(Getty Images)

Report: Marcos Ambrose’s racing days likely over, says Roger Penske

3 Comments

Former NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose won’t be back racing in the Australian V8 Supercar Series in 2016, at least not for Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske.

DJR Team Penske co-owner Roger Penske told Australia’s SpeedCafe.com that Ambrose will not return to the team as a driver next season.

SpeedCafe.com did not reach Ambrose for comment. However, Ambrose said recently that he hasn’t reached a final decision on his driving future, but that he may still make some part-time starts, especially at endurance races, with DJRTP. Based on what Penske said, that no longer appears likely.

MORE: Marcos Ambrose’s decision on his future is drawing closer

“I’ve talked to Marcos and he has made a decision that if he’s not the primary driver he doesn’t really want to be a co-driver (in endurance races),” Penske told SpeedCafe.com. “I respect him for that.

“He reminds me of Rick Mears when he came to me, won Indianapolis (500) four times for us and then said, ‘At this point I just don’t have it in my gut to go as hard as you have to’.

“Marcos didn’t say that to me, but he said, ‘Look, I’ve come back, put my foot in the water and it’s probably not what I want to do on a going forward basis’.”

However, Penske hopes to keep the 39-year-old Ambrose in the DJRTP fold in a non-driving capacity.

“I think from a driving perspective, (Ambrose) won’t be in a car,” Penske said. “But hopefully he will work with us on the commercial side. He’d still come to certain key races to support us.

“He likes some of the commercial aspects of our business, so hopefully we can tie something together there. We haven’t done that yet, but it’s something we’re interested in.”

Penske did not address whether Ambrose might be interested in other non-driving roles such as a driver coach or consultant, much like Mears has been to Team Penske on the IndyCar Series since he retired after the 1992 season.

Ambrose returned to his native Australia last November after nine seasons competing in NASCAR. Expectations were high that he’d do well in the V8 Supercar Series, in which he won championships in 2003 and 2004 before moving to the U.S. to race in NASCAR.

However, after great anticipation, Ambrose stepped out of his V8 Supercar ride after just the first race of the 2015 season.

DJRTP in 2016 will expand to a two-car team with Scott Pye, who replaced Ambrose this season, and Fabian Coulthard.

Penske said he’s not disappointed with Ambrose deciding to step aside.

“I don’t think that he doesn’t want to do it (drive), but he’s at a stage at his career where he wants to be with his family and work with his dad,” Penske said. “He’s been away, he’s home now and I think that’s weighing heavily on him. It’s a personal decision.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”