Whenever a NASCAR driver is nearing the end of his contract with whatever team he happens to be driving for, rumors and speculation often abound. Will he stay? Will he go? If he goes, where will he go? You get the picture.
Lately, Marcos Ambrose is the subject of such speculation, but in his case, that speculation isn’t limited to NASCAR. Could Ambrose be contemplating a return to his Australian V8 Supercar roots? Fans have put a couple tidbits together to come up with that possible conclusion, aside from the fact that Ambrose is nearing the end of his contract period with Richard Petty Motorsports.
First of all, Roger Penske is entertaining the idea of getting into V8 Supercar competition. So, what does that have to do with Ambrose? Easy, folks associated with Team Penske have made it know that the organization would love to have Ambrose in its potential V8 Supercar program. On top of that, fans also point to statements Ambrose has made over the years that once his NASCAR career is over, he’d like to return to his roots, as in V8 Supercars. So, I guess whether or not Ambrose will be returning to Australia for V8 Supercar competition sooner rather than later hinges on whether or not he feels he’s at the close of his NASCAR career. I’m guessing that would be no. And that stance isn’t simply because I’d miss the occasional Vegemite conversation during rain delay TV filler. Okay, now Men at Work’s “Down Under” from the 1980s is playing in my head. Make it stop! Enough about my problems; back to the subject at heand.
Ambrose isn’t saying much to quiet the speculation and wonder. Seems like his car owner, Richard Petty, is taking car of that for him. But Petty’s speculation is just like that of others — it’s merely speculation. Petty says that he doesn’t know how much longer Ambrose wants to stay in the US, but that a sticking point for him is that he hasn’t won a NASCAR race on an oval. Petty’s speculation hinged on Ambrose’s lack of an oval NASCAR win, saying that he wouldn’t be surprised if his driver opted to return home soon after finally claiming that oval victory. Petty is only speculating at this point, but he is more of an insider than the other so-called speculators.
Several drivers have come from other forms of racing to give NASCAR a shot, eventually returning to the series from which they came. Seems like most of those drivers have come from IndyCar to run a short, unsuccessful stint at NASCAR’s top level before seeming to turn tail and run back to IndyCar. To their defense, though, for the most part, they associated themselves with low-level (from a competitive standpoint) teams, and quite frankly, they just didn’t stick with it long enough. Of course, there are exceptions. Tony Stewart isn’t going anywhere anytime soon after winning three Sprint Cup titles, and it looks like Danica Patrick may be here to say, to the ire of aplenty of NASCAR fans.
Juan Pablo Montoya is the most recent defector, returning to IndyCar after several years of NASCAR competition. Unlike the others, he did stick around for awhile. Anyway, Montoya ran IndyCar and Formula One before coming onto the NASCAR scene. He enjoyed occasional success at NASCAR’s top level, scoring a road course win here and there, but that was about it. He never was the force in NASCAR that he was in IndyCar, unless you count hitting a jet dryer with force in Daytona a few years ago. We NASCAR people are never going to let that go, are we?
So what about Ambrose and a potential return to V8 Supercars where he won two-straight titles in a few short years? Like Montoya, Ambrose’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins have been few and far between and have been limited to road courses. But, unlike Montoya, I don’t think Ambrose is quite ready to shut the door on his NASCAR career, just yet.
Unlike Montoya, Ambrose seems to view his move to NASCAR as career advancement. Montoya? Not so much. Montoya seemed to just view NASCAR as a different challenge — not necessarily bigger or more prestigious, just different. Ambrose, on the other hand, seems to publicly be of the opinion that he made a step up with his move from Australian V8 Supercars to the US and NASCAR. Whether he is right or wrong is up for debate. In my honest opinion, it’s like comparing apples to oranges; they’re different forms of racing, and in the case of NASCAR and V8 Supercars, in two different countries, so it’s more a matter of taste, than anything.
To me, Ambrose seems to look at a return to his Supercars roots in a similar way that drivers who came from the stock car ranks in the US view returns to the NASCAR Nationwide and/or Camping World Truck series. They’re tired of the grind but don’t want to retire from competition, so they return to one of NASCAR’s feeder national divisions where there aren’t as many sponsor/schedule demands and the spotlight isn’t quite as bright.
That leads to the question, does Ambrose think he’s in the twilight of his NASCAR career? Is he just hanging around until he finally captures that elusive oval win in NASCAR? I guess Ambrose is the only person who truly knows the answers to those questions. I do see that oval win coming fairly soon, though. Eight races into the season, all on ovals, he does have two top-five finishes already. I’m thinking that oval victory is coming. When it comes, will Abmrose go? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, maybe I’ll head over to YouTube and look for that Men at Work video. And maybe Petty should get ready for that potential race against Patrick that Stewart has offered to set up.
Before you go, here’s a Marcos Ambrose NASCAR photo gallery (photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR):