Australian Marcos Ambrose is bullish about his chances ahead of next weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma, where he expects to be fighting for victory.
The former Australian V8 Supercar champion is in his first full season at NASCAR's top level but has already had two outings in road course races. Last year, he ran among the top five at Sonoma before a gearbox failure halted his race and he later finished third at Watkins Glen, which is his best result in the Sprint Cup.
Ambrose, who drives for JTG Daugherty Racing with technical support from Michael Waltrip Racing, has high expectations for next weekend's event.
"It is a race that we've been looking forward to for some time," said Ambrose. "We've put a lot of effort into this weekend's race. We've got a brand new car designed to go road racing. It's as wide as we can make it.
"We've got a good package going to Sonoma, but the expectation is a long, hard Sunday. The track is tough, competition is fierce and there is no guarantee of success. But I feel like we've done everything we can to be ready and prepared for the race."
The 32-year-old anticipates the new double-file restart format recently implemented by NASCAR to have a big impact on how the race unfolds next weekend. On previous races at road courses, drivers on the lead lap would start one behind the other but on Sunday they will be side-by-side after every caution period.
"I think the track at Sonoma isn't going to be very beneficial to a smooth race start when you go two by two," said Ambrose. "There's a clear dirty lane and clear lane – some guys are going to be advantaged and some disadvantaged.
"The nature of the racing, too is going to be different. People are going to make different strategy calls whether they're in the front half of the field or the second half, and fuel mileage becomes a major issue as well. How do you burn through fuel knowing how these race starts may play out. So I guess it's a wait-and-see – if you're leading the race you can really control your own destiny. That's going to be our focus and goal; to try to be in that front pack and really dictate how that race runs, rather than just being at the mercy of how the race unfolds."
Ambrose is currently 20th in the driver standings, having scored three top 10 finishes so far.