Marcos Ambrose said Thursday that he regrets the punch he threw at Casey Mears, but won't apologize for the incident. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Marcos Ambrose regrets Mears punch but won’t apologize

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In his first public comments since last Saturday’s punch of Casey Mears and subsequent fines and penalties issued by NASCAR, Marcos Ambrose said he regrets the incident but will not apologize for it either.

“As it goes down, if I had my chance to think back about it, a wiser man would have walked away a little bit earlier and not got himself in that situation,” Ambrose said during a media event Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I don’t apologize for my actions. I was just standing up for myself and my team and my family and letting people know that you can’t get in my private space like that and expect not to have any consequences.”

Both drivers were penalized Tuesday by NASCAR, with Ambrose receiving a higher fine ($25,000) due to his actual punching Mears, who was fined $15,000 for pushing and shoving Ambrose. Each was also placed on probation through May 28, three days after the Coca-Cola 600 race in Charlotte.

Although he drew the harsher penalty, Ambrose understood NASCAR’s side.

“I got myself in a bad situation,” Ambrose said. “I caused an action that NASCAR needed to reprimand, so I’m happy to pay it and happy to move on.

“It’s a heavy fine. That’s the biggest fine I’ve ever received in racing and I think that NASCAR needed to do something and whatever they chose to do, I’ll pay it.”

Ambrose said he’s still somewhat baffled why Mears instigated the confrontation.

“The altercation I had with Casey was quite impromptu,” Ambrose said. “As I was walking past the 13 car, as he’d finished the race, I was actually heading over to have a chat with David Gilliland just to say we’re all good after we got into each other a couple of times.

“Some words were said and I was confused about why Casey was so annoyed at me, and I think you just see a lot of the passion that the drivers have and the commitment we have to try to win these races and try to run at the front. That passion kind of got out of hand and got out of control pretty quick.”

If he had to do it all over again, Ambrose might take a different tact. But in the heat of the moment, he reacted in the way he did because he feared what Mears might do next.

“I think I’ve learned my lesson on that one,” Ambrose said. “I think next time I might scamper into the race hauler or scamper back to the plane and have a sleep on things. There’s just so much emotion. This is the first time I’ve been involved in something like this.

“At the time, even after the incident went down, I didn’t think much of it.  I just thought, ‘Well, he started pushing me around and I just had to get him away from me,’ because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. If he starts pushing me in the toolbox what happens next? Is he going to try to throw one on me?”

Ambrose even joked a bit of the response he received when he got back home afterward.

“So I was trying to get out of there and it wasn’t until a few hours later that the adrenaline starts to whoa down and you start to realize what you had done,” he said. “And then the next day when you have to talk to your kids about it and your wife is mad at you, you realize that walking away would have been a much smarter option.”

Ambrose insists he did try to walk away, but when Mears began to shove him, it didn’t leave Ambrose much choice in how to react.

“There was plenty of stuff said, but before the pushing,” Ambrose said. “He was upset and he was letting me know how upset he was. And then when I went to walk away he just couldn’t handle it any longer. As soon as he grabbed hold of me there, I knew I was going to have to get a shot in and I was just waiting for the right moment.”

Ambrose said he’s never had a physical confrontation before in his career, not even in his pre-NASCAR days in his native Australia. But he’s also willing to let bygones be bygones with Mears.

“I’m happy to move on and put the week behind us,” Ambrose said, adding that he and Mears have talked more than once since Richmond. “It’s certainly not a proud moment of mine, but I certainly don’t take anything back that I did. Casey and I spoke about it and he said, if the shoe was on the other foot he probably would have done the same thing.”

Ambrose even extended a gesture of friendship to Mears.

“I honestly believe that we’ll enjoy having a beer with each other,” he said. “I think we have a mutual respect for each other. I like Casey a lot. I didn’t have any beef with him after the race, but emotions just got out of hand and we both recognized that if we had our time again it wouldn’t happen again, but now it has, you can’t take back what has happened.

“I’ve spoken to him and I’m not carrying anything forward. He has to decide what he wants to do moving forward, but if we get ourselves in a pub somewhere I’d buy him a beer, no problem.”

Also offering his first comments on the incident, team owner Richard Petty defended his driver for essentially protecting himself.

Petty also questioned why NASCAR penalized his driver more severely than Mears, who instigated the incident by pushing and shoving Ambrose before the latter reacted in self-defense mode.

“I always look at it as you have to defend yourself no matter what the circumstances are, and that’s what I saw in the Marcos situation,” Petty said. “What provoked it? I have no idea.

“I don’t even think Marcos knows really what provoked the whole thing. But in the scheme of things, if you can’t protect yourself, then NASCAR is not going to come and protect you, so he had to do what he had to do.

“… As you can see in the tape, (Ambrose) did not initiate any of that. He was trying to get away. So I think from that standpoint, I don’t know what (NASCAR’s) rationale is. I’ll just have to talk to them and see what they come up with.”

Petty even laughed at times about the incident. When asked if he ever had any confrontations of note with other drivers during his racing career, Petty demurred.

“No comment,” he said with a laugh. “(Physical confrontations between drivers) used to go on a little bit all the time, but they didn’t have all of the TV cameras and all that stuff, so you could go around behind a truck and do what you needed to do and there wasn’t very many people who knew about it.”

When asked if he wishes Ambrose would have done things differently, Petty again replied with a laugh.

“You’ve got to defend yourself no matter what, but if he knew he was going to be fined $25,000, (Ambrose) might have let the guy (Mears) take another swing at him,” Petty said.

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It’s a dog’s life: While ‘dad’ Simon is away, Norman Pagenaud will play

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Current Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud — who comes into Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 riding a three-race winning streak — has a new addition to the family: Norman Pagenaud.

The newest Pagenaud already has his own Twitter account and while ‘dad’ was in Detroit Tuesday during the annual NASCAR cross-country media tour day, Norman REALLY got to know his new home away from home: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Check out some of Norman’s best tweets of the day, as well as a few from Simon.

Oh, and did we mention that Norman is a puppy? He’s sooooooo cute!

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Cross-country IndyCar media tour pumps up excitement for Indy 500

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(Photo courtesy Mike Kitchel, IndyCar)
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To further pump up the excitement of Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 – which is officially sold-out – all 33 drivers in the race field spent Tuesday flying to various cities for a number of media opportunities.

Some went to baseball games, others to the zoo, and all had countless media interviews as a prelude for Sunday’s milestone event.

The media tour, which began in 2011, scattered the drivers to a variety of markets, from New York City and Chicago to Miami, Phoenix, Toronto, Buffalo, St. Louis and even Bethlehem, Pa.

Pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe kicked off things by taking a bite out of the Big Apple (New York City), along with 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2014 Verizon IndyCarSeries champion Will Power and two-time series race winner Marco Andretti.

Here’s where the contingent of drivers visited, followed by a number of social media posts related to their visits:

Bethlehem, Pa.: Jack Hawksworth, Bristol, Conn. (ESPN): Tony Kanaan, Buffalo: Josef Newgarden, Charlotte, N.C.: Juan Pablo Montoya, Chicago: Helio Castroneves, Cincinnati: Sage Karam, Mikhail Aleshin, Cleveland: Pippa Mann, Columbus, Ohio: Charlie Kimball, Dallas: Graham Rahal, Dayton, Ohio: Stefan Wilson, Detroit: Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais, Fort Wayne, Ind.: Bryan Clauson, Buddy Lazier, Louisville: Matt Brabham, Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton, Spencer Pigot, Miami: Oriol Servia, Carlos Munoz, Gabby Chaves, Milwaukee: Conor Daly, New York: Will Power, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Townsend Bell, Phoenix: Scott Dixon, St. Louis: JR Hildebrand, Toronto: Takuma Sato, Alex Tagliani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Form and history against struggling Hamilton at Monaco GP

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 15:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP before the drivers parade ahead of the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 15, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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MONACO (AP) Lewis Hamilton heads into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix with form and recent history against him as he bids to close the gap on championship leader Nico Rosberg.

Five races into the season, the defending Formula One champion trails Robserg by 43 points and needs to start pressuring his Mercedes teammate.

But Rosberg has won the past three races here, while things have been more problematic for Hamilton – whose only win in Monaco was driving for McLaren in 2008.

“I’m approaching this weekend with only one result in mind,” Hamilton said. “I’ve not had the best run of results in Monaco in recent years, but last year showed I have the pace to do the job.”

Hamilton has clearly not forgotten what happened in 2015. His team’s panicky decision to call him back to the pits after the safety car came out crushed his momentum, handing victory to Rosberg, with Hamilton placing third behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.

The previous year, Rosberg was the source of Hamilton’s irritation as the German driver appeared to deliberately go off track near the end of qualifying – thus prematurely ending the session and denying Hamilton pole position.

Tensions escalated between Hamilton and Rosberg in 2014, so much so that team management intervened, and the friction was still apparent at times last year as Hamilton raced to his second straight title and third overall. He won the title with three races to spare, but has not won since.

Relations between Hamilton and Rosberg had mellowed until two weeks ago, when an extraordinary start to the Spanish GP saw them crash into each other.

“I was gutted after what happened in Spain,” Rosberg said. “I know how hard everybody works to make these amazing cars, so for us to leave them both in the gravel is the worst possible scenario.”

That both drivers failed to finish meant neither directly gained any advantage from the other’s misfortune, which probably prevented another bout of finger-pointing between the fiercely competitive pair who raced karts against each other as teenage friends.

But it has caused serious commotion within Mercedes, with non-executive chairman Nikki Lauda blaming Hamilton for the incident, while head of motorsport Toto Wolff scolded both drivers.

“The team is responsible for giving them the best possible cars and they are responsible for getting the best out of them,” Wolff said. “When we let them down, we apologize and the same goes the other way.”

The lost points in Barcelona played to Red Bull’s advantage as 18-year-old Max Verstappen became the youngest driver to win an F1 race, while veteran Kimi Raikkonen grabbed another podium to sneak past Hamilton and into second place overall behind Rosberg.

“It’s clear that we are under attack from more than one angle,” Wolff said. “We must remain united, remain strong and hit back hard this weekend.”

Pole position is crucial in Monaco, almost as much as it is Spain and Hungary, with overtaking extremely difficult on the tight and twisting street track that weaves around millionaires reclining on their yachts and climbs up past the famed casino.

“I have memories from every corner going right back to my school days,” said Rosberg, who grew up in Monaco. “I’m feeling confident, so bring on the battle.”

Vettel tasted victory in Monaco only once – driving for Red Bull in 2011 – and celebrated by somersaulting into the team swimming pool. Ferrari’s drought stretches way back to Michael Schumacher’s victory in 2001.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Verstappen – whose late crash undid Hamilton last year in Monaco – after his winning drive two weeks ago in his debut for Red Bull.

Verstappen’s win is a wake-up call to teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who won three races in his first season with Red Bull in 2014, but has not finished on the podium in 11 races.

“It’s definitely a good motivation,” Ricciardo said.

Castroneves ‘IndyCar-aoke’ challenge backfires when Brabham, Chilton nail it

Max Chilton (rear) and Matthew Brabham took Helio Castroneves up on his 'IndyCar-aoke challenge' Tuesday.
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Verizon IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves shocked the world when he and partner Julianne Hough won Dancing With The Stars in 2007 (see video below – we never get tired of watching it).

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner decided to take things to the next level during Tuesday’s IndyCar Media Day across the country when he came up with “IndyCar-aoke” – as in karaoke.

In somewhat of a takeoff on late night TV show host James Corden’s amazingly popular “Carpool Karaoke” series, Castroneves issued a IndyCar-aoke challenge to other drivers in Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 to put their singing uh, err, talent to the test.

Being naive Indy 500 rookies who maybe didn’t know any better, Matthew Brabham and Max Chilton took the challenge.

But you know what? This time, youth ruled and Helio drooled.

While Helio did his best (it would have helped if he knew all the lyrics) with The Pointer Sisters “I’m So Excited,” Brabham and Chilton absolutely killed it with their version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” – a potential ode to their hopes in Sunday’s race.

As for Helio, a bit of advice: Good try, but don’t give up your day job anytime soon. That, or you may want to play to your REAL musical strength: dancing!

And, Helio, if you want to see how it’s really done – and sung – check out the following video and then take a walk down memory lane of your win in DWTS:

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