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DEARBORN -- Richard Petty Motorsports announced today that Marcos Ambrose has signed a multi-year agreement to drive the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion, beginning with the 2011 season. This will be the second time in his NASCAR career that Ambrose will be driving a Ford, following his initial foray into the sport in 2006 when he started in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and later the NASCAR Nationwide Series with JTG Racing. Ambrose also won two championships driving for Ford in the V8 SuperCar series while living in Australia.
I’ve just signed up to a multi-year arrangement to drive the No. 9 car with Stanley backing for Richard Petty Motorsports. Naturally, today is a huge step for my career, a wonderful opportunity, and I’m very, very excited to announce it.
I’m very, very excited to announce that for 2011 a multi-year contract with RPM driving the 9 car with Stanley on board for a majority of the season at this point. I’m very, very excited about the relationship with Ford – to be back intact. I’ve been a Ford driver for many years and it’s just great to be back in the Ford family. To be associated with Richard Petty and the Gillett family and everybody associated at RPM, it’s just a dream opportunity for me. Naturally, I came to America to race NASCAR and when I came I wanted to win. I feel like this new position, driving the 9 car, will give me the very best opportunity to do that, and the best chance that I’ve had so far to consistently run at the front and get the car to Victory Lane. It’s a journey that I’m on – this NASCAR journey – is something I’m very excited to be able to stay in the sport. I wasn’t sure when I agreed to end my partnership with JTG at the end of the 2010 season, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me and if I was ever gonna get another opportunity to compete at NASCAR’s top level. I’m proud to announce that I will be back and I’m looking forward to getting started.
Q. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THIS DEAL CAME DOWN?
A. It’s been a wild month, no doubt about it. I had made no secret that I felt like I needed to make a change to get the most out of myself and get an opportunity at the very top level of NASCAR to just try and change things up and see if I can find out that missing link. It’s no secret that I can run pretty good on the road courses, but on the ovals I’m not consistent enough to run at the front. When we agreed to part ways with JTG that was a difficult day, but then the real work started. I picked up the phone and started making phone calls. With the help of Ford, I was able to get talking to RPM and very quickly we realized that we both were very interested to work together. We worked diligently and very rapidly to try and put this together to make it right and I’m just very excited. Luckily, Stanley was obviously watching what I was doing and when my named popped up in the ring, we were able to get to this point very, very quickly. When things are right, they normally happen easily like this and that’s what makes me so excited. All the stars have aligned and come together rapidly to make it happen, and when you get moments like that, it’s easy to feel good about the situation and I just can’t wait to get started.
Q. WHAT DO YOU SEE AT RPM?
A. It has a lot of things that I looked at. Clearly, I needed to go to a place where I could grow and I could get the most out of myself. To be associated with Richard Petty, first and foremost, is a dream opportunity of mine. Who would have thought that this little Tasmanian kid could one day be driving for the King. It’s just a dream chance. The Gillett family has been in the sport for a long time, they’re professionals in the sporting business. They’ve put together a great program over at RPM. I feel very comfortable to drive for the Gillett family with Foster at the helm really steering it. I really like what I see, and then to have a great alliance with Roush and Ford Racing. I feel like I’ve got all the ingredients I need. I’ve got a great car number and a great team that has been formed around that 9 car to drive for, and I think it’s gonna eliminate any question marks I’ve got about stuff around me and people around me. Hopefully, we’ll jell together well. There’s gonna be a period of learning with each other, but I feel like I’ve got all the ingredients in place now to really have a serious shot at contending on a regular basis.
Q. WHAT DOES THE MAKEUP OF RPM LOOK LIKE FOR NEXT YEAR?
A. I looked at all the ingredients, obviously, to make a wise decision on my future and I feel very secure in RPM and where they’re heading and the direction they’re taking. I’m signed up. AJ Allmendinger is signed up. Stanley is on board on my car. We’re fully funded and we’re very excited about the future. There’s a lot of great things happening over at RPM and I’m just one of many good news stories that’s gonna come out of here in the next little while. I feel great with the association and I feel like they’re moving definitely in the direction that I would want to head and there’s no reason why we can’t be a major force in 2011 on the race track.
Q. HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET BACK WITH FORD?
A. Very important. I have a very loyal fan base back in Australia, the vast majority were Ford because I made my career with Ford, so it’s great to be back and it’s great to be back with the Ford family and it goes all the way to the top. I feel proud to be associated with them again. I look forward to representing them on the race track and I’m sure there are as many Australian fans as well as general Ford fans that believe this is some great news. It’s just really come back full circle. I’m here in NASCAR, I’ve got this opportunity, without a doubt, to a large extent the primary reason would be Dan Davis and John Szymanski from Ford Racing, who helped me get here in the first place. I’ve got a lot to pay back and, hopefully, I can get to it early in 2011 and share that success with Ford.
Q. DO YOU KNOW WHO YOUR CREW CHIEF AND CREW IS GOING TO BE?
A. At this point we’re working through that. Obviously, there are a lot of changes at RPM with the number of cars competing and the way crew chiefs are gonna go, so that’s to be worked out. But we’re talking to many prime candidates and look forward to being able to announce that soon.
Q. ANY CHANCE YOU COULD DRIVE THAT CAR THIS YEAR?
A. You’ve got to let the ink dry first (laughing). We’re just really proud to make the announcement today and we’ll work out any other details later on, but, right now, we’re set to start in 2011. It took a lot of work to get to this point, so I think we’re just gonna catch our breath here for a couple days and work out a plan after that.
Q. HOW MUCH TESTING WOULD YOU HOPE TO DO AND WOULD YOU LIKE NASCAR TO BRING BACK TESTING?
A. Testing would be good, but I don’t plan on returning to Australia this year. My oldest daughter, Tabitha, has started school now, so it makes it very difficult to get back, so my intent this year was always to stay in the U.S. Obviously, driving for a new team there’s a lot of work to be done in the off-season anyway. Then I’ll be putting my hand up for any and all testing that becomes available before the season starts.
Q. HOW MUCH PRESSURE DO YOU FEEL NOW? DOES IT UP THE STAKES ON YOUR PART TO GO OUT AND DELIVER?
A. No doubt. I absolutely feel pressure because I’ve got myself a dream opportunity. This is a great team, RPM – one of the great teams in the sport. Richard Petty, the King, is at the top of the tree looking over you, so there’s a lot of responsibility. Stanley, they want to get to Victory Lane more than any other sponsor on pit lane. Naturally, there is pressure associated with that, but as a race car driver, as a professional, all you can ask for is to put yourself in these opportunities and I’ve been able to do that. Now, the rest is my job and if I can’t get to Victory Lane and can’t do what I believe I can, there won’t be any question marks left. It’s very, very simple, and that’s really the quest I’m on in NASCAR, to try to be the very best NASCAR driver out there and this deal and the package for 2011 and on will allow me to do that.
Q. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH AJ?
A. AJ is a young driver. He’s really hungry, just like I am. We’re probably on similar paths, to be honest with you. We get on with each other great off the track. We haven’t had any on-track incidents either, so I guess when you look at all of your possible teammates, AJ is a good one to have. All I want to do is go out there and win races and contend in the front, and I believe that’s AJ’s intent, too. He’s one of the hungriest young guys out there. We both come from different forms of racing, so I think we’ve got a lot in common. I’ve been chosen, as AJ has, we’ve been chosen for a reason and it’s what RPM is looking for – young, hungry drivers that have that desire and passion to win.
Q. HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR GAME ON THE OVALS?
A. There is no disrespect to JTG/Daugherty or Toyota or anyone involved in my existing Cup program, but we were a one-car team with a good partnership with Michael Waltrip Racing. We had issues to deal with that other teams don’t, so I’m not sure why we haven’t contended better on the intermediate ovals and above. We all see what happens on the road courses and Bristol and superspeedways, but we haven’t been fast enough and consistent enough on the ovals and it’s a question that needs to be answered. I think that’s the primary reason why I thought I needed to make a change. Was it me? Was it the situation with the partnership? Was it the one-car team? What was it that was the deficit, so with this team and the resources they have and the people they have around them, will allow me to answer those questions. I believe that I’m as good as anybody out there and can win four championships just like Jimmie Johnson has done because I believe in myself, but until you can get to a point where you can prove or disprove what you’ve got, it’s very hard to be sure. We’ll find out in 2011.
Q. WHAT OTHER OPPORTUNITIES WERE OUT THERE FOR YOU?
A. Things in NASCAR don’t stay secret for long. There’s a lot of rumor and innuendo up and down pit road and it was really hard to work out what was real and what was not. At the end of the day, I just focused on the people I had spoken to and the opportunities I had in front of me. Very early on, after I agreed to part ways with JTG and we made the announcement, I was going down this path with Richard Petty Motorsports. I didn’t talk to other team owners because I felt like it was a great home for me, it was the best choice for me because of who I am and with the sponsors and everything they had in play.
Q. DID YOU EVER SEE YOURSELF DEALING WITH SUCH HIGH STAKES ON AND OFF THE TRACK?
A. What we’re dealing with is a lot of responsibility and a lot of money and a lot of prestige and it’s a very difficult environment. You’re up against the very best and it’s a dog eat dog world at this level. I just stick to my own heart and what feels right, and my moral compass really comes into play too. I had a difficult decision to make this year and some of those decisions – not that you second-guess yourself – but you might make the wrong ones. So it’s just great when it comes together like this. I feel really good about it, but it’s a tough sport. It’s tough politically. It’s tough on the race track. There’s just no place to hide. You’ve got to believe in yourself. You’ve got to make your own decisions and be brave, and I said I came to America with bravery and stupidity, and at the time I was 22. I feel like the decisions I’ve made this year, as I’ve done at other times in my career, have been very brave and somewhat stupid, but they seem to work out with the right passion and commitment. For me, I’ve just done nothing different. I felt it was time to make a change. I felt the deal with RPM and Stanley is the right one for me. I feel great about the decisions that I’ve made. I’m really optimistic about the future and I just can’t wait to get started.
Q. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO MAKE THE DECISION AND WERE THERE ANY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS?
A. There have been some sleepless nights, but primarily it was the decision to part ways with JTG. Yeah, it was a tough decision to make. It was a great race team. I’ve got a lot of friends over there that have been very loyal to me and we’ve come on this journey together, and it was tough because it’s safe. It’s safe over there for me. I wasn’t gonna get fired, but it’s not what I came to America to do. We all make sacrifices as drivers and I just want to get to Victory Lane and I want to get myself in the very best opportunity I can and I feel like it was time for change. I had to re-up it if I was gonna survive in this sport, so once I made the decision that it was all done, then it was a matter of picking up the phone and starting the conversation of, ‘does anyone else want me to drive for them?’ Very quickly my first phone call was to Ford and then very quickly it was to RPM and it was really straightforward, to be honest with you. They expressed interest in my driving for them. I expressed my interested in driving for them and I didn’t talk to anyone else. We just went down the path of trying to put the deal together and with Stanley’s support and commitment, we’ve been able to get it rapidly done and get it announced, which is the most important thing because now it’s done and we can focus on the program for 2011 and get as ready as we can.
Q. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE FIRST TIME YOU MET RICHARD PETTY?
A. The first time I ever met Richard Petty was I came across in 2005 and took a Richard Petty Driving School of all places. A friend of mine runs the program over there and he allowed me to run Charlotte in the school car taking passengers. I had never raced on an oval, never driven an oval, I was just trying to get a feel for it. So I’m over there in the workshop area in the offices of the Drive Experience and the King turns up in a dark room, 10-foot tall, bulletproof with the hat and the belt and the sunglasses on, and I’ve never been more intimidated in all my life. I have been intimidated since then by Mike Helton in the NASCAR hauler, by the way, which totally superseded the King for that moment, but I vividly remember it and I never thought for one moment that I would ever have a friendship with the King and also drive for him. It’s just a dream opportunity for me and just a great chance in my NASCAR career to solidify myself as a premier driver and get myself to Victory Lane.
Q. WERE YOU EVER WORRIED YOU WOULDN’T FIND ANOTHER TEAM TO DRIVE FOR?
A. Once the decision was made, of you go, ‘What am I gonna do now?’ At the same time, I had a sense of freedom and calmness because I really believe that it was the right choice for me to make, and if it didn’t fall the right way for me, I didn’t get another opportunity in NASCAR, I was okay with it. Sure, I want to stay in NASCAR. I’ve got unfinished business and I wanted another opportunity, but at the end of the day I was okay with all the outcomes. I had good options, whether it be driving my kids to school everyday and sit on the beach waiting for them to finish, or whether it was Australian V8 Supercar, or sports car endurance racing, or NASCAR. I’m in the prime of my career. I’m 33 turning 34. I’ve got a lot of experience on my side, but I’m still not over the hill, so it’s my perfect era to get it done. I felt comfortable in that I’m never gonna get any better than I am today. I already know that I’ve won races around the world and if I put myself in good equipment, I should be able to stay on top of the path.
Q. WERE YOU PART OF THE DECISION ON WHETHER IT WAS THE 9 OR THE 19, AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT STEPPING INTO THE BEST-PERFORMING CAR IN THE STABLE?
A. I’m definitely not upset with the outcome that we’ve had, but I haven’t played any major part in choosing car numbers. The biggest piece to the puzzle was would RPM love me to drive for them? The answer was yes. Very quickly, what sponsor would it be and in Stanley it’s a great fit for me, a great global brand and something we can grow with together. That was the next big piece of the puzzle. The car and the team itself is really in RPM’s hands. It’s their choice to make and I’m pleased with the choices they’ve made.
Q. DO YOU VIEW IT AS REPLACING KASEY KAHNE?
A. The 9 car, and Kenny Francis has been a major part of building that team up and it’s a very good team, as are the other teams in the RPM stable. It’s a great number. It comes, obviously, with a Kasey Kahne aura about it and hopefully I can carry it on. I’m proud to be driving Kasey Kahne’s old car number. I’m pretty ecstatic about that.
Q. ANY ADVICE FOR THE GUYS RUNNING ON THE SURFER’S PARADISE TRACK SOON?
A. I learned long ago not to give any of my fellow competitors any advice. The official term of the series is V8 Supercar. It’s a great series in Australia and it’s Australia’s version of NASCAR. They’ve actually got a race down there that has an endurance format, where they have to have an international driver drive the second part of the race, and there are a lot of international guys going down there for it. Unfortunately, it clashes with the NASCAR schedule, so, unless I get terminated early from JTG I’m not gonna be participating in it, but good luck to them.
Q. WHAT IS YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF STANLEY AND ARE YOU A TOOL GUY?
A. There’s a lot of synergy. My first toolbox was a Synchrone tool box and Synchrone is a brand of Stanley, which we worked out when we were putting this all together. The company as a whole – Stanley and Black & Decker – they’ve gone through a huge amount of growth over the last five or six years. It’s a truly global brand with a lot of synergies to what we do in racing, and it’s just a great fit for me. I’m gonna deck out a brand new workshop with heaps of Stanley tools. I can’t wait to get the catalog so I can do some ordering. I’m just really excited to represent them. It’s a massive company and a company that is really moving forward. It’s very exciting to be part of it.
Q. IS IT YOUR EXPECATION THE TEAM WILL BE TWO, THREE OR FOUR CARS NEXT YEAR?
A. The direction that the team went ahead in, of course, is to run competitive championship chase-contending teams. Right now, AJ and myself are signed up. The future is set for us two. There are a lot more exciting announcements to be made here over the next few days, weeks and months, and it’s really not my position to expand on that, but I feel really good about the future of RPM. I feel great about where they’re heading and the direction they’re taking with their program. They’ve got a great technical partnership with Roush and Ford Racing, and they’re in good hands. I think they have a very healthy future coming up.
Q. CAN A TWO-CAR TEAM BE THAT MUCH MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN A ONE-CAR TEAM IN TODAY’S NASCAR?
A. There are a lot of assets over at RPM and a lot of technical help from Ford Racing and Roush, and I feel really good about it. Would all teams want to be four cars? You look at Gibbs, they have three cars contending in the chase. Childress went to four cars and it didn’t work out for them a little while ago. Sure, strength in numbers is good, but we have strength across the street from RPM in Roush and I feel really good about it. I just want to make sure that my car and the other car with AJ are funded the right way, fully funded with all the expertise and skill to make us chase contenders, and I’m really happy with where they’re heading and what they’ve got in place.