(Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Report: Deal for Marcos Ambrose’ return to Australia to race V8 Supercars for Roger Penske may be close


While it’s seemed Marcos Ambrose was a lock to return to Richard Petty Motorsports, especially with all the positive things he’s said about wanting to stay with RPM in recent weeks and months, a report Thursday has Ambrose leaving NASCAR after this season and returning to his native Australia.

Perhaps that’s why Ambrose and Richard Petty Motorsports have not announced a new contract extension up to this point.

What’s more, the same report indicates Ambrose will be racing in the Australian V8 Supercar Series for none other than Roger Penske (which MotorSportsTalk predicted back in April).

“Ambrose, a two-time (former Supercars) champion in Falcons with Stone Brothers Racing, is strongly rumored to have plans to return to Australia with his family after battling to make the top grade in NASCAR racing in America despite several big road-course wins,” the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported.

The newspaper also said Penske could reach a deal by the end of this month to form a Supercar team with longtime Australian race team owner Dick Johnson, and with Ambrose as the prospective new team’s lead driver.

Johnson would not confirm a deal may be in the works with Penske, but his remarks to the Courier-Mail left a strong impression that something is in the works.

“I really want to cement the future, with where DJR (Dick Johnson Racing) is headed,” Johnson told the Courier-Mail. “It has been embarrassing for the team to be in the position we’ve been in the past few years. This is an opportunity to be extremely competitive again.”

Penske has been increasing his business investments in Australia, the newspaper reported, including opening several new auto dealerships and ownership of a local truck manufacturer.

If Penske does go Supercar racing, it could potentially be with one of several manufacturers, including Ford, Mercedes-Benz or Porsche, the paper said.

If Ambrose were to leave Richard Petty Motorsports, it’s unknown who might replace the Aussie in the No. 9 Ford Fusion.

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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 13th is Carlos Munoz, who fell back to earth a bit after winning Indianapolis 500, then series rookie-of-the-year honors in consecutive years.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 8th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 10.5 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish

Munoz fell down to earth a little bit in his second full season in IndyCar, albeit not as badly as fellow 2014 rookie Jack Hawksworth, who’d switched teams and had a myriad of issues throughout the season. He won his first race in the rain at Detroit race one, which was well judged, but there were precious other highlights from the driver who has showcased “wow” potential in the past.

His qualifying fell off year-to-year and that was probably the single thing to pinpoint as to why the decline occurred, falling from eighth to 13th in points. What had been a 10.5 average in 2014 fell to 14th this year, and behind teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ovals seemed his strongest type of circuit this year on the whole. Like teammate Justin Wilson, he’d been in position to score what would have been his third straight Indianapolis 500 top-five finish if a late splash of fuel wasn’t needed. Sixth at Texas from fourth on the grid marked his best overall weekend of the year, and fifth at Iowa and Pocono were also fairly good results.

But whereas Munoz picked his spots well last year and delivered a handful of podiums, his Detroit win marked his only podium visit this year. He didn’t really make much of an impression and was more anonymous than not over the course of the year. His future with Andretti is uncertain for 2016.

Williams maximizes wet setup work despite limited running in Sochi

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With action pretty much limited in both practice sessions due to the diesel spillage in free practice one and rain in free practice two for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teams could only do limited wet-weather runs.

Williams Martini Racing tried to make the best of the circumstances, as one of only five teams that completed laps in FP2 (McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari) with eight cars.

Felipe Massa led second practice but it was an essentially meaningless session.

“It was quite a stunted session today which stopped us from completing all of the work we wanted to,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “We had planned to run in the wet but we had a strange situation this afternoon in that half of the circuit was much wetter than the other half which made most of the tests null and void.

“We have been working on the wet set-up of the car and so wanted to get out at the end of FP2 to see the progress we have made. In a similar vein to our low speed corner work in Singapore, we seem to be making progress. We got through all of the bits and pieces we wanted to get through in terms of control systems and power unit set-up, and we have to go into tomorrow with a good plan for FP3 to get the car set-up for qualifying and the race.”

Valtteri Bottas finished third in Sochi a year ago, while Massa seeks a rebound after a fuel flow issue in qualifying resigned him to a Q1 elimination and an 11th place finish.