While Ambrose has been improving on the ovals, this is the weekend that he gets to go back to the type of racing he knows best – road course racing.
This weekend, though, Ambrose comes in with a special incentive to win as part of Ambrose and Stanley’s “Racing for a Miracle” promotion. If Ambrose wins the race, Stanley will donate $1 million to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“There's nothing like added pressure,” he says. “Trying to race for $1 million for sick kids is definitely up there on the stacks of just trying to win the race.”
Ambrose came close last year as he was leading late in going and while trying to save the fuel, he couldn’t get the car restarted as he headed up the hill due to shutting it off to conserve the most fuel possible under caution. The result was Ambrose falling back in the running order and coming back to finish fifth.
“We did this last year; came up a little bit short,” Ambrose says. “I'm doubly determined this year to try to win the race and help those kids and help our race team achieve success we all hope.”
Ambrose adds that Stanley and Ace Hardware are going to donate $100,000 to these kids no matter what happens and they’re going to go to the Children’s Hospital on Thursday to see the kids.
“Bring the car, do some pit stops for them, say hello, some carnival activities to give them a bit of fun and try to get them to forget about why they're in the hospital in the first place,” Ambose says of the activities planned.
In four starts at Sonoma, Ambrose has three top 10s. While Ambrose knows road courses well, he even admits that these stock cars aren’t made for road courses as they’re like dinosaurs on a twisty, tight, narrow race track.
“These cars are dinosaurs as far as racecars go,” he says. “They've got way too much power, 900 horsepower, they don't have enough tire grip, they're too heavy, and they don't have enough brakes.”
That’s why Ambrose says that the drivers have to manhandle and force the car to co-operate with them.
“You have to take it by the scruff of the neck and force it to go around,” he continues. “You're fighting physics at this point when you have a car that heavy and that powerful.”
Due to that, Ambrose says that Sonoma is one of the most challenge and rewarding tracks due to that as every driver likes to race around the track, but it’s hard with all the competition.
Though another key is making sure to stay level headed as it’s easy to get mad.
“It is a technically challenging track,” Ambrose says. “It's hard to make passes. Going to be bumper-to-bumper and side-by-side when you make a pass. Even when it's clean, it's hard not to make contact.”
Ambrose also says that if a driver wants to win, they’re going to have do a few bump-n-runs and make some contact to find victory lane.
While Ambrose may be more comfortable on the road courses, he says the same amount of pressure is still there as on the ovals.
“I'm driving the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion for Richard Petty to win every race, not just two road course races,” he says. “I apply myself the same every week. The pressure is not much different, it's just the weight of expectation I guess this weekend and for Watkins Glen as well, the expectation of success is what we have to balance out.”
Ambrose adds that he can’t change the way he drives as he has to do his best out there and if he does a good job, they will be in contention for the win.
Well Ambrose has proven that he can race well on the road courses, he’s also proud of his accomplishments so far on the ovals.
“I feel like I've done a lot in the sport,” he says. “I feel like I've come from a long way from behind. I've come from a country that doesn't have any oval racing, I come from a state at the other end of the world. I've achieved a lot just to make it to NASCAR, then to make it to Sprint Cup, have a pole position, have won a race, it feels very rewarding. I'm content.”
Ambrose’s improvement on the ovals is evident by many as he displayed that at Michigan International Speedway by winning the pole with a record-setting qualifying lap of 203.241 miles an hour.
Ambrose says though with that said, he’s with a great team and in the best position that he’s ever been in the sport. That feeling came to him during the tail end of last year when they were laying down back-to-back top 10s.
“I feel good about the team,” he says. “I feel good about being part of the growth of Richard Petty Motorsports. I think that curve is continuing to go upwards. I think you have yet to see the best of us and you have yet to see the best of me.”
He knows that they are competitive each week, though have unfinished business to accomplish.
“We want to win races on ovals, win more than one race a year,” he says. “Right now as I sit here mid-season, we still feel we have a chance to make the Chase if we can win some races. We have speed. We have to convert them into results.”