmania to qualify for a major NASCAR touring series event. Ambrose, 30, missed the first three races of the season due to NASCAR rules that prohibit "rookie" drivers from competing on superspeedways until they have demonstrated they have the ability to race at competitive speeds on shorter tracks. Ambrose discussed his qualifying effort and the pressure associated with his NASCAR debut.
Marcos Ambrose-20-Animal Adoption/Fresh Step Ford F-150 (Qualified 20th)
There was a lot riding on your first Truck Series qualifying attempt. Was this the most pressure you've felt qualifying for a race? "I've had plenty of tough qualifying. I remember back in the European days when we were fighting for every position. This was one was the most difficult for a number of a years because we just wanted to make sure we got in the show, but we still wanted to look good. There's a real balance between being too conservative and too aggressive, and I just really found the middle ground. I left a bunch out there, but I was nervous. Not nervous to try and get the pole, but I was just nervous to make the race."
When did you first feel the nerves? "About lunchtime yesterday when I getting ready for my first practice. It's been a real white-knuckle ride the whole couple of days here. This deal here in NASCAR with short-track racing on ovals is so much different from where I've come from. This is my first time racing on an oval, the first time I've raced on a half-mile, the first time I raced on concrete, the first time I've been in NASCAR, the first time in a truck, the first time on these tires. There's just so much going on and I'm just trying to absorb it all in. I'm going to be pleased when this weekend is out of the way. We can enjoy the race now because we just want to turn over some laps and get a finish if we can. As always, it's pretty tough here at Martinsville to stay out of trouble. I feel like we've achieved about 85 percent of what we came here for."
What are your expectations for the race? "I just want to get experience with laps. The more laps that I can get, the better off I'm going to be. Starting this race is going to help me a bunch. Regardless of where we finish, it's about experience for this weekend, and really for this year. Every track that I'm going to go to is going to be brand new. Every corner of every track is brand new. I don't expect too much from this year, it's really a year of transition."
Mark Martin-6-Scotts Ford F-150 (Finished 4th)
"Our Scotts Ford F-150 is crumpled up a little bit, but it's not that bad. It didn't slow us down. I learned some things today, and I didn't expect so many cautions. I hooked my truck up a little too much in practice yesterday. The track was green and it was real hard on left-rear tires. We hooked it down a little harder than it needed to be today. Mike (Beam, crew chief) and the guys did a good job with the truck freeing it up, but that's just what we had. The way it turned out, we had a strong truck but we got behind and we couldn't get to the front."
You chased Matt Crafton to the finish and had a good race in the closing laps for third place. "I moved him around a little bit the last lap, but for third place I didn't want to mess him up. He was doing what I would have done if I was in his seat. It was some good racing. This Craftsman Truck Series is the best racing in NASCAR. It was a lot of fun. I learned some things today, and I didn't expect as many cautions. The track was real green yesterday and we only had one set of tires to practice on and it was eating up the left rears pretty hard. We hooked the thing up really hard and it was a little tight today. Mike and the guys did a good job of freeing it up. We did everything we could, we just couldn't get back to the front. It was just good racing."
Could you have challenged for the win with longer green-flag runs? "Yes, that would have helped us a lot, or some different pit strategy, but you can't count on those things. When we count on having a caution every seven laps, and you get a 70-lap green, that will get you in trouble. It didn't play into our hands, but we had such a great ride here that we still finished fourth, and there's nothing wrong with that. Under different circumstances we might have challenged for a win."
Marcos Ambrose-20-Animal Adoption/Fresh Step Ford F-150 (Finished 33rd)
Talk about your on-track incident and your NASCAR debut today. "We're here for experience and we got a lot of that today. I told myself at the start of the race to be super conservative and try to learn as much as I could. I dived to the bottom as fast as I could and we ended up getting into trouble because we were trying to stay out of trouble. I guess that's just learning the ropes. We had a good truck. I made some mistakes on pit lane and let the engine stall and things like that. We got a lot of junk out of the way and I'm looking forward to the next one. I think we did OK. If you look at the whole weekend, I wanted to make the race and everything else was a bonus. It's not exactly the prettiest truck out there, but we'll rebuild it at home."
How tough was it to make your NASCAR debut at Martinsville? "It's tough because there's just so much going on a half-mile oval. There's no time to rest and let the trucks spread out. It's just bumper to bumper the whole way."
With this being the fourth race of the season, and the fact the next race uses current owner points to determine proviosionals, can you take a sigh of relief? "It definitely a good thing, but the NASCAR license is still looming over my head there a little bit. We've got make sure we take our time to make sure we do the right thing by NASCAR to get our license up to scratch. I'm looking forward to the next one. I think we're going to make a big step forward. For me personally, I feel like I've overcome a lot of hurdles this weekend and I feel more comfortable already."
Rick Crawford-14-Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford F-150 (Finished 26th)
What happened on the final restart? "We should have run 10th or 11th, or somewhere along there and had a decent finish, and probably would have moved up to fourth in the points. With that restart with seven laps to go we had a flat right-rear tire. This team is built Ford tough and I'm driving the Ford F-150, but the Circle Bar Truck Corral team didn't deserve this one. This one here is hard to swallow today."
ERIK DARNELL-99-Simply Wow Ford F-150 (Finished 11th)
"Not terrible. First off, I have to thank Simply Wow cleaner and degreaser for coming on board for the weekend. It was a tough weekend, though. I've never been to this track before and it's hard out there. It's a tough little race track. I'll tell you right now, even though it's 250 laps, I still don't have the hang out it yet. I just have to thank my guys, though, because we didn't have a good truck all day long and they never gave up on me and kept adjusting on the thing. To come out of here where we did, I can't complain about that. It's a really good way to start the year for me being a rookie with the team out here. Consistency, yeah, but would we have liked to finish better? Of course, but again, this is my first race out here and it wasn't real great, but we ended up with a truck in one piece, so I'm pretty happy about that. I think it was a decent points day and we'll go to Gateway from here."
Did your experience with Driver X at this track help you today? "It taught me during 'Driver X' that I didn't like this place, and I came back here and it really reaffirmed that for me. It was tough then and it was tough now. I still don't have the hang of it yet, but we'll come back here in the fall and try to fix it then."
Bobby East-21-Wood Brothers Museum Ford F-150 (Finished 13th)
"That was a fun race. This F-150 was pretty good. I felt stupid getting spun out 20 laps into it all by myself, and got a lap down. This team gave me such a good truck that we were able to get that lap back and get up through the field. We're happy with it. We were wanting to get finishes and top 10s maybe the second half of the season, and right now we're pretty close to getting top 10s, so we're happy with it and I'm happy with everyone here."
With this being the fourth race of the season, and the fact the next race uses current owner points to determine proviosionals, can you take a sigh of relief? "We can take a big sigh. This was a pretty decent points day for us and we're locked in and don't have to worry about making the show. That's a huge relief because I almost missed this show today, so I'm real happy with that."
David Ragan-50-Roush Racing Ford F-150 (Finished 34th)
You had a good truck early, but were penalized when you left pit road with the catch can attached to the overflow vent. "It's totally a team effort here. I did have a blast. We had an awesome truck with Matt Puccia (crew chief) calling the shots for us today. A great day for us. Our finish isn't going to be quite where it's at. A couple of mistakes on my part, and it's a learning effort. We're working hard and it was fun to get out there and race with some of the top guys and Mark for a little bit. Everybody at Scotts, Miracle-Gro and Ford put this deal together for me. I'm just happy to be racing. I'm getting to run the 6 truck in Gateway in a few weeks, so I'm happy but disappointed. A tough day for us at Martinsville; it got the best of us. But, we did run good and they knew we were here."
What did you learn as you followed Mark Martin early in the race? "Anytime you can follow Mark Martin, it's a learning experience. His entry was a little different than mine, and that definitely helped me some. He was backing up his corner a little bit and that helped us on the long run. I think Mark and I had the two best trucks out here today. Obviously, the 7 was fast and he got jammed up a couple of times. We had a good truck and we had a good race, but we're not going to have the finish we want."