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

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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.

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“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.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race IndyCar stars in iRacing at Michigan

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).