I find it really important to get work and lifestyle in order. So, when our NASCAR season wound down, I quickly hopped on the first bird I could get on and got home to my family to try to get back to normalcy for a little while. I wanted to enjoy that Australian summer and meet up with the aunts and uncles and cousins and nephews again, and just get away from racing and get back to a bit of saner life – get some balance. It also gives me some time to reflect on the New Year and what I need to do to be a better race car driver. I’ve had a great offseason. I went fishing and mountain climbing and spent time with family and had a good Christmas. I feel rejuvenated and ready to go.
I have summer most of the year the way this works, and that’s the way I’ve worked it out! It’s on purpose. It’s a great thing! I actually grew up in a cold climate. Tasmania, my home state, has pretty cold winters. Not crazy snow like you get up north here, but I’m used to the cool and rain and I do enjoy both climates. I guess for Americans and Northern Hemisphere people, it does seem a bit odd to have a hot Christmas, but for us, I’ve grown up with it and I think it’s normal to go to the beach on Christmas Day.
We do the traditional roast and everything, so I guess it’s kind of funny because it’s like 100 degrees outside and we’re trying to eat a roast duck. We do that, but we also have a very casual Christmas day and barbecue with the family. Maybe go down to the beach and play some cricket on the beach or have a swim. We just enjoy Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It really is our festive season. We try to roll in our vacation period through that New Year/Christmas break. Most Australians really shut down and enjoy that time with their families.
I did no racing at all apart from a race with little mini bikes, the little motocross ones. I did that with my mates, but otherwise I just got away from it completely. Tony Stewart called, but I didn’t return his call because I really was focused on my family and my friends and I wanted to be a good Dad for a while and not get the bug and go back to a dirt track somewhere. That’s what the Australian summer is all about, dirt-track racing with the sprint cars. Tony was down there doing that, so I knew if I spoke to him he’d twist my arm and I’d go back there and hang with him. I didn’t want to spend another weekend away from my family. I really switched off from racing, and I really think it’s important for me to do that. It helps me get through the season.
My family actually heads home about three weeks earlier than I do – before the season finishes – and then they come back in March. So they have about four months back in Australia and then eight months here during the summer. It’s a good balance for them. They don’t have to be away from friends and family too long, and at the same time it allows me a chance to get going in the season and get my body and mind really on the pulse here and start the season the right way and really focus on racing.
I expect to win a race and have a chance at the Chase this year. That’s our goal as a team. It’s a realistic goal. It’s a big step to make, but I feel like we had so much growth through 2009 that if we keep that going better, results should flow. We only finished a couple hundred points out of the top 12 at the end of the 26 races. We’re excited about it, and we feel like we’ve got as good a chance as anybody to make the Chase. I can’t wait to get started. I feel good about it.
Editor’s Note: Marcos Ambrose is back for another year doing a Driver Diary for Frontstretch! Check out his 2010 schedule below to find out when he’ll be posting.