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Robbie Gordon to give Marcis Ambrose his debut

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August 8, 2007

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Marcus Ambrose (L) and Robby Gordon

ROBBY GORDON: “Robby Gordon Motorsports is proud to announce Marcos Ambrose as my team-mate. “I’ve been looking for a team-mate in Nextel Cup for a while and I’m looking forward to getting together. We were actually planning on getting together sometime Wednesday anyway.

“It’s funny that we actually get together for a press conference on Wednesday because when I reached out to Marcos early Monday night, before any of these ideas even came up, I said, ‘So does this mean we’re not getting together on Wednesday?’ And that’s how the conversation started.

“The idea got broached to me by an email from a fan. I called Camping World immediately after I talked to Marcos and they said, ‘Yeah, we’re in. We’d be proud to sponsor Marcos in a race.’ We have two of these purpose-built road racers that were ready to go to the race track, and with the car of tomorrow, it’s not hard to build another one, so the guys at Robby Gordon Motorsports burned some midnight oil last night and got another car ready so we’ll have a back-up car to share between the two of us as well so we’re going there fairly prepared.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of his race team, and I think at the end of the day, we race cars for a living. I think sometimes everybody takes this a bit too seriously. We’re having fun doing what we like to do and putting on a good show for the fans. Unfortunately, last weekend I took it over the edge and I appreciate Marcos accepting my offer to make it good for him and participate in a second car here at the Glen and give him an opportunity to go out and win the race.”

MARCOS AMBROSE: “We’re all bitterly disappointed about last week. I’m sure if Robby could have wound the clock back, he would have done things differently.

“I was just so thrilled for me and my team in the Busch Series ran so great. It’s a shame to end the race that way. We’ve been able to turn this thing around from a disappointment into something positive for my team and my sponsor, Kingsford, to be able to come into this Watkins Glen Cup race as a bonus. It’s a real thrill for me.

“I appreciate Robby coming to me with this gesture. It’s part apology and part compliment as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s a big thing for him to ring me up on Monday and give me this opportunity and I’m looking forward to it. I hope we don’t run one-two with five laps to go because it could get quite interesting.

“I feel like he’s gonna give me the chance to have a good race car and it’s gonna be a real challenge to just qualify the car in having never driven it before and it’s the first time at the Cup level. It’s just a real bonus for me and my team. After a really disappointing Saturday, we’ve been able to turn this thing around and turn it into a good news story. It’s pretty exciting.”

QUESTIONS FROM THE MEDIA:

Q: WHY DID YOU TAKE ROBBY’S PHONE CALL? A LOT OF GUYS INVOLVED IN OTHER INCIDENTS LATELY HAVEN’T BEEN DOING THAT.

MA: “Well, I didn’t know his number before he called (laughter).

“In all seriousness, I’ve been down this road before and I’ve been mad at drivers. Afterwards I’ve regretted saying things I shouldn’t have said and regretted doing things I shouldn’t have done, so I guess I’m not a rookie in that sense.

“I’ve been challenging for championships and race wins before and bad things have happened, and I’d like to think I’ve got an element of learning from the past is what got me to this position today. I didn’t get on TV and blow up against Robby, even though I felt like I’d had a bit of miscarriage of justice on the race track, but I’m not gonna carry that across to Robby personally. I’m just gonna drive my car as fast as I can and just deal with it when I get out of the car.

“I would have taken Robby’s phone call. I was probably only half-an-hour from giving him a call myself just to try and clear the air because I don’t want baggage going into the following races.

“There’s no good in that for me or for my sponsors or the fans, really. So it’s great that he cleared the air and then three hours later he gave me a phone call back with a brainstorm idea and here we are.”

Q: WAS THERE ANY HESITATION WHEN HE CALLED WITH THE OFFER?

MA: “Well, there were some issues to work out. Firstly, with the sponsor from the weekend – Kingsford, they had to be happy with it. Would my team allow it? We also have to consider the 21, which has to qualify in on time, so there was a balancing on what I was doing compared to potentially hurting the 21 and getting in the show. Those were things we had to work through, but I think we’ve got a great compromise.

“It’s a real thrill for me and a real opportunity for me to get into the Cup level with no points worries, no owner points worries, and the championship is not even in the equation here. It’s just about getting to the race track, having a good time and seeing if we can make the show.”

Q: IF YOU MAKE THE RACE AND THE 21 WAS LIKE THE FIRST ONE OUT, WOULD YOU HAVE TO STEP ASIDE?

“Let’s not go there until something like that happens. It’s not even worth thinking about really at this point. The 21 qualified great at Sonoma. It was in the top 10. If they repeat that performance on the road course this weekend, we’re not gonna have to worry about it.”

Q: A FAN REALLY CAME UP WITH THIS IDEA?

RG: “Truly, a fan did come up with the idea and, like Marcos said, it was more of a peace offering. It was like, ‘Hey, do you want to run our car?

“We’ll figure out how to make it happen.’ It’s not just Marcos. His team had to accept my apology or make-good offer as well because we’re a small team here and we can’t obviously pit the thing, so his pit team, that really suffered from the consequences last weekend, is gonna get an opportunity to move up and pit the car in Cup as well.

“His crew chief is gonna get to call the race on Sunday. His crew is gonna pit the car. It’s a Robby Gordon Motorsports entry, but it’s really a joint venture between the two of us. I’m just trying to give him an opportunity to go out there and have some fun, and I’m confident.

“I’ve seen him race for a long time. I’ve followed his V8 Supercar career. Obviously I’m a fan and I’ve got a lot of respect for his driving ability.”

Q: DID YOU THINK THE OFFER WAS A JOKE AT FIRST?

MA: “I actually sort of half thought about it. If NASCAR was going to give Robby an extended hold, I was gonna pick up the phone and see if he wanted a driver for it.”

RG: “I was gonna stick him in it.”

MA: “It’s just worked out good. Great minds think a like, and I’ve got to thank the fan whoever wrote in to suggest it because it’s a good idea.”

Q: DO YOU THINK NASCAR’S PENALTY WAS THEIR WAY OF ADMITTING THEY WERE WRONG BECAUSE THERE WERE NO POINTS AND IT WASN’T LIKE $100,000 OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

RG: “I don’t think NASCAR is ever gonna admit doing wrong things. It’s a judgment call. There are a lot of ways to look at this. I think there’s a hole here in the rulebook that they need to take a look at and I’ve voiced my concerns with both Joe (Balash) and with John Darby about the yellow flag situation.

“I was pretty confident that he didn’t turn me on purpose because as soon as I made the pass, I looked up out of the corner of my eye and I saw the yellow flag. I was like, ‘Oh man, did I get it done before the yellow or after the yellow?’

“The first thing I thought of was, ‘lift, slow down to a cautious speed,’ and then all of a sudden I’m going backwards. From that point on, the rest of the day was set from the stage that happened right there that was a judgment call. Unfortunately, I got put in a position to do things that I probably wouldn’t do next time around and wouldn’t do what I did.

“But I had mental emotions at the time. ‘OK, if I’m going to appeal this thing, how are you gonna appeal it if you don’t win the race?’ That’s basically what I went through at the time and, obviously, looking back at it that was the wrong thing to do.

“As far as running Marcos in a car as well, I had to consult with my sponsors to make sure they were cool with it because we’re running Verizon Wireless in the Busch car and we’re gonna run Jim Beam in the Nextel Cup car this weekend with the #7 car, and this is a good opportunity for us to pull into Victory Lane with our first Nextel Cup win as an owner and a driver.

“When I approached it with Jim Beam they’re like, ‘Man, that shows true character that you’re willing to put him in a car and go to one of your current sponsors with Camping World and say, hey, are you guys up for this?’

“And Marcus from Camping World too, he was great. He’s like, ‘I think that’s a great idea. I’m in. Count me in.’

“I’ve got to be honest, on Monday night I didn’t sleep all night long. It’s like, ‘Alright, we’ve got to make sure that we can get engines. We’ve got to make sure that the Wood Brothers are gonna be cool with it.’ I went through all the scenarios all night long on Monday because I was actually kind of excited about giving him an opportunity to go out here and perform and compete against the best racers in America.”

Q: WHAT ABOUT THE PROBATION CLAUSE ABOUT ACTIONS DETRIMENTAL TO STOCK CAR RACING?

RG: “I’ve obviously seen some of the emails that have come and things like, ‘Oh, Robby put people at risk.’

“Well, I can tell you that at no point at anytime did I ever lose control of the car, except for when I was spun out. I’m sorry to say that, but all the rest of the time I had perfect control of my race car. I’m a professional at driving these race cars and I have control of my car all the time, so it wasn’t a risk thing.

“It was such a huge disappointment. I’m sure his team is looking at the same thing because we hear it from the media everyday. ‘How does a single-car team compete? The day of the single car teams competing against the super teams isn’t gonna happen.’

“Well, when you look in the Busch Series, the super teams actually win the Busch races too. With Kevin Harvick winning the race, both of our teams were in a position to beat that big super team.

“Ray Evernham had cars in the race. Jack Roush had cars in the race. We can compete and we can compete at the level against the best teams out there. Now, because we’ve only got one car doing it and not four cars, it’s harder for us to get our team into Victory Lane, but it is possible to do so.

“I think maybe this weekend if I don’t get the opportunity to, I hope that Marcos will get the opportunity to put our car in Victory Lane.”

Q: HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO BECOMING A TWO-CAR TEAM?

RG: “When you pulled in the driveway you probably saw that we are expanding our building. We’re in a position now where a lot of our policies and procedures are in place. Everybody says, ‘What do you mean by policies and procedures?’ I’m talking about just the basics. When you go to hire an employee, now we can hand an employee a book and say, ‘Here, this is what your job is gonna be. This is what your job is gonna be. Here’s how you do it here at Robby Gordon Motorsports.’ And having something like that allows us to grow.

“For the last two-and-a-half years, we’ve been just building our books, building our policies and building our procedures. I’ve got to be honest, if I would have brought on another car, that would have put me in the hole longer because we wouldn’t have had our I’s dotted and T’s crossed.

“I think we’re organized as a race team now to be able to run a Busch car and a Cup car on the same weekends. This weekend is gonna push us. As a team it’s gonna push us, but, like I said, I went to my sponsors and they were good with it because they felt it was the right thing to do.”

Q: YOUR SPONSORS HAVE ALWAYS STOOD BEHIND YOU.

RG: “The only reason any of us have sponsors today in this day and age is because of performance, popularity, etc. It’s about marketing. It’s about promotions, etc. If you go down and you do searches on drivers, we continue – even though I’m 29th in points today whereas I was 25th last week, we lost some points – we continue to be a top-10 rated driver.

“However you want to rate your driver as far as popularity. I’ve been able to do that time and time again, and I think that’s how we’re able to keep ourselves in a position to have the sponsors that we do.”

Q: DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA WHY NASCAR PARKED YOU ON SUNDAY? WAS IT THE BLACK FLAG? THE SPIN OUT OF MARCOS AFTER THE RESTART? WAS IT THE BURNOUT AFTER THE RACE?

RG: “What Mr. Helton told me and, obviously, Saturday’s meeting was different than Sunday’s. All of us had a night to think about it and walk back in the trailer on Sunday morning, and the reason I was parked on Sunday last weekend was for not obeying the black flag penalty.

“I gave him my explanation of obeying the black flag penalty and he wanted to make sure I understood what the black flag penalty means. That means they have control. If every one of the drivers out there didn’t want to obey any of the rules, we would have a complete melee all the time.

“So I can understand what NASCAR was wanting to do there. On my side, in the little bit of defence I have for my side, is the fact that with a black flag normally if you’re speeding down pit road and you get a black flag penalty you have three laps to respond.

“I’m thinking, ‘OK, there’s two laps left in the race. We’ll respond after the race and we’ll deal with this.’

“It wasn’t for wrecking Marcos. That wasn’t what my fine and penalty was for. Obviously detrimental to stock car racing, when they mention that I’m sure it’s everything added up together, but the black flag penalty was the key element here. My words for Mike Helton were, I need to understand what their rules are. Black flag means obey their rules and I do understand that and we’ll move forward from here.”

Q: WHAT DO YOU DO THE NEXT TIME YOU WANT TO DEBATE A CALL?

“Everytime time we come out of pit road and we’re gonna count a spot, I’m just gonna take the second spot in lane. It’s in my nature. I’m gonna get it anyway, so I might as well take it (laughter). As far as speeding down pit road, I’m gonna go five miles under from now on and, hopefully, we’ll win the race still.”

Q: MARCOS, YOUR THOUGHTS ON RUNNING YOUR FIRST CUP RACE?

MA: “It’s a big opportunity for me. Less than two years ago I had never even driven on an oval race track, let alone coming to NASCAR.

“This rise for me has been amazing. I didn’t think I’d get an opportunity to run Cup this year after we postponed our own program for the 47 Cup deal with Team Australia, so for me to get a nice little bonus is great.

“I feel like it’s a perfect situation for to come into the Cup Series. It’s a road course. That’s what I know what I’m doing. I’ve got no owner’s points to worry about. I can just go in and try my best and just enjoy the experience because I’m living a dream.

“I never imagined I’d get this far in motorsports at all, so it’s just a real bonus and I’m real thrilled to be here.”

Q: ROBBY, HOW DO YOU FEEL THE RULE SHOULD BE CHANGED FOR WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU LAST WEEKEND?

“I’m sure NASCAR will come up with some type of solution. The rule is right now that you must maintain a cautious speed and that’s a little difficult. I know it resorts back to the next loop or something like that, but it’s not my job to make the rules. It’s my job to play by the rules, so that’s what my intention is for this weekend.

“I want to get back onto the positive side of things here and maybe try to stop focusing on some of the negative so much. I’m gonna put Marcos in a car that we qualified on the front row at Sonoma – identical, the same thing and he’s gonna have all the tools to go out here and win.

“I think we can put two cars, and knowing his ability with road racing, everybody talks about Boris Said and Ron Fellows being the road racing aces, but I’d put this guy right in the same category as those guys and it’s gonna be an exciting weekend.”

Q: WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO PULLING THIS OFF?

RG: “I would say right now it’s pulled off. The next thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to communicate on Friday very well. We’ve got to share information as a team would do. I haven’t had a team-mate in two years, so it’s gonna be nice to say, ‘OK, here’s what I’m on for tyre pressures, why don’t you try this.’ And he can come back and say, ‘This is the information we learned.’

“So I think there are gonna be some real benefits to being able to help each other this weekend. The little bit of distraction that we’re gonna get, I think it’s gonna be a bigger positive than a distraction by having that extra information on Friday. He can work on qualifying Friday because he has to make the show, so I’ll go work on race set-up.

“And then when it comes Saturday when he makes the show, we’ll hand him over where we’re at and we’ll start heading off from there and gather more information.”

MA: “I think a lot of the hard work has already been done. Roush Yates Engines was great to get us a motor at the last minute – to get a race motor put in his back-up car. I managed to twist the arms of my pit crew to get them to hang over on Saturday, the same with my team owners, and talk through it with them, too.

“I think a lot of the logistics and hard stuff has been done. We really now just have to action it. I’ve got to get there on Friday and not knock around – get into the race track because I’ve never been there before – get a couple of qualifying runs down and just qualify the car in.

“Once we do that, then I’ll think about what we have to do after that, but my focus is just to get in the car and go. We’ll rely on Robby’s guys to give me a good package when I get there and, hopefully, it’ll take care of itself.”

Q: YOU WERE ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO RUN THIS RACE IN CUP WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS/JTG RACING. WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT?

MA: “It was a combination of factors. I think our team is still growing. We built five teams from the get-go last year and we still have some growing pains. The #21 car is struggling to get back in the owner points and into the top 35. That’s a real focus for us as a team and as a group, so to bring on for one or two races – another Cup deal – it was just stretching us too thin.

“The budget wasn’t really there. It was a little tight on the budget, plus logistically it was very, very hard to get done. I actually should have put my hand up before Infineon and said, ‘Look guys, I’d like to do the road courses, but let’s just worry about what’s really important and that’s getting the 21 up in points. Let’s get the two Busch cars back on track.’

“We’re running top 10 in the points in the Busch Series right now. That’s really a lot of my focus too, so there is a lot of good stuff going, we just didn’t think the timing was right for it.”

Q: YOU TOOK THE HIGH ROAD AFTER THE RACE. WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK HAVE YOU GOTTEN FROM THAT?

MA: “It’s been fantastic. I’m just trying to be myself. Like I said, I’ve been down this road before where I’ve said things I’ve regretted and done things I’ve regretted, so I’ve learned from my mistakes. I know I just want to wake up the next morning and have a cup of coffee and not worry about what I’d said.

“I was really disappointed with the end result for my team and my team owners and myself and everyone that’s put so much effort into that weekend. It was a great day and just a bad end to a great day. We just really focused on the positive and I’m always an optimistic guy anyway.

“I know we didn’t win the race. We could have, should have, whatever, but at the end of the day it was still a great performance by us and it’s given us this opportunity so a lot of good has come out of a nasty situation.”

Q: WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO MEET ABOUT ORIGINALLY?

RG: “Well, I like the guy. To be honest with you, I like the guy and I know he’s new to the town. I’m still fairly new around here. I just work a lot, so I was like, ‘Hey, we’ll get together. We’ll go out on the lake. We’ll do something just to get to know each other more.’

:I truly like the guy as a competitor. I like him as a human being and it’s obvious to see why he’s such a likeable guy with the way he communicates with people and the way he respects the sport and the competition.”

Q: DID FORD TALK TO YOU AT ALL? DID THEY HELP YOU AT ALL LOGISTICALLY? WAS DAN DAVIS THE GUY WHO SENT YOU THE EMAIL? (LAUGHTER)

RG: “No, Dan wasn’t the guy that sent the email, but I can relate to their situation because I was one of those Ford guys that Ford had a lot to do with about bringing him over here. I know they don’t fully fund his program, but they support Marcos. They believe he’s a very talented driver. I know what Dan sees in Marcos and I can appreciate that.

“They did not facilitate it, but when I called them yesterday and said, ‘Here’s what I’m gonna do.’ They were over the top. They were like, ‘You’re gonna do that?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna do it.’ ‘Can you do it? Is it gonna hurt your effort?’ ‘No, it’s not gonna hurt our effort. We’ll be OK. We’ll just figure out how to do it and we did.

“My conversation with Ford was great and, obviously, it’s one more Ford car that’s gonna have an opportunity to win this weekend. When I say ‘win’ I know you guys probably roll your eyes and say, ‘What do you mean, win?’ There’s no doubt in my mind that this guy can come out here and easily run in the top 10.

“In Nextel Cup racing, if you can run in the top 10, the door is gonna open up if you’re running there because things are gonna happen. We saw it at Sonoma. If you keep putting yourself in the position to go through the door, he might just find himself in Victory Lane in his first race.”

Q: DO YOU SEE THIS AS A POSSIBLE FIRST STEP OF WORKING MORE WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS/JTG AND POSSIBLY COMBINING EFFORTS?

RG: “I think we’re taking big steps here trying to figure out how to put this together. Obviously, we are working together this weekend. There are things I’m sure we can do. It probably would have paid off even more like with the car of yesterday, if we could have shared body stuff.

“I actually talked with Mike McSwain before about doing an aerodynamic program at speedways and there was a guy available, I think he went to the 78 car, that he really wanted to build bodies. He was like, ‘Will you go in and partner with us and we’ll hire this guy and put him in business and he can do our speedway cars.’ So we have had conversations like that in the past, but they’ve built a new facility where they’re at and we’re building a facility here.

“Unfortunately, we’re probably too far apart for that or too far down our own separate paths, but you never know. Things change and things happen like always.”

Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS HAS DONE FOR YOUR PUBLIC IMAGE WITH THE FANS?

RG: “My image is what my image is. It’s been set for years. At the end of the day, my biggest thing is I think this guy can drive. If I cost him an opportunity at a victory last weekend, which I did, I’m gonna give him an opportunity to win a Cup race instead of a Busch race. It’s gonna be fun.

“Honestly, he will have everything I have this weekend. I guess when it comes down to two racers, you just like the fact of competing. It doesn’t matter if we’re gonna go to Victory Lane down here tonight and race go-karts or we’re gonna run this Sunday at Watkins Glen, it’s just about having fun and competing.”

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