Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 47 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car and two-time V8 Supercar champion, will replace fellow NASCAR driver Regan Smith behind the wheel of the No. 10 Cat Car for Kids in the July 17 IWK 250 presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body. The swap became necessary after Smith fractured his left wrist during a recent race in California.
Ambrose, from Launceston in Tasmania, Australia, where he was known as "Devil Racer" has been competing in NASCAR competition since 2006 when he started in the Camping World Truck Series. In 2007 he stepped up to the Nationwide Series. It was an on-track incident in the Montreal Nationwide Series race that year that got Ambrose his start in Sprint Cup competition.
A road course specialist, Ambrose was leading the Montreal race when Robby Gordon and he tussled for the lead. Gordon spun after being nudged by Ambrose under green; Gordon retaliated by spinning Ambrose under yellow, while leading; after Gordon cooled down he offered Ambrose restitution by giving him the chance to drive his Cup car in an upcoming road course race at Watkins Glen.
Ambrose finished the '07 season eighth in the Nationwide Series point standings - the highest of any driver not competing full-time on the Sprint Cup Series. In 2008 he moved to part-time competition on the Sprint Cup Series; he also scored his first Nationwide Series win that year - at Watkins Glen - a road course. The next day after his win he finished third in Sprint Cup competition at "the Glen" behind NASCAR stars Kyle Busch (first) and Tony Stewart (second). He finished 10th overall in the Nationwide point standings in '08.
In 2009 Ambrose's team owner, former NBA player Brad Daugherty formed an alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing to create the team Ambrose currently drives for in Sprint Cup competition. Ambrose piloted the No. 47 car to a 17th-place finish in the series 2009 championship point standings with four top fives and seven top 10s. A part-time Nationwide campaign in '09 saw Ambrose successfully defend his '08 win at Watkins Glen.
Perhaps the most disappointing moment in Ambrose`s racing career came just a few weeks ago in Sprint Cup competition at a road course in California - ironically the same event in which Regan Smith fractured his wrist. Ambrose had dominated the race and was leading four-time series champion Jimmie Johnson when a miscue under caution with less than 10 laps to go saw Ambrose forfeit the lead to Johnson who went on to win the race while Ambrose finished sixth. He is currently 27th in 2010 Sprint Cup Series driver point standings.
Ambrose's venture to Riverside International Speedway this month marks his first trip to Nova Scotia - indeed his first trip anywhere in Canada except Montreal (for the Nationwide race).
"I'm looking forward to going there," said Ambrose. "That was actually one of reasons we decided to make this last-minute change to our summer schedule."
When Ambrose climbs behind the wheel of the Cat Car for Kids it will be his first time in a late model/pro stock type race car - and he plans to seek advice from 2008 IWK 250 winner Regan Smith about what to expect.
"This is my first time in one of those cars," said Ambrose. "You can rest assured I'll be talking to Regan this weekend to get some pointers."
Both Ambrose and Smith are at Daytona International Speedway this weekend for a Sprint Cup Series race. While Smith continues to compete on NASCAR's top level since his injury, all "extracurricular" activities have been halted, particularly over the July 17 off-weekend so to help the healing process.
Smith is disappointed he won't get a chance to redeem himself after a late-race run-in cost him a top finish.
"I was looking forward to going back to Riverside for the 250," said Smith. "It's been a highlight of my schedule for the past three years."
Ambrose, a second generation racer, had a full racing career in Europe and Australia before making his move to North America and NASCAR. He won four Tasmanian Junior karting titles before starting senior competition at age 16. In 1999 he won the 1999 British Formula Ford championship. He was the 2001 V8 Supercar rookie of the year and went on to win championships in that series in 2003 and 2004.
The IWK 250 weekend expands to a three-day event this year and runs from July 15 to July 17. Thursday will see an afternoon practice for all divisions and an evening concert. Friday will see the Napa Sportsman Super Series and Maritime Legends Tour featured on the race card. Saturday will be a full day of pro stock competition starting at 2:30 with time trials followed by heat races at 4 p.m., an autograph session while fans are entertained by Abbey Road - a Beatles tribute band, the B Feature and then the much anticipated IWK 250.
In the last three years the IWK 250 presented by Steve Lewis Auto Body has raised awareness and more than $60,000 for the IWK Health Care Centre in Halifax, the regions top children and women's hospital.
Tickets are now available for the IWK 250 weekend at Riverside International Speedway's. Visit www.riversidespeedway.ca or call 902.863.2410 for seating information and ticket prices.