Ambrose supports NASCAR's call on crewman

March, 18, 2009
03/18/09
10:35
PM ET

CONCORD, N.C. -- Marcos Ambrose brought a driver's helmet and a fireman's helmet and jacket to Wednesday's tire test at Lowe's Motor Speedway to announce a fundraiser he'll kick off this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

No, he's not raising money for crew member Jimmy Watts, who will start serving his four-race suspension this week.

Ambrose believes NASCAR made the right call penalizing his gasman for chasing a runaway tire into the infield at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I agree with Ambrose. The incident forced the governing body to call a caution in the middle of green-flag pit stops, leaving more than half the field at least a lap down.

Watts also put his safety and perhaps the safety of others in danger.

"The penalty was a good one," Ambrose said. "You can't have guys running on pit lane. Jimmy is a great guy. He went on instinct. You can't blame the guy for that. He just went on reaction, and it was the wrong reaction.

"He needs to set an example for others not to do the same."

More than anything, Ambrose is glad NASCAR didn't dock his team points or pass out a monetary fine.

"We're a brand-new team, and we're doing everything we can … to survive out there," said Ambrose, whose JTG Daugherty team is 28th in owner points. "We've got a good package together as far as sponsors are concerned, but we don't have money to waste. It was a good decision all around. NASCAR made the right call."

Ambrose said he knew something had gone awry when he saw 14,000 flashbulbs go off in his pits.

Can't slide anything past him.

"I didn't know if I had run over somebody or our tire rolled into somebody else's pit lane," he said. "It was a disaster."

But back to the helmets and jacket. Ambrose plans to have every driver at Bristol sign them, then to auction them off to raise money to help with the recovery from disastrous bushfires in his native Australia.

The hope is to raise enough to purchase a new 3000-liter four-wheel drive water tanker for the Yarra Glen Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Here's a thought: Let Watts roll a tire from Charlotte to Bristol, Tenn., and have fans donate $1 or more for every mile.

He has time to do it.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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