CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Marcos Ambrose says he understands the $25,000 fine NASCAR levied against him for punching Casey Mears in the face.
"I got myself in a bad situation, didn't I?" Ambrose said during an appearance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "I caused an action that NASCAR needed to reprimand, so I'm happy to pay it, and I'm happy to move on. It's a heavy fine. It's the biggest fine I've ever received in racing. I think that NASCAR needed to do something."
His car owner wholeheartedly disagrees.
Richard Petty argued Thursday that Ambrose shouldn't be fined for defending himself in the post-race altercation at Richmond on Saturday night, and said he plans to discuss the penalty with NASCAR officials.
Mears was fined $15,000 after he angrily approached Ambrose and shoved the Australian when Ambrose appeared to be walking away. Ambrose replied with a hard right to Mears' face that drew blood near his eye.
Ambrose is not appealing and said he will pay the fine.
"No way he should have been fined," Petty said. "What I seen on the TV was that he was trying to get away. The boy kept pushing and shoving and he was trying to get away and finally got cornered and had to come out of that. Is NASCAR saying, 'OK, just lay there and get the tar beat out of you, we won't fine you, we'll fine the other guy?' I don't know what their rationale was."
Ambrose does agree with Petty that he was defending himself after Mears shoved him.
"I don't apologize for my actions," said Ambrose. "I was just standing up for myself and my team and my family and letting people know that you can't get in my private space like that and expect to not have any consequences. ... As soon as he grabbed hold of me there, I knew I was going to have to get a shot in. I was just waiting for the right moment."
Ambrose finished 18th in Saturday night's race and Mears was 19th. They were far enough back from the leaders that television cameras got no footage of their on-track battle for position and what led to the altercation remains a mystery.
Ambrose insisted Thursday he was never angry with Mears, and was actually on his way to speak to David Gilliland about something that had occurred on the track.
"I was confused about why Casey was so annoyed at me, and I think you can just see a lot of the passion that the drivers have and the commitment we have to try to win these races and try to run up front," Ambrose said. "That passion kind of got out of hand and got out of control pretty quick. Once he put his hand on me and started pushing me around, I was just trying to stand up for myself and my country and my family and my reputation."
As for the punch, which knocked Mears' hat from atop his head, Ambrose said: "I was actually fairly lucid in my thoughts and was able to get a good punch off because I wasn't bound up with too much adrenaline."