Marcos Ambrose suffers sub-par results in V8 Sydney sprints

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Former NASCAR racer Marcos Ambrose logged his first set of Australian V8 Supercar races in more than nine years at the Sydney 500 overnight.

The ex-Richard Petty Motorsports man crashed in qualifying before the first of two 125-kilometer sprint races on Saturday, forcing him to start Race 1 from the back. Issues with the braking set-up on his No. 66 Xbox Ford Falcon hampered the Tasmanian and forced him to finish 20th.

Race 2 saw Ambrose peel off three positions by Turn 1 at the start but that was immediately ruined by a tap from another competitor that spun him around. Ambrose quickly recovered, but a major storm soon forced race officials to throw the red flag at Lap 19.

The cars would get back on track behind the safety car but never resumed racing, and Ambrose had to take a 22nd place result.

“It hasn’t been the day we were hoping for,” Ambrose said. “It started with my mistake completely in qualifying. I missed a shift and caused some trouble damaging the right front. So we started off the back for both races. I had good starts both times which is a positive, I guess, and did have good car speed when we were running in clean air.

“It is very tough to pass here so I am really learning on the run. The rain made it pretty interesting too.”

Ambrose will try to salvage the weekend with a solid result in the 250-kilometer feature. Qualifying for that race is set for tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET with the main event later on at 11:40 p.m. ET.

“We are going to change the brakes around and see if we can get a bit more comfort there for me,” he said of how he and his DJR Team Penske squad plan to regroup. “That is the biggest area, as I just can’t seem to stop the car consistently well. Our target is to qualify in the teens…and we will work on the set up again tonight.”

Jamie Whincup, who has already clinched the 2014 driver’s championship, swept both of Saturday’s sprint races.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?