The multitalented Australian driver came to America after having won the European Formula Ford Championship in 1999 and the V8 Supercars title in 2003 and 2004. Since his NASCAR debut in 2008, Ambrose has won five Nationwide Series races and two Sprint Cup races. And although all of them have been on the road course at Watkins Glen – not one has come on the oval speedways for which NASCAR is best known - those victories make him the most successful foreigner ever to compete in the American stock car series.
Not that the list is that long, mind you: The roster of drivers in the Sprint Cup is populated almost exclusively by good ol' boys born and raised in America. But like most rules, there are exceptions. In fact, while many (including former F1 drivers like Kimi Raikkonen, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Jacques Villeneuve) have tried, only four foreigners have ever won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. One was Earl Ross, and he's Canadian (which hardly qualifies him as a "foreigner," really). Another was Mario Andretti, and he was already a naturalized American by then. Colombian native and former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya is another notable exception. Marcos Ambrose is the fourth, and the most victorious among them within the NASCAR.
That means Ambrose will be leaving a legacy behind when he departs after the end of this season, but depart he will: not only is he leaving his longtime partner Richard Petty Motorsports, but also stock car racing and America altogether, to return to his native Australia. Just what he'll do there remains to be seen, but he's been closely tied to rumors that Penske will launch a V8 Supercars team to bolster its Indycar and NASCAR efforts – to say nothing of the F1, Le Mans, ALMS, Can-Am and Trans-Am efforts Penske's launched in the past. With his wealth of experience in both hemispheres, Ambrose could prove to be a strong candidate to launch Penske's efforts Down Under.
UPDATE: And just like that, Team Penske has confirmed that Marcos Ambrose will indeed take the wheel for a team formed in partnership with Australia's Dick Johnson Racing. The team will run Ford Falcon racecars in the V8 Supercars series. You can read the official press release below.
Team Penske to Partner with DJR in 2015 V8 Supercars
MOORESVILLE, NC – Team Penske announced today that it will form a partnership with one of the most successful motorsport teams in Australia to compete in the popular V8 Supercars Championship, beginning in 2015.
Working with Dick Johnson Racing (DJR), the longest-established motor racing team in Australia, Team Penske plans to race next season in the ultra-competitive touring car series that features events contested at Australia's top motorsport venues.
DJR Team Penske will compete with Ford Falcons in the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship with a true hero of Australian motorsports behind the wheel. Marcos Ambrose will return to the Series where he drew international acclaim to race the iconic No. 17 Ford for DJR Team Penske. Ambrose is a two-time V8 Supercars champion; winning back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. He transitioned to a winning career in NASCAR where he has earned seven wins and eight pole positions while competing in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series over the past nine seasons.
"Team Penske is excited to partner with Dick Johnson Racing to compete in the V8 Supercars Championship starting next season," said Roger Penske. "We believe in building our businesses through racing and our success on the track. With our new business ventures in Australia, it makes sense to showcase our brands through the V8 Supercars Championship and the opportunity to work with DJR and Marcos Ambrose convinced us to go forward."
Ambrose, a native of Launceston, Tasmania, is one of the most successful drivers in the history of the V8 Supercars Championship. In the 65 rounds in which he competed from 2001 to 2005, he won 28 individual races.
"This is a great opportunity to return home to a place that I love in a Series where I've experienced a lot of success," said Ambrose, who has earned two career victories at the highest level of NASCAR competition – the Sprint Cup Series. "It will be an honor to race for two motorsport legends in Roger Penske and Dick Johnson."
The partnership between Team Penske and Dick Johnson Racing brings together two organizations that have experienced tremendous success in their respective disciplines. Team Penske has produced more than 400 race wins and 26 national championships in its storied history while DJR has earned over 80 victories and seven Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar titles in over 35 years of racing.
"We are certainly looking forward to this new challenge," said Dick Johnson, a legendary driver himself who claimed five Australian Touring Car Championships and won the prestigious Bathurst 1000 race three times before he retired from racing in 1999. "I have always admired what Roger Penske has accomplished in business and with his racing teams and it will be a thrill to work with Team Penske and Marcos in 2015."
About Dick Johnson Racing
Dick Johnson Racing is Australia's longest-established motor racing team and has won a record seven Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar Championships. Since the formation of his eponymous racing team in 1980, Dick Johnson has become a national hero and is still a fan favorite 15 years after hanging up his helmet. For more information about Dick Johnson Racing, please visit www.djr.com.au.
About Team Penske
Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Competing in a variety of disciplines, cars owned and prepared by Penske Racing have produced more than 400 major race wins, over 450 pole positions and 26 National Championships. The team has also earned 15 Indianapolis 500 victories in its storied history. For more information about Team Penske, please visit www.teampenske.com.
Marcos Ambrose V8 Supercar Career Highlights
2003/2004 V8 Supercar Champion
15 round wins from 65 rounds between 2001 and 2005 - 23% winning rate
30 podium finishes from those 65 rounds - 46% strike rate
18 pole positions from those 65 rounds
Winner of 28 individual V8 Supercar Championship races
2001 Bathurst 1000 Pole Sitter (second rookie in history to take pole as a rookie)
1 of only 12 multiple champions in Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar Championship history
1 of only 9 drivers in Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar Championship history to win back-to-back championships
1 of just 5 drivers to win back-to-back championships in Fords