Ambrose picks up new associate sponsor for 2014
After thought, driver concluded 'timing was right' to make move RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Marcos Ambrose readily concedes it was an offer too good to pass up: The enviable opportunity to return his young family home to Australia combined with the chance to drive for Roger Penske. Explaining that he had made the decision this summer to return home -- in large part to raise his 8- and 6-year-old children -- Ambrose , 38, acknowledged this week that the stars aligned from both a personal and professional perspective. Team Penske announced this week the former two-time Australian V8 Supercar champ Ambrose will return to the series in 2015 with a Penske-led Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske entry. After a winning nine-year NASCAR career in the states Ambrose was ready for a change in scenery. And the timing has proven impeccable. In a teleconference with the international media this week, Ambrose again stressed that his motive has primarily been family-based. He will base the family in his native Tasmania -- near immediate family close to the very neighborhoods he and his wife were raised. "I had come to that conclusion leading into the summer that the timing was right for me personally to return to Australia at the end of this season for personal reasons,'' Ambrose said. "My kids are 6 and 8. I want them to enjoy and experience Australian life as well, so when they grow up they can make their own choices in life where they want to be. "I have one American that was born here and I have an Australian, Tabitha, who's 8 who has an Australian passport. I think the timing for me personally was right." And having earned a pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories along with five NASCAR Nationwide Series wins, Ambrose conceded it felt like his tenure in NASCAR had reached its natural conclusion. "My career in NASCAR has flattened off, and I always said that when I felt like I wasn't going to be able to either keep progressing or wasn't going to be able to achieve what I came here to do, which was to win a championship, then I needed to look at my options, and that's exactly what I've done," Ambrose said. "I've achieved a lot in NASCAR. Getting an opportunity to drive in the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty is incredible, but I felt like my opportunities were getting narrower, and certainly my results had flattened off. I mean, it's just a fact of life. "I felt like it's a good time for me to return the family to Australia. I've certainly scratched the itch of NASCAR, and I'm really proud of what I've achieved, but I'm happy to return to Australia and go to the next chapter in my racing career." Ambrose will work with at least two other team leaders with NASCAR experience. Jeff Swartwout, who worked with Penske's Nationwide Series program, will serve as team manager and Nick Hughes, who served as technical director on Michael Waltrip Racing teams, will work in the technical department. And with Penske's broad reach in motorsports, there was immediate talk about crossover between the series. Asked if one of his other drivers might do a one-off V8 Supercar race, Penske joked, "I told Marcos maybe we'd get (Juan Pablo) Montoya who said he likes to run on road courses to come down and join him, but that was only a joke. Please don't print that. That's just a joke." Penske Racing President Tim Cindric added with a laugh, "We'll have a long line out the door with Helio (Castroneves) and Will Power and the rest of them asking why they didn't get to go. There's a long list." In converse, Penske didn't close the door on whether Ambrose might make a return to NASCAR either. "I think that if there were reasons that we wanted to run Marcos , whether it's an oval or a NASCAR road race, we would have to look at the schedule and to be sure we had the proper funding to do it,'' Penske said. "I think as far as he's concerned, he's made the decision to come with us in Australia, and I think those opportunities he'd have to really look at one at a time." In the meantime, Ambrose said he is committed to seeking another title in the V8 Supercar championship. "It will be a challenge for me personally, there's no doubt about that. It's been nearly 10 years since I've driven a V8 Supercar. I don't take that challenge lightly,'' Ambrose said. "I know it's going to take some time to get integrated back into the series with the way they like to race, with the rules they have in place, and also the technical aspect of these cars, but I know what I've done in the past, and I know what I'm capable of, and it's not like I've been sitting around a beach. "I've been racing 36 NASCAR Sprint Cup races every season. I've had plenty of racing miles under my belt. I'm looking forward to the change. I'm looking forward to bringing my family back to Australia, and just can't wait to get started." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Marcos Ambrose talks about starting third at Talladega.
An excited Marcos Ambrose celebrates his second Sprint Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen in as many years.
Marcos Ambrose gives a detailed reflection on the final lap and comments on what it is like to race on an oil-covered track.
Marcos Ambrose explains why Sonoma Raceway is such a challenging track in a stock car and reflects on his career progress.
Bud Shootout rookie Marcos Ambrose comments on a wild and exciting race and how he enjoys pack drafting.
Marcos Ambrose finally celebrates his first victory in Montreal after five attempts.
Pair of non-Chasers lead the way; Kurt Busch damages No. 41 Chevy RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize MORE: Practice 3 results " Race lineup Kyle Larson was again fast in the final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, on Saturday. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver topped the leaderboard in the last practice session of the weekend after placing fourth and third in the first two, respectively. Larson's best speed of 190.295 mph was enough to top pole-winner and defending race-winner Kevin Harvick 's lap of 189.607 mph. Harvick was trailed by a trio of fellow Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers in Kasey Kahne (189.215 mph), Ryan Newman (189.102 mph) and Kyle Busch (189.069 mph). Jeff Gordon (188.818 mph) and Joey Logano (188.805 mph) were the only other Chase drivers in the top 10, at eighth and ninth, respectively. Jimmie Johnson (188.081 mph), who will start Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) 32nd after spinning during qualifying, and Matt Kenseth (187.806 mph) were the lowest-running Chase drivers at 21st and 25th, respectively. With just less than 40 minutes remaining in practice, the session was red-flagged when Kurt Busch spun off Turn 1 and ended up in the infield grass. He placed 31st in the session with a best speed of 186.419 mph in five laps and will go to a backup car for the race. MORE: Practice 2 results Marcos Ambrose topped Saturday's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Kansas Speedway . Ambrose , the Richard Petty Motorsports driver who recently announced plans to return to his native Australia following the conclusion of the season, led the way in the early session with a best speed of 191.652. The driver of he No. 9 was followed by a pair of Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in Jamie McMurray (191.584) and Kyle Larson (191.096), both of whom have enjoyed a successful start to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, despite both of them not having qualified for it. Carl Edwards was the first Chase driver on the board at fourth overall, with a best speed of 191.076 mph. His Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr . followed in fifth with a speed of 190.914 mph. The only Chase driver other than Edwards in the top 10 was Ryan Newman (190.235 mph), at eighth overall. Spots 11 through 17 saw six Chasers, in Kyle Busch (190.007, 11th), Joey Logano (189.980, 12th), pole-winner Kevin Harvick (189.947), Kasey Kahne (189.840, 14th), the most recent winner in Jeff Gordon (189.667, 16th) and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson (189.500, 17th). Johnson's Kansas weekend struggles continued slightly, as he piloted the No. 48 Chevrolet to an uncharacteristic 17th-place on the speed charts after spending most of the penultimate practice in the lower third of the charts. He spun during qualifying on Friday and will start 32nd on Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN). Denny Hamlin was the Chase driver with the slowest practice speed, clocking in at 188.653 mph, 28th overall. Final Kansas practice begins Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, with coverage on FOX Sports 2. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Salutes former team as he continues quest to make the Chase RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Third-place finisher Kurt Busch had a front-row seat as AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose beat and banged for a victory on Sunday at Watkins Glen International and a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. When asked what strategy Ambrose should have employed in the final laps of the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen, Busch said, "He should have wrecked Allmendinger." Sounding like "The Intimidator from Down Under," Ambrose said, "I tried to rattle his cage and couldn't shake him. We raced fair and square to the end there. It was a tough couple laps but it was fair. We were both giving it to each other pretty hard. No harm, no foul. We just came up a little short." Ambrose had too much respect for his competitor, the No. 47 team and racing in general to spin and win. The Australian driver spent two full seasons with Allmendinger's JTG Daugherty Racing before moving to his current team, Richard Petty Motorsports , in 2011. "They are good friends over there," Ambrose said. "I drove for those guys a long time, and I was never able to seal the deal with a win for them. I am pleased that they were able to get a win, and I am thrilled for AJ too, that is a big win." Ambrose led 19 circuits from Lap 33 through Lap 51 and never fell below second place over the final 20 laps, running side-by-side with Allmendinger down the stretch. With four laps to go, Ambrose and Allmendinger were within .003 seconds of each other at the start/finish line. The turning point for Ambrose came on the sixth and final yellow flag at Lap 88 when Denny Hamlin spun into the barrels at the entrance to pit road. The race to the field being frozen under caution was on and Allmendinger won it. "I can't remember much of it, but I know there was a lot of door banging going on and a lot of corners where we were side by side," Ambrose said. "I got my tires really hot during that and slid coming off Turn 11 after I got the lead and he got it back before the caution dropped. "That was probably the difference between winning and losing. If I could have had the lead when the caution came out I probably would have had the advantage on the restart and probably would have been able to fend him off. That is just racing. That is what it is all about. You try to take a couple chances, and I am just pleased we got through the esses side by side without wrecking the whole field. It could have easily happened." On Saturday, Ambrose earned his fourth NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Watkins Glen with a Richard Petty Motorsports research and development team. On Sunday, he liked his chances of completing the first weekend sweep at the facility with his full-time No. 9 Sprint Cup team, which used a precious test at the Glen to get a win and join the No. 43 team and Aric Almirola in the Chase. "I am just really proud of my Stanley team," Ambrose said. "We put a lot of effort into this race and really tried to win it. We won yesterday and came up one short today." With four races to go until the Chase, his focus remains on winning his way into NASCAR's playoffs, but he's also aware of his points situation heading into Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. "Man, I just finished the closest race of my life," Ambrose said. "I haven't thought about points or anything. I will look at it Monday. "We are decent in the championship position. I think we are 16th or something. We need to score points, but we really need to focus on winning." Ambrose is indeed 16th in points, 50 markers behind Clint Bowyer, who holds the last provisional spot on points. But the win was the thing for Ambrose , who enjoyed rubbing and racing with Allmendinger, just not as much as he did when he and Brad Keselowski slam-danced their way to the start/finish line in 2012. Was Sunday's run was as exciting as that epic dash to the checkered flag two years ago? "Not for me personally," Ambrose said. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule