Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Updated: August 8, 7:41 PM ET
Gordon gives Ambrose Nextel Cup ride for Sunday
By David Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The driver that cost Marcos Ambrose his first Busch Series victory is giving him his first Nextel Cup ride.
Robby Gordon, who spun out the Australian-born driver on a green-white checkered finish last Saturday in Montreal, will field a second car for Ambrose at Sunday's road course race in Watkins Glenn, N.Y.
"It is a crazy situation," Ambrose said on Tuesday. "Racing is a funny business. I knew after the weekend more good than bad would come out of it regardless of the result. Here's an example of it.
"But it's a little surreal."
The announcement came shortly after Gordon was fined $35,000 and placed on probation the remainder of the season with the stipulation that any further attempt to disrupt a race or embarrass NASCAR would result in an indefinite suspension.
Gordon felt he should have been first or second on the final restart following a spinout after contact with Ambrose. NASCAR ruled he was 13th when the field was frozen for caution.
Then what one NASCAR official called the most bizarre situation he'd seen in his career unfolded. Gordon refused to move back in the field and pulled behind the race leader Ambrose for the restart.
Heading into the second turn Gordon spun Ambrose out, opening the door for Kevin Harvick to win.
Gordon was then black-flagged by NASCAR and told to park his car in the garage. Instead, he stayed on the track and upstaged Harvick with a victory burnout.
He then called Ambrose on Monday to apologize and offer an olive branch in the form of the No. 77 Camping World Ford Fusion, which also will carry Ambrose's regular sponsor, Kingsford Charcoal.
"There are a couple of reasons why I'm doing this," said Gordon, who also was parked for Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Pocono. "The first reason is that it's unfortunate that Marcos got put in a position in Montreal where I was thinking, 'OK, if I'm not going to win, he's not going to win.'
"At the same time, I think he's a talented racecar driver and obviously he has the ability to compete at the highest level. He showed that last weekend in the Busch race, and I felt that this opportunity would be a makeup."
Ambrose, who will drive the No. 59 for Wood Brothers/JTG Racing in Saturday's Busch race, said there are no bitter feelings and laughed at all that has transpired.
"Well, they say that America is the land of opportunity, and I guess this is proof of that," he said. "A bit of old outback Australian culture involved playing a game of Australian football, having a fight and then heading to the pub together for a beer.
"I guess this is a bit like that."
Ambrose is not guaranteed a spot in Sunday's 43-car field because the car is not among the top 35 in owners' points, but he likes his chances of qualifying on a road course.
He won two Australian V8 Supercar Championships on road courses before moving to NASCAR at the start of last season. He is eighth in points in the Busch Series.
"I guess for the fans and spectators, this is interesting reading if anything," Ambrose said. "I'll take it."
Said Gordon, "I'm excited about giving him this opportunity.
I hope it comes down to the two of us to win the race."
If it does, Ambrose said Gordon better be prepared.
"I won't cut him any mercy," Ambrose said with a chuckle. "No way. He told me to go out and try to win the race. That's what I'm going to try to do."
David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.