Where are they now? Marcos Ambrose re-energized, reinvigorated in his native Australia
When long-time NASCAR fan favorite Marcos Ambrose decided to end his nearly 25-year racing career, he tried to get as far away from racing cars and racetracks as possible.
Boy does he ever have.
After leaving NASCAR after the 2014 season, Ambrose literally moved his family halfway around the world, approximately 10,000 miles from Charlotte and back to his native Tasmania.
Tasmania is an island nation 150 miles south of motherland Australia and the last major landmass to the south before reaching Antarctica - home of the South Pole.
About the size of West Virginia, much of Tasmania's pristine wilderness is less than 550,000 people. And it is back in his homeland that Ambrose has found peace and happiness again and, unsurprisingly, has rediscovered his love for racing. Only now is it mainly as a teacher / trainer and crew chief for daughters and aspiring go-kart racers Tabitha and Adelaide.
"My racing career had come to a point where I had to return to Australia for personal reasons," Ambrose said in an interview with NASCAR.com. “I got out of the race, it was really just time for me to stop. Starting a family was very important to me and being a good father and a good husband.
"So we did that. And my girls are now 13 (Adelaide) and 15 (Tabitha) so they are well on their way and I really enjoyed my time with them."
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While Adelaide is in the early stages of her racing career, older sister Tabitha has shown promising results and, like her father, is already very skilled at the wheel.
So much so that the proud father imagines that his eldest daughter will step up to the Australian "circuit and some speedway races" in the next year or two. While it doesn't rule out Tabitha following in his NASCAR footsteps at some point, it is also not accelerating her development.
"Races are just great for kids," said Ambrose. “It teaches them a lot of things about life, like being a good loser, winning, working hard, making an effort and also taking a little risk.
“The race was just great for me in my life and now Tabitha really got it. We support her and what she does, but she will have to do it on her own. And if she wants to go a racing car route, she has to find a way. We are definitely happy that she is going this way and we support where we can. "
Tabitha's exploits have revived Ambrose's own love of racing. While no longer behind the wheel, Ambrose recently became crew chief on the Australian TA2 (Trans-Am) series for friend and driver / team owner Owen Kelly, who drove several late model and NASCAR Cup and Xfinity races in the US is for JR Motorsports by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports, among others.
Despite living halfway around the globe, Ambrose had long aspired to compete in NASCAR one day and wanted to climb a ladder that would eventually get him there.
After starting in his homeland, he moved to Europe and drove in the Formula Ford series against future Formula 1 stars Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and the late Dan Wheldon, as well as someone he was with, in the mid to late 1990s at some point a rivalry on track with NASCAR, Danica Patrick, would renew.
Ambrose learned his lessons well in Europe; He returned to Australia and won consecutive supercar championships in 2003 and 2004.
After another season in the series, he moved to the United States and started competing in 2006 when JTG Daugherty Racing owners Tad and Jodi Geschickter gave Ambrose the opportunity he had longed for.
"I would never have made it to NASCAR without Tad and Jodi," he said.
While he won two races in NASCAR's premier cup series, both at Watkins Glen International (2011 and 2012), those wins are not number 1 on Ambrose's list of his career achievements.
"To win races, yes, that's great, but it's a fleeting moment," said Ambrose. “But making it into a full-time cup driver (NASCAR) was the high point of my career for me because it's so competitive and the quality of the drivers and the teams. Getting into this American-dominated sport from overseas was just a big deal. I am really proud of my time. "
Ambrose is not only forever grateful to the Geschickters for taking a chance on him, but he also loves and values NASCAR legend Richard Petty, for whom he drove for the last four seasons of his cup career (2011-2014).
"Richard is just one of the nicest people I've ever met and met," said Ambrose. "He's so full of wisdom, was such an incredible racer, famous family in racing, such a humble guy and a nice person, nice family. (Richard's ex-crew chief, Dale) Inman is the same. Robbie Loomis was there when." it was my first time walking in, Sammy Johns, just so many wonderful people in this organization, it's just amazing to think that I drove for him and I respect him so much and the family so much.
"I have so much respect for racing families who have been doing NASCAR for three and four generations and what they have been through and what they have done." They're part of the NASCAR fabric, and that's what makes the sport so great, these types of people. I was privileged to have known Richard and to drive for him. "
After leaving NASCAR and returning to Australian supercars for 10 races in late 2014 and 2015, Ambrose turned away from racing because he went through burnout - and not the kind of burnout he experienced after all the races in whom he had won his career.
"When I left America, I just cut the cord," he said. “That was just one way for me to leave NASCAR and North America. We just had to start a new chapter in our life. "
This included a complete withdrawal from social media.
"I really stayed away from (racing) time," he said. “We just turned off the tap. To be honest, my life has always been about racing. I've been racing since I was 15. It was a big step to go to Europe and then make a career in Australia and then start all over again and go to America.
"And then (almost) 10 years of NASCAR alone I didn't have the infrastructure around me, the family around me, and I think I just burned out. I think that was part of my problem. When I came back to Australia, I thought I could still drive for Roger (Penske in Supercars) and do the race. And really, I just couldn't. My brain just said, "No, you have to stop and just reset." And I think I did I've done for the past six years. That was part of closing my social media accounts and all just to give your brain a break and just change what you were doing.
“I just felt like I was taking on so much of a burden that I just had to stop and break it. We're six years away from that and I'm much better now. I feel like I am back to my old self. "
Ambrose is still young enough to drive a racing car. When asked if he'd think about it, he smiles just like he was such a fan favorite on NASCAR and quips, “You know, it's probably time for that six or seven year old itch, isn't it? it?
“I miss races. … Tabitha and Adelaide, who are getting into racing, have revitalized me in the sport. And so we'll see where it goes from here.
"We're just about to reopen my social (media) pages. We're really doing it to help Tabitha and get back involved in the community. I'm doing the crew chief thing now and I'm back on the track and contribute where I can and I really enjoy it. I feel like I have a lot of racing experience and the cars I've built have done pretty well so I enjoyed that too. We we are now dealing with motorsport again.
"I'm sure I could jump back and train and test some and get back to some of my previous glory, but I didn't try and it just wasn't on my radar."
Ambrose has not returned to the US since he left almost seven years ago. But fond memories are still fresh in his head.
"I miss the NASCAR community and the friendships I made there and in America," he said. "I definitely have a lot of friends in the garage that I would love to see again. I would love to get involved again. So yeah, I definitely miss it, a big part of my life. Almost 10 years of my life has been on the." NASCAR racetrack, and yes, they are great memories.
"We'd love to come back. ... Hopefully once COVID is under control we can come back, especially if Tabitha now shows some interest in racing. I think North America would be a great place for her."
Since leaving NASCAR, Ambrose has become a successful businessman. He owns several commercial properties in Tasmania. His pride and joy are Thousand Lakes Lodge, a resort he built in the remote outback for people who like it rough during the day but love to return at night for luxury and pampering.
"I really enjoyed that," said Ambrose. "It's an old Antarctic training center in the mountains. It's really a wild place with wombats and Tasmanian devils, voles and things like that and a lot of bushwalking. So that was good.
“(Building the lodge) was part of that fundamental change. It was part of resetting the clock. I've spent so long in the concrete jungle of NASCAR and it's a fast life. You're in a jet to get to the track and you're in a car that drives down the freeway to get to the track. You're on the track, you drive your racing car, you sleep in a motor home, it just creates noise and concrete and I think I just had to get back to basics.
"So I thought it was a good idea to build this wilderness lodge back then and I really enjoyed doing it." It was really good for my soul to get back to nature a little and do something completely different.
"There are some, me and Carl Edwards are some examples. You just get to a point where you just have to make a decision and be either in or out, you can't be half in or half out. Sometimes you just have to be Cut. And for me I had a young family and I wanted to raise them. My body and brain were like, "Hey, you just have to stop what you're doing here." And it was like that. "
One of the happiest memories of Ambrose's career at NASCAR was American fans hugging him, which continues to this day. When asked if he was humble about how the fans reacted to him, how they still sent him letters and emails, and how they are still curious about what he is doing these days, a big smile spread again on Ambrose's face out.
"Yes, yes and yes," he chuckled. “It's difficult to drive at the highest level. But then, so as not to create enemies and so that people enjoy what you are doing, that's even better for me. Americans in general love Australians and the Australian way of life. I was fortunate enough to be Australian and race in NASCAR and people accepted that for me. All I tried when I hit the racetrack was do my best and get it really hot.
“I appreciate that people in these circles still think of me. It kind of revives me saying, "Hey, what are you doing down in Tasmania, you should be doing some more." Maybe I'll get engaged again a little sooner and see you soon. "
You can find the full interview with Marcos Ambrose on The Racing Beat on the BLEAV Podcast Network (BLEAV.com) and on your favorite podcast platforms like iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and others.
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The Marcos Ambrose file:
* Age: 45 years
* Hometown: Launceston, Tasmania
* Career in the NASCAR Cup Series (2007-2014): 227 starts, 2 wins (both 2011 and 2012 at Watkins Glen), 18 top 5 finishes and 46 top 10 finishes
* Highest cup completion in one season: 18th in 2009 and 2012
* NASCAR Xfinity career: 77 starts, 5 wins, 9 top 5 and 18 top 10 finishes
* Career in the NASCAR Truck Series: 22 starts, 0 wins, 2 top five and 4 top 10 finishes
* During his NASCAR career, Ambrose drove for the Hall of Famers Richard Petty and the Wood Brothers, as well as JTG-Daugherty Racing, Robby Gordon and Michael Waltrip. When he left NASCAR to return to racing in the Supercars series in Australia, he drove 10 races in two seasons (2014-2015) for another legendary team owner, Roger Penske, before officially retiring from all forms of racing.
* Won Australian V8 Supercars Series championships in a row in 2003 and 2004.
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