NASCAR still trying to build brand in Australia

UPDATE Dale Earnhardt Jr. plans to make his Australian racing debut in a V8 Supercar at Sydney’s Oran Park this December [2008]. Earnhardt will race a Holden Commodore in V8’s junior feeder category, the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series, at Oran Park’s curtain-closing Grand Finale before it is torn down to make way for redevelopment. Fujitsu V8 series team boss Scott Loadsman confirmed on Monday he will expand his current one-car team to two cars. He has purchased a Commodore from Paul Morris Motorsport, nicknamed ‘Gidget’. With Loadsman’s existing driver, series leader Steve Owen, more likely to use this newer chassis, Earnhardt is set to drive Owen’s current car. Coincidentally, its nickname is ‘Earnhardt’. Earnhardt first visited Australia at the 2007 V8 Grand Finale at Phillip Island during his end-of-season holiday as a guest of former V8 champ Marcos Ambrose. Morris gave Earnhardt a test in a V8 Supercar ride car at his facility on the Gold Coast, and Earnhardt has since remained in contact with the V8 driver. With the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race being held on November 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Earnhardt will be able to fly to Australia in time for Oran Park on December 4-7.

Marcos Ambrose hosts Dale Earnhardt Jr at the Australian's V8 Super School on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia

12/14/07 Australian NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose has spent the day with NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr at Ambrose’s V8 Super School on the Gold Coast in Australia today.

Ambrose hosted Earnhardt Jr, who is in Australia on holiday with friends, and gave the American the opportunity to drive one of the school’s 450-horsepower race cars around the V8 Super School’s 2.1-kilometre road course circuit.

Ambrose and Earnhardt Jr shared the track in a Ford and GM-Holden respectively for some laps before speaking with the assembled media contingent.

Ambrose only recently arrived back in Australia after collecting his eighth place championship trophy at the NASCAR Busch Series Awards banquet in Orlando, Florida.

Earnhardt Jr spoke with Ambrose late this season about his impending trip to Australia, taking tips from the Australian regarding his homeland.

The two agreed to catch up on the Gold Coast in Queensland so that Ambrose could host Earnhardt Jr and his friends for a day of fun and thrills at the V8 Superschool, which Ambrose co-owns with friend and Australian V8 Supercar driver Paul Morris.

“It was great to catch up with Dale and give him the chance to experience one of our cars at the V8 Super School," said Ambrose.

“I always make a point of visiting everyone here at the V8 Super School when I am back in Australia, and this time around they were very impressed with the friend I brought along for a drive.

“It’s been a great year for me in the United States and it’s nice to come home to the Australian summer for a break. Sonja and I are busy catching up with some friends and family and showing off our new daughter Adelaide along with Tabitha, who is already two years old.

“I’ve had the chance to speak with Junior a couple of times this year and late in the year he came up and asked me about Australia because he intended on coming down here for a holiday.

“From that point on I have kind of been his travel consultant. We made sure he saw the V8 Supercar final at Phillip Island, stayed in Melbourne, Sydney and now the Gold Coast.

“Dale and his buddies are here having a ball at the V8 Super School and it’s been great to catch up with him and spend some time with him because he is definitely one of the guys I look up to in NASCAR.

“He’s a real driver’s driver and he’s got awesome skills. You can see how quickly he has adapted to these cars today just how good he is and I look forward to the day where I can hopefully get to his level and run side-by-side with him because he’s a great driver and a great guy.

“I’m already looking forward to next season. We’ve got some great things going and I think the Kingsford team will be really strong in the Nationwide Series next season. I’m also really looking forward to getting in the Little Debbie Ford for my first races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and working on the Cup program with everyone in the team."

Earnhardt Jr thoroughly enjoyed his time behind the wheel of one of the V8 Super School’s cars, more accustomed to oval racing a NASCAR at over 300km/h.

“I have to thank Marcos for everything he has set-up for me on this trip," said Earnhardt Jr.

“This is my first trip to Australia and I absolutely love it. Everyone here has been so good to me and to all of my friends and we will never forget this trip.

“I have really enjoyed the chance to drive these cars on a road course-style track. It’s great fun and Marcos and Paul Morris have been great to me and really looked after us. We are having a ball.

“It’s been great to experience Australia and see how racing is down here. Our group has all had a blast and Marcos’ advise on where to go and everything he has set up for us has been awesome.

“He’s a great guy and I think he is doing very well in NASCAR and has the potential to go a long way."

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