The US racing career of Australian motorsport ace Marcos Ambrose has taken another dramatic step with the Tasmanian being confirmed as a full-time NASCAR Busch driver in 2007.
Ambrose will step up into the Wood Brothers/JTG Racing #59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford Fusion for a full 35-race program, including three road course events at Mexico City, Montreal in Canada and Watkins Glen.
The Busch Series is one step up from his current NASCAR Craftsman Truck commitments and the next in his end goal of a full-time NASCAR Nextel Cup drive.
Ambrose's current list of sponsors for the 2007 season include Kingsford® Charcoal, Hidden Valley® Salad Dressing, KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce, Bush's Best Baked Beans and Glad Food Storage Bags.
Wood Brothers/JTG Racing is currently in negotiations with Craig Gore's Aussie Vineyards and Team Australia organisation, which is the naming rights sponsor of Ambrose's NASCAR Craftsman Truck that he will campaign at Talladega this weekend and then the remaining five races of the season. An announcement on an on-going relationship is expected in the near future.
Ambrose was obviously delighted when Wood Brothers/JTG Racing confirmed his Busch ride yesterday.
Kingsford Charcoal® will celebrate its 10th season as a NASCAR Busch Series sponsor with Ambrose behind the wheel.
"Everyone at Wood Brothers/JTG Racing has been fantastic in my first season of NASCAR competition and I look forward to taking the next step of my career in the #59 Kingsford® Charcoal Ford in 2007," said Ambrose.
"I guess if there is one thing Australians know how to do, its BBQ, and when you look at all the sponsors associated with my car for next season then we could have one terrific cook out.
"The support of Len and Eddie Wood, co-owners Jodi and Tad Geschickter and the whole Wood Brothers/JTG Racing operation has been fantastic and I look forward to a long and successful relationship with the team. The NASCAR family has also made me feel very welcome.
"It is great to be continuing my relationship with Ford and I look forward to building on a strong 2006 in what will be yet another rookie season.
"This is definitely a major step up, but I am looking forward to the challenge and continuing what has been an amazing learning curve."
Ambrose joined the NASCAR ranks this season after a successful V8 Supercar career in Australia where he won two championships for Ford.
He had not driven an oval race before his NASCAR Craftsman Truck debut Martinsville in April, but since then he has finished with two third-place finishes (Kansas and Nashville) and a pole (Kentucky).
He was also the WIX Filters "Lap Leader" at Kentucky and currently sits fourth in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, despite missing the first three rounds of the championship.
Wood Brothers/JTG Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter says Ambrose has earned his promotion into NASCAR Busch competition.
"What has impressed us most about Marcos is that he is a professional - a real student of the game," said Geschickter.
"I think his dedication to learning the nuances of this form of racing is what has dramatically increased his knowledge and ability.
"There are a lot of drivers in this game with talent, but only a few with the level of desire and dedication that Marcos exhibits. I also think he is a tremendously marketable driver and is a perfect fit for Kingsford Charcoal® and other partners on the #59 Ford.
"Marcos admits he still has a lot to learn about this discipline of motorsport. I think it will be important for him to run competitively for a period of time in the NASCAR
Busch Series cars, where the aerodynamics are significantly different than the Craftsman Truck vehicles.
"Then we will know if he is ready for the final step to Nextel Cup."
Wood Brothers/JTG Racing experienced many changes in 2006. First of all was the joint partnership itself and then came new sponsors, drivers, series and facilities.
Team co-owner Eddie Wood believes the elevation of Ambrose into the NASCAR Busch Series is just one of several new initiatives to be announced by the team today and over the coming weeks.
"The trend in NASCAR is to get big or get out," stated Eddie Wood.
"The Wood Brothers have no intention of fading away and the steps taken in 2006 to merge with ST Motorsports to form our new company will pay dividends for our future.
"Our goal for 2007 is to continue building systems and people for our future success, and to get our arms around our new five-team, multi-division format."
The 26th season of Busch Series competition begins on February 17 at Daytona International Speedway, includes two international stops, and ends November 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
The Busch Series is scheduled for 26 combination events with the Nextel Cup Series in 2007. The Busch Series will race together with the Craftsman Truck Series twice.
There will be eight Busch Series "stand-alone" events: Mexico City (March 4), Nashville (April 7 and June 9), Kentucky (June 16), Milwaukee (June 23), Indianapolis (July 28), Montreal (Aug 4) and Memphis (Oct. 27).
Wood Brothers/JTG Racing will again field one Cup team, two Busch teams, and two Truck teams. The team also expects to field a second Cup car for select Nextel Cup races. Many of the driver and sponsor relationships for 2007 are in place, but several more are to be confirmed in coming weeks.