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Friday, February 20, 2009
Ambrose: Emergency landings and wildfires


FONTANA, Calif. -- Marcos Ambrose never felt better about leaving a couple of days early for a race.

He came to California on Tuesday to make an appearance for Toyota. The plane Ambrose would have taken Thursday from North Carolina (a Canada Air Challenger CL60 owned by Michael Waltrip Racing) made an emergency landing in Las Vegas due to engine problems.

"There was an issue with one motor that lost oil pressure, so they shut it down," Ambrose said. "On the landing, apparently the other motor got jammed in reverse thrust. But everybody is safe and sound."

All three crews for MWR -- Ambrose's No. 47 Toyota, Waltrip's No. 55 Camry and David Reutimann No. 00 car -- were on the plane, but none of the drivers were on board. Tad Geschickter, co-owner of Ambrose's car, also was on the flight.

The MWR employees were bused from Las Vegas to Fontana on Thursday night.

"I don't think it affected anybody," Ambrose said. "For me, I've been very fortunate. I've never put a car on its roof and I've never crashed a plane. I've tried to put a car on its roof, and before I came to NASCAR, I'd never been on fire, either, but I soon fixed that."

Fire is a serious topic for Ambrose these days. The Tasmania native has watched with sadness the problems Australians have endured with the recent wildfires.

"It's been the worst natural disaster in history for Australia," Ambrose said. "Hundreds of lives lost, millions of acres scorched and some water supplies contaminated for a decade. It's just a terrible deal, and I want to do my part to help."

Fans can log on to marcosambrose.com and donate to the relief effort in Australia. Ambrose said he plans to donate part of his prize money to the cause.

"Everyone in the country has been touched by this," Ambrose said. "The best man in my wedding lost his house. He said from the time he smelled the smoke to the time the house burned down was 10 minutes. Once the fire reached his yard, it took 40 seconds to engulf the house. That tells you how intense it was."

Intense is a way Ambrose would describe his first Daytona 500, when he finished a respectable 17th.

"I wanted to be the guy that no one talked about," Ambrose said. "I think I accomplished that. If I overdid it and tried to get to the front, I probably would have made a mistake. And if I made a mistake and caused a big wreck, everyone would talk about it. So I was happy we ran well and stayed out of trouble."