Sports

Marcos Ambrose enjoying his American racing dream

Australian Marcos Ambrose came to America with a dream and a lot of promise.

For the first 21/2 years of his experiment in NASCAR racing, all he found was a lot of close calls and too many instances of getting caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, he's finally found victory - and nearly two.

A former two-time Australian V8 Supercar champion, he claimed his first NASCAR win Saturday, holding off one of sport's hottest drivers, Kyle Busch, in the Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

The next day, while driving in just his third Sprint Cup Series race, he went from 43rd to a third-place finish for the Wood Brothers, the organization's best finish since 2005.

It was a wildly exciting weekend that couldn't have come at a better time for Ambrose or his JTG Daugherty Racing team.

The JTG organization had been without a win since 1996 and just joined forces with former NBA star Brad Daugherty, with plans to move full time into Cup next season. Ambrose is running about a dozen Cup races this season for JTG Daugherty and the Wood Brothers, including Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway.

"I've come along way. I've dragged my family halfway around the world, away from my dad and mom, and everybody who needs me back in Australia, and it just feels like it's worthwhile," Ambrose said.

Ambrose was born in Launceston, which is in Tasmania, an Australian island and state 150 miles south of the eastern side of the continent.

Tasmania is an Australian island and state 150 miles south of the eastern side of the continent.

"It feels like I've conquered a huge mountain. I've got to thank Tad and Jodi (Geschickter, team owners) for plucking me out of nowhere. I met them at a hot, dusty day at (Indianapolis). I was hanging around like a bad smell until they gave me a test, and here we are.

"I feel like we're ready to really do something special."

Most of all, the win provided validation, Ambrose said.

Since debuting in the Truck Series in April 2006, Ambrose has been making steady progress in his stock car racing career. His beaming smile, pleasant nature and well-mannered and fun-loving appearances with corporate sponsors, as well as fans, have made him a popular figure in the garage.

A good personality and status as a fan favorite can take one only so far, however.

"What we needed to do is win," he said. "I was pretty used to winning down home. I was a two-time champion and won a lot of races, so you had to eat a little humble pie when I came here and just learn the craft.

"It's a very different discipline, NASCAR racing, even on a road course."

Much of the NASCAR community got its first in-depth look at Ambrose last August when he became an unwitting victim of a late-race temper tantrum by driver Robby Gordon in the Nationwide race at Montreal.

Gordon, incensed at NASCAR because it would not allow him to return to a position on the track after he was hit by Ambrose under caution, remained on the track on the final restart and wrecked Ambrose - then the leader - with two laps remaining.

Gordon, black-flagged and ordered to park by NASCAR, proceeded to race until the end and engaged in a post-race celebration on the frontstretch as if he had won, joining the real winner, Kevin Harvick.

While a stunned TV audience watched Gordon's antics, along with NASCAR officials, a calm and collected Ambrose remained the perfect gentleman.

"I am upset and disappointed, but I am not mad. That is racing," Ambrose said at the time.

Ford has been deeply involved in Ambrose's career since his Supercar days in Australia and has assisted in his transition to NASCAR, through the Trucks, Nationwide and ultimately Cup series.

"He still maintains a very good relationship with Ford Australia and that's very important to us and him," said Ford Racing Technology's John Szymanski. "He's really a Ford guy and we want to continue to share in his success."

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