NASCAR Sprint Media Tour: Day 4

NASCAR

Following the formal Roush Fenway Racing media session, all of the Ford drivers took their respective cars through the streets of uptown Charlotte before parking in front of the Hall of Fame. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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CONCORD, N.C. – The fourth and final day of the 31st annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway included stops with Ford Racing drivers, Roush Fenway Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.

At a breakfast hosted by Ford on Thursday morning, Marcos Ambrose – driver of the No. 9 Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports – says he had a taste of victory in 2012 and heads into the new season hungry for more.

“We’ve had good (off-season) testing and managed to save our cars,” said Ambrose, who won last summer’s road race at Watkins Glen International. “We’ve got a lot of motivation to do well in 2013 and feel like we have the tools in place to have an exceptional year.”

The season at hand will be Ambrose’s sixth in the Cup Series and his third with RPM. He finished 18th in the final 2012 point standings and will once again be teamed with Aric Almirola, who’ll drive the No. 43 Ford for a second season.

“I think we need to be in the top 15 in points,” said Almirola, who was 20th last season. “If we run consistently and win a race, with this new points system anything is possible – maybe even a Wild Card spot.”

Ambrose is also eyeing a spot in the post-season Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

“We want to compete for a championship, plain and simple,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t make that jump.”

Although Budweiser Speedweeks won’t start until mid-February, Ambrose will be busy behind the wheel this weekend as a co-driver for Michael Shank Racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series opener.

Following the Ford breakfast, the Media Tour rolled on to the NASCAR Hall of Fame where Roush Fenway Racing outlined its hopes and expectations for 2013. Team owner Jack Roush touted his lineup of drivers … Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, two-time Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne and Travis Pastrana … as a “Dream Team.”

“I’m as enthusiastic and as driven as I’ve ever been to take our absolute best effort to the racetrack every week,” said Roush, who’s embarking on his 26th season in the sport.

Biffle and Edwards are back in the fold as the foundation of the organization’s Cup Series efforts. Biffle finished fifth in last year’s Chase. Edwards is eager to return to post-season competition after struggling through a disappointing 2012 campaign that left him winless and outside the top 12.

After winning back-to-back Nationwide Series championships in 2011 and 2012, Stenhouse is moving into the No. 17 seat vacated by Matt Kenseth and running for Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors.

“I learned a lot from Carl (Edwards) on and off the racetrack, talking to him about the teamwork we’re going to need this year to succeed as a company,” Stenhouse said. “I’m ready to do whatever I can and, hopefully, bring something to the table. They’ve got a lot of experience I’m going to lean on.”

Bayne and Pastrana will carry the team’s banner in the 2013 Nationwide Series.

Following the formal media session, all of the Ford drivers took their respective cars through the streets of uptown Charlotte before parking in front of the Hall of Fame.

“It’s a fun event,” said 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing. “It reminded me of the Vegas drive we do during Champion’s Week out there. It’s cool to be out in the city driving a racecar.”

The final stop of this year’s tour was Joe Gibbs Racing, where Kenseth joined Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin in a friendly exchange about which of the three would deliver the team’s next Cup Series crown.

“Didn’t you already win a championship,” NASCAR Nationwide Series teammate Brian Vickers said in defense of Kenseth … to which Busch replied, “That was a long time ago.”

2003, to be exact.

On a more serious note, team owner Joe Gibbs welcomed the newest member of his driver lineup.

“Adding Matt is a big deal,” said Gibbs, whose last Cup Series title came courtesy of Tony Stewart in 2005. “He’s somebody we all respect and it’s a thrill to have him on board. This is probably the most excited I’ve been going into a season.”

Hamlin and Kenseth both made the Chase last season, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively.

“This was a big move for me,” said Kenseth, who had driven for Roush Fenway Racing since 1999. “I feel like it’s a new beginning.”

It was announced Thursday that Busch has agreed to a long-term contract extension. He’ll also drive his No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota in a select number of Nationwide Series events under the Joe Gibbs Racing banner in 2013.

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