"It's been the toughest thing I've ever done in racing, no doubt."
So said Watkins Glen winner Marcos Ambrose at a NASCAR teleconference Wednesday afternoon on finally getting his first Sprint Cup win.
During the Q&A with media members, Ambrose addressed issues such as what it means to finally get his first Cup win, what it would mean to win on an oval track, running this weekend's Nationwide race in Montreal and the support he receives from friends and family.
Ambrose's wife and two children had flown back to their home in Charlotte on Sunday night after the raced was postponed to Monday, but he said the victory celebration went just fine even though they weren't able to help him celebrate his first Cup win:
"I got to celebrate with my team. Let's face it, you spend as much time with your crew chief and your team as you do with your wife. I had plenty of people to celebrate. That wasn't a problem.
"I really would have loved my family to be there on the day. It's just how racing works. We try to have everyone up there. We thought it was going to be a good weekend for me to win. With the weather delay, the way it went down, there wasn't the opportunity for them to be there on the Monday."
Ambrose was amazed at the congratulations and recognition he's received from his family half-way around the world, his fellow drivers and even the Tasmanian government in the wake of his first career Sprint Cup victory:
"My family in Australia were up in the middle of the night popping bottles of champagne, celebrating as well. They understand the sacrifice and commitment I've made to be a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. I think that it was just very satisfying for all my family and immediate friends.
"The state government from where I'm from, Tasmania, put out a press release to celebrate the win. That was pretty awesome. The roll out in Australia for national print and media was massive, more than I could have expected.
"I think the biggest thing, biggest shock to me was how many drivers, how many people inside NASCAR congratulated me, were joyful of the victory as I was. Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton came to Victory Lane to say, 'Well done,' which means a lot. The other drivers out there were fantastic.
"To be respected by your peers, I think, is the most important to me. Winning races is great, but to feel like the other drivers around you respect you and feel like you deserve to win, as well, it means an awful lot."
Ambrose, a two-time Australian V8 Super Car champion, commented on his transition to NASCAR and the difficulty of finally earning a win at NASCAR's top level:
"It's taken me 105 starts to win a Sprint Cup race... It's been an incredible challenge. There's no certainty of success in NASCAR. You can't back into a win or get lucky. You have to have everything going for you. You're up against the best competition out there as far as teams go. As far as the formats, the race length, the difficulty of the machine you're driving, the circuits we use are incredible challenges."
When asked what he would need to do to win on an oval track, Ambrose didn't think it would be all that different:
"I think getting the first win out of the way at Watkins Glen was a big weight off my shoulders to finally win in the Sprint Cup Series. It's huge. I've been feeling that pressure for some time.
"I hope that I'm able to drive a little more relaxed, a little freer, and the wins will come more often. We've come close this year at tracks like Vegas, Texas, Charlotte. We were very fast. I led 100 laps at Martinsville last year, as well. So I feel good about that track. I've come close to winning at Bristol and Dover as well. We've got some great tracks coming up with a chance to win."
Ambrose is doing double duty this weekend, running in Saturday's Nationwide event at Montreal's road course. He'll be starting from the back, but feels optimistic about his chances for another win:
"It's going to be a real challenge to get to the front. We've got some great drivers from Canada racing in the event. Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Tagliani, Patrick Carpentier come to mind. They're going to be starting at the front. They're going to be looking after their brakes and tires. They've got a real chance to win the race.
"We have to rely on myself and Carl on some cautions to get track position. I think it's possible to win from the back, but it's going to be a real challenge.
"I have to be very careful, careful in traffic, careful on my brakes, really just manage my stuff to the end. Hopefully, you know, the race runs the right way for us to have some late cautions to allow us to get close to the leaders of the race with not too many laps to go. If that can happen, then you never know. With my relaxed attitude, a bit of luck with the race strategy, it could work out."
Finally, Ambrose commented on the wreck that ended the race at Watkins Glen and the post-race confrontation between Boris Said and Greg BIffle:
"I've got really nothing to add about the Boris Said confrontation. I tell you what, the hits that Ragan and Reutimann took, they were vicious. Just pleased they got out of the cars. Just thankful they got out of those cars somewhat unscathed. Just a testament to the safety changes and the safety thought that NASCAR has for the drivers. Just vicious crashes like that are never nice to watch. Glad everyone got away."
After his win at Watkins Glen, Ambrose is a dark horse to make the Chase; it would take another victory and climbing into the Top 20 in the points. Ambrose is currently sitting in the 22nd position, a single point behind 20th-place Juan Pablo Montoya.