History Made As Tasmanian Joins Andretti, Ross, Montoya
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 17, 2011) — Last Monday at Watkins Glen, as morning rolled into afternoon, Marcos Ambrose placed his name on a rather exclusive list, that of international winners.
With the victory, the Aussie joined Italy’s Mario Andretti, Canada’s Earl Ross and Colombia’s Juan Pablo Montoya as the only drivers born outside of the United States to have won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Ambrose, a native of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, won in his 105th series start, driving his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford to the lead on the race’s final restart. The victory was redemption for the 34-year-old two-time Australian V8 Super Car champion, whose error cost him a probable win at Infineon Raceway in 2010
Ambrose in 2006 walked away from a lucrative racing career “Down Under” to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He won three consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Watkins Glen International and joined Richard Petty Motorsports prior to the 2011 season.
A detailed rundown of the three other drivers on the short list, and how they reached Victory Lane:
Mario Andretti, a native of Italy and future Indianapolis 500 and Formula One World Champion, won the 1967 Daytona 500 in dominant fashion, leading 112 of 200 laps in a Ford out of the famed Holman-Moody stable. Andretti drove the race in a style previously unseen at the 2.5-mile superspeedway: His racing line used all the track, diving down to an apex and letting the car slide, tail out, up the banking on the exit of the corners.
Longtime motorsports journalist Chris Economaki said, “He was powering clear across the track, twice a lap. It was incredible. Nobody would run with him. They said, ‘Look at him. He is going to lose it. He’ll never make it 200 laps’ but he did it, comfortably at the end.”
Andretti won under caution, leading teammate Fred Lorenzen by a half lap before the yellow waved with two laps remaining.
Canadian Earl Ross, a short track competitor, hardly carried the credentials of an Andretti. In fact, Ross in 1974 effectively bought a seat in a Chevrolet owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson thanks to sponsorship of Canada’s Carling Brewery. No matter; Ross became one of just five winners during the season, joining these legends: Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Bobby Allison. He also became just the second rookie of the year to win in NASCAR’s premier series.
Ross won Martinsville Speedway’s Old Dominion 500, leading the final 79 laps after teammate and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Cale Yarborough’s engine expired. He won by more than a lap over Buddy Baker in a 30-car field that included NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and Richard Childress.
Unfortunately for Ross, sponsorship dried up and the Prince Edward Island native returned to Canada where he continued to race into the 1990s.
Juan Pablo Montoya of Bogota, Colombia, came to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after winning the 2000 Indianapolis 500 and seven Formula One races. His first victory came at Infineon Raceway in 2007 driving for his current owner Chip Ganassi. Montoya started 32nd in the race and led just the final seven laps around the 1.99-mile road course. He enjoyed a 4.07-second margin of victory over Kevin Harvick.
Montoya completed the career sweep of NASCAR Sprint Cup road courses, winning at Watkins Glen International in 2010.