Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion, was involved in a post-race altercation with Casey Mears last weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Ambrose, who was fined $25,000 and put on probation until the end of the year by NASCAR for his role, spoke publicly for the first time about the incident on Thursday during a press event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion
CAN YOU GO THROUGH WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE RACE?
“The altercation I had with Casey was quite impromptu. 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. To be honest with you, once he put his hand on me and started pushing me around I was just trying to stand up for myself and my country and my family and my reputation and I threw a punch down on him to get him out of the way and let him know that I didn’t respect him not giving me my private space. 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. 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.”
HAVE YOU TWO TALKED?
“We have. We’ve spoken in-depth more than once. I honestly believe that we’ll enjoy having a beer with each other. 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.”
WERE YOU UPSET AT THE PENALTY? “No, I got myself in a bad situation. 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.”
IT LOOKED LIKE ONE OF THE CREW GUYS TRIED TO PUNCH YOU.
“I did not get punched. I was able to duck and weave and get out of trouble. The person in question, I haven’t seen the footage, so I don’t know if there was a swing thrown, but there certainly was aggression at the end. I’ve had a phone call from somebody to apologize for his actions and that’s it for me. I’ve got no beef with him, either. I’m happy to move on and put the week behind us. 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. I was just standing up for myself and standing up for my family and you get to a point where you’ve got to defend yourself and that’s exactly what I did.”
SOME SAY YOU SHOULDN’T BE FINED BECAUSE WHEN THEY PROMOTE THAT RACE THEY’RE GOING TO SHOW THAT FOOTAGE. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
“I think my NASCAR career may well be remembered by one of the best finishes of all-time and one of the best fights of all-time, too. It’s OK. Our sport is made up of passion and everyone has their own angle. Certainly, it’s not a great thing to explain to your kids on Sunday what you did. I’ll take that penalty and the repercussions from my actions and pay it, and then people can do whatever they want from there. It’s not for me to call NASCAR out on taking advantage of a situation like that.”
ANY IDEA WHY HE WAS SO MAD AFTER THE RACE?
“He was mad at the race and he was mad at himself and we were around each other at the end of the race. It’s a full contact sport out there. I’m charged up. I’m full of adrenaline too. I was actually pretty calm. I think one of the reasons I laid down such a good shot on him was that I wasn’t riled up. I was actually fairly lucid in my thoughts and was able to get a good punch off because I wasn’t bound up with too much adrenaline, but adrenaline is just part of what we do. It was an emotional race. A lot of drivers got into each other and there was a lot of action up and down the grid. I look back at it and it’s a beef and an argument between myself and Casey. Unfortunately, it got put on national TV and three-and-a-half million people saw it.”
SO YOU KNOW WHO TOOK A SWING AT YOU?
“Yes. I’m not even sure it was a swing. I haven’t seen the footage, but I know there was aggression by the people out there and I’ve got no problem with it, I really don’t. Casey’s team is standing up behind Casey and my team stands up behind me and that’s just what we do.”
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU MIGHT DO THE SAME THING IF A SIMILAR SITUATION ARISES.
“I would walk away earlier before it got out of hand. I could tell it was getting out of hand, but I just didn’t walk away quick enough and get out of that situation. So if I look back at it, I could tell it was not going well and I should have taken up. We spoke for maybe a minute-and-a-half before he started shoving me around and I should have walked away a lot sooner than what I tried to.”
DID HE SAY ANYTHING OR WAS IT MORE OF THE FACT HE WAS HOLDING YOU?
“There was plenty of stuff said, but before the pushing. 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 gonna have to get a shot in and I was just waiting for the right moment.”
WHY IS RIGHT AFTER THE RACE THE RIGHT TIME TO ADDRESS AN ISSUE LIKE THAT?
“It’s not, and I think I’ve learned my lesson on that one. 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. In this example, 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 gonna happen next. If he starts pushing me in the toolbox what happens next? Is he gonna try to throw one on me? 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. 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.”
HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU IN AUSTRALIA?
“No, I have not. I’ve never been in this situation before, and it was for 18th. That just shows you the passion we have in our sport that I’m able to get myself in a physical fight and draw a claret to finish 18th. That just shows you how deep the talent is and how much passion and commitment we all have to what we’re doing.”
RICHARD PETTY, Car Owner – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion
DO YOU FEEL IF YOU’RE PROVOKED YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DEFEND YOURSELF?
“You’ve got to defend yourself no matter what, but if he knew he was gonna be fined $25,000 he might have let the guy take another swing at him (laughing). As you can see in the tape, he did not initiate any of that. He was trying to get away, so I think, from that standpoint, I don’t know what their rationale is. I’ll just have to talk to them (NASCAR) and see what they come up with.”
WERE YOU EVER IN ANY SCRAPS OF NOTE?
“No comment (laughing). It 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.”
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE INCIDENT IN RETROSPECT?
“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. 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 gonna come and protect you, so he had to do what he had to do.”