Richard Petty made a seemingly off-hand remark during January’s annual NASCAR preseason media tour that he wasn’t sure whether one of his drivers, Marcos Ambrose, would still be racing in Sprint Cup in 2015.
“I don’t know how much longer he wants to stay in the U.S.,” Petty said. “You know, he’s come a long way. He’s sort of a hero in Australia just because he’s running Cup. His big deal is if he could win on a round and around racetrack, that would be the optimum for him. If he did do that, he’d probably just go home and say, ‘Thank you guys,’ but I don’t know.”
Ambrose’s contract expires with Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of this season.
Now comes a report from AutoSport.com’s Mark Glendenning that links Ambrose with legendary race team owner Roger Penske’s possible plans to form a V8 Supercars team to race as early as next year in Ambrose’s native Australia.
Coincidence? Or did Petty know something more than he was leading on when he made that comment about Ambrose and his future more than two months ago?
Although Penske said it’s still “early” about plans to expand his motorsports empire overseas into either V8 Supercars or other forms of sports car racing, Australia definitely has his attention.
“We’re potentially looking at Australia,” Penske said, according to AutoSport. “As soon as you talk to them that’s the first thing they want to know: ‘Are you interested in V8 Supercars?’ So that might be something we do at some point.”
But the V8 Supercars landscape could potentially be significantly altered next season. Penske is affiliated with Ford in NASCAR and Chevrolet in IndyCar.
“The issue that you have is that the manufacturers are pulling out of manufacturing in Australia,” Penske said. “Holden is coming out, Ford is coming out, Toyota is coming out.
“And now, V8s aren’t what people are buying – people are buying turbocharged, direct-injected 1.8 liters or 2.0 liters.
“And you’ve got Mercedes in [V8 Supercars] now, Volvo is in, Nissan is in, so it’s starting to open up. So it will be interesting to see whether there is an opportunity for us with some manufacturer.”
Before he came to NASCAR, Ambrose won a pair of V8 Supercar championships in his homeland.
And if the AutoSport report of Ambrose potentially racing for Penske is correct, might Petty already be quietly starting to shop around for a potential replacement for Ambrose for next season?
Follow me @JerryBonkowski