Since September, the NASCAR world has known that Marcos Ambrose would be leaving the sport at season’s end to return home to his native Australia, where he’ll compete starting next year in the V8 Supercars Championship.
Ambrose won championships in 2003 and 2004, respectively, in the Australian road-racing series before coming to the United States to try his hand on ovals in NASCAR.
Despite feeling at peace with his decision to move on, Ambrose admittedly has mixed emotions entering this weekend’s Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he will make his 227th and perhaps final start in NASCAR’s top division.
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Ambrose has competed since 2011 for Richard Petty Motorsports — the organization co-owned by NASCAR legend and seven-time champion Richard Petty — and achieved modest success highlighted by a pair of wins, which came at the Watkins Glen International road course in 2011 and 2012.
Barring a victory on Sunday in South Florida, Ambrose will finish his NASCAR career without an oval-track win in any of NASCAR’s three major series — a goal of his since hopping in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series vehicle in 2006.
Despite falling short of this personal objective, Ambrose considers his nine years in NASCAR to be a success.
"It’s been great," he said. "I’ve got some unfinished business in NASCAR, which I wish I could have ticked the box on. Obviously, winning a race on the ovals is tough. I wanted to make the Chase and we came close, but couldn’t quite make it. So there are some pieces to the puzzle that I’m missing, but in general I’m just thrilled to have experienced it and my family to enjoy what America is. We’ve learned a lot and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve become a better person overall for it, a better dad, and a better race car driver, so it’s been a great experience for us. It’s really toughened me up a lot, and it’s been fun."
From the sound of things, Ambrose doesn’t plan to waste much time before heading across the Pacific Ocean to his native land.
"I leave on the Monday after Homestead," Ambrose said. "I’m going to go down and get some work done and then I’ll come back on the 10th of December and just finish off the packing. I’ll pick the kids up after they finish the school term, and we’re going to fly back for good on the 18th."
In addition to packing, there are also a few other logistics to be worked out — including the sale of his North Carolina home.
"It’s for lease or sale if anybody wants a nice five-bedroom house in Concord," Ambrose said. "Give me a call. Everything is pretty much on the market. I’ve been whittling down any assets I’ve had over the last six months, and I’m still working towards that goal. I want to be fully out of America in the next year or so, and hopefully we’ll be able to sell the house and get everything moved."
When Ambrose looks back over his time at Richard Petty Motorsports, where he’s recorded 33 top-10 finishes and 11 top fives in 143 Sprint Cup Series starts, his fondest memory is getting to celebrate with his boss — "The King," Richard Petty.
"To get to know the Petty family personally and to experience Victory Lane with Richard was just incredible," Ambrose said. "Winning a race is great, but sharing it with ‘The King’ was pretty special."
Ambrose is also thankful to be leaving the organization on good terms, despite competing as a lame-duck driver over the last part of the 2014 season.
"It’s just great that RPM has been so gracious with my departure," said Ambrose, who will be replaced in the No. 9 RPM Ford next season by Sam Hornish Jr. "Sometimes when you end a chapter like this it can get a bit sticky at the end, but RPM has been fantastic. Everyone is really pleased for me and thrilled for what I’ve been able to contribute, and it’s just great to be held in that regard. A lot of guys have been coming up and saying their goodbyes. It’s good fun."
"I don’t know what it’s going to be like when I get the checkered flag in Homestead," he said. "I’m sure it’s going to have a bittersweet feeling to it, but I’ve got a lot to look forward to and a lot of good friends and people to say goodbye to. It’s been fun the last few weeks, but I want to try and run as good as I can … and leave on the right note and leave showing that I had really good pace and that I left with my ‘A’ game on."