Popular Aussie eyes NASCAR

As NASCAR continues preparing for its international assault, we are seeing more and more foreign drivers coming into the series. Two-time Australian V8 Supercar champion Marcos Ambrose is testing a NASCAR Craftsman Truck at two tracks in the Carolinas this week as part of his plans to join America's premier stock car circuit next year. Ford Racing is helping Ambrose, who won road racing's Supercar championship Down Under in a Ford Falcon in 2003 and '04 and is leading in this year's title chase. Ambrose, 28, tested Tuesday at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., and was at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., Wednesday. Ambrose is using a Ford pickup supplied by Roush Racing during the tests. Representatives from Roush's research and development group, including veteran crew chief Ben Leslie, are on site. Leslie has worked in the past with Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch. "This is the first step in a long process, a very long march," said Ambrose, who raced against the likes of current Formula One drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button in Europe during the late '90s. "I'll show what I can do. It's a challenge, but the sport's the same whether you're in open-wheel, V8 Supercars or NASCAR; it's man versus machine." Ambrose was at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn last weekend for the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Craftsman Truck events. He was a guest of Ford Racing. Ambrose said he's prepared to relocate to North Carolina, home of NASCAR race shops. But he isn't expecting a free meal ticket. Ambrose is prepared to start in Craftsman Truck, if necessary, and work his way into the Busch Grand National series and then Nextel Cup. Detroit Free Press

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