NASCAR/GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Teleconference Transcript January 20, 2010 An Interview with: AJ ALLMENDINGER MICHAEL VALIANTE J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to this week's edition of the NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference....
NASCAR/GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Teleconference Transcript
January 20, 2010
An Interview with:
J.J. O'MALLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to this week's edition of the NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference. Joining us today are drivers AJ Allmendinger and Michael Valiante will be competing for Michael Shank Racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
This marks the fifth consecutive year that AJ has raced with Michael Shank Racing. He finished 2nd overall in the 2006 Rolex 24 and qualified 2nd for the 2008 event.
He will again be driving the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley with Brian Frisselle, Mark Patterson and MICHAEL VALIANTE.
AJ, has racing in the Rolex 24 helped the transition from open wheel racing to NASCAR stock cars?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, I wouldn't say it's really helped NASCAR per se, but just getting in the Grand-Am car, especially 24 hours of Daytona there at the Rolex, it's just a great way to kick off the year.
And especially being at Daytona, it kind of leads into the Daytona 500. And it's really one of those things that for me as a driver I look at there's four or five races, if you could only have those five races on your resume as winning, Daytona 500, the Indy 500, and F1 it's Monaco. And in sports car racing, it's Lamond, Daytona.
Those races, if you could have it on your resume as a victory, that's what you want to do. And for me to be able to kick off the season at Daytona, it kind of rolls into the Daytona 500. And more than anything for me it's just a fun race to be a part of.
I love working with Michael Shank Racing, and we've been very close every year. It's bound to happen and hopefully it's this year.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you very much, AJ. We're hoping to get MICHAEL VALIANTE shortly. But let's start with questions.
Q: Compare for us the difference or the similarities between running the DP car at Daytona, and running a Cup car at like Sonoma or Watkins Glen. That's the first part. The second part is, try to give us a sense of the grind of 24 hours at Daytona as compared also to, you know, a hot 500-mile race in a Cup car?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Your first part of the question, you know, there's not a lot of similarities. The Cup car is kind of its own beast when it comes to running on a road course. They're big and heavy, and they have a lot of roll in the chassis. And braking-wise, because the cars are so heavy and have so much horsepower, the brake zones are a lot longer. And with the H pattern on a Cup car, it's quite different from a Daytona prototype. A prototype sequential gear box, it's a lot more nimble and quick.
The brake zones itself are a lot shorter. That's something that even every year just jumping back and forth into those cars and getting used to the Daytona prototype again is something that probably the biggest thing I have to get used to is just how short the brake zones are and just how quick the cars are.
And in its own way both cars are really tough to run. Cup car, it's really tough to be spot on every lap just because it's really easy to lock up brakes and you can really kind of downshift the car and get the rear to chatter and lock up. And it really makes it easy to spin. So it's tough there.
But in a Daytona prototype, because they're so quick, your reaction time has got to be so fast, especially at Daytona, because the speeds, especially around the ovals going into the bus stop, are so quick.
So both cars are a lot of fun to drive, but they're quite different to drive. And, you know, your second question, really, it's with the 24-hour, you kind of pace yourself.
And the first year I didn't do very well of it. I was so excited to be there. We were running really well. And I never really slept the whole time I was there. And that was something that I really paid the price for at the end of the race.
And that was a difficult situation. When you're not in the race car, you gotta just really gotta relax and just focus on trying to sleep or just staying off your feet and just resting and just have all your energy so when you do get in the car you can be focused for that hour and a half, two hours, get back out and let the energy die back down.
And I think that's probably the toughest thing is when you're in a Cup car and you run, say, five or 600 miles, you're still always focused. Yeah, it's hot in there, and it's hard to stay focused but you're always driving and you're always having to stay focused, think about the race car, think about not making a mistake.
When you're in the 24-hour, you gotta kind of have that light switch. When you get in that race car, you're about to get in it, you've got to flip the light switch on and really be focused jumping in the car and doing your job. But when you get out of it you have to really shut everything off and just relax and stay off your feet.
So over a 24-hour period, it's tough switching that light switch on and off throughout the time and just being focused. But still having that energy after 24 hours, when it's your time to get in the car, you're still spot on from when you were getting in the car the first time.
Q: With this being such a multi-national and multi-discipline event, who do you look forward to seeing or who is the coolest guy that you met or driver that you've met in your time at Rolex that you went, when you're done, wow, that's pretty great?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, the first year, this was my last year in Champ Car, was Jeff Gordon when I showed up there because I never really got to speak to Jeff. I think it was 2007, it was as I was moving into Cup, you know, Jeff was always my hero growing up.
And to actually be able to sit down and talk to him and speak to him, for me, it was a really cool thing. But you know I really can't pick out one guy. For me, I'm a huge race fan.
I'm probably a bigger race fan than a race driver. And it's just cool especially with how big the 24 hours are getting and with NASCAR being a part of it, it seems like there's so many good cars now that you get a lot of drivers from different types of racing that show up and try to go out there and win the race because they know they have a chance in a good car.
So whether it's a guy like Lucas Lure or a lot of those guys. Allen McNish from Sports Car over in Europe. Or something that's really cool. Last year I got to meet Scott Russell from AMA Superbike. And I love watching motorcycle racing, whether it's Supercross or Super Bike, things like that. So getting to meet Scott Russell to talk to him about those things, what it was like in his career, was really cool to me, too.
J.J. O'MALLEY: I'd like to introduce MICHAEL VALIANTE. Michael began racing full time in the Grand-Am Rolex Series in 2006. He joined Michael Shank Racing in 2009 where he scored four top 4 finishes.
Michael, the No. 6 Ford Riley was at or near the top of the speed charts throughout the recent Daytona testing, just as it was all last year when a freak component failure sidelines both the Shank Fords in the Rolex 24. What are your thoughts looking forward to this year's Rolex 24?
MICHAEL VALIANTE: Michael Shank Racing, they put together a great program and the car's consistently up front, especially last year. My teammate John Pugh and I, every event we were at the top of the time charts.
So for the 24 Hours, it's been really the same thing, the car's always quick there. And we have a great lineup this year as we did last year. We have AJ back again, and new additions with Brian Frisselle and Mark Patterson.
So I definitely think that we've got the driver lineup to win this year, and it's just making sure that all the little mechanical gremlins have gotten taken care of.
Q: My first question is for you, Michael. You've got your new teammate in Brian. You both have been lucky to drive both the Dalara and the Riley. What are the differences between the two?
MICHAEL VALIANTE: I'd say the Dalara is more like a Formula car. You can't get it sideways. It's definitely quick when it's working well. But there's not as broad or you could say a sweet spot with the Dalara as there is the Riley.
I think ultimately when they're both working well they're just as quick as one another. But I'd say the Riley is a little bit more forgiving. But it does seem, with the new tire that's come out this year, it has favored the Dalara, where the Dalara used to be really hard on tires. The new tire's a bit more durable and definitely will help make the Dalara stronger this year and more of a threat.
Q: Do you think that experience that you have with both those cars, the two different cars, do you think that's going to help you two as you team this year?
MICHAEL VALIANTE: I think so. Great question, because anytime you get to drive two different cars, you know their weaknesses and their strengths. So definitely we know where the Dalara is strong and we always try to make, improve the Riley in those areas.
So I think it's definitely an advantage.
Q: I had a question for each of the guys. AJ, I don't want an exact percentage, but in the last month you've raced a car, tested your sports car, tested a stock car. When you're doing these different disciplines, particularly this time of the year, how much is knocking off the rust? How much was getting in racing trim? How much was real, real serious? And then for Michael, you have raced with guys from disciplines, particularly at the Rolex 24. When you get together with guys like that, is it all business? Do you talk careers? Do you talk progressions? What is it like from your perspective?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Basically for me, you know, I mean, it's a combination of a lot of things. I love to race cars. And getting the chance to race whatever I get the chance to is just fun for me.
And that's something that, it's the reason I do it foremost is just because I enjoy being in a race car. I love competing and going out there and just learning every time I'm in something, whether it's a go-kart or Grand-Am car or Cup car. So I just really enjoy going out there and competing racing against other people.
Definitely I'd rather be in a race car, in a go-kart than just sitting around at home. And it's tough in the offseason, especially now with Cup not testing a lot and taking a way a lot of the racetracks, we don't to get into a Cup car.
I basically try to use whatever I can, whether it's a go-kart, getting a chance to test the Grand-Am car before the Rolex to go out there and knock off the rust. When it's time to focus on Daytona for the Cup car, we get a couple of tests and get back in there.
MICHAEL VALIANTE: In answer to your question, I'd say, yeah, definitely it's interesting hearing all the different drivers talk about their form of motorsports. And that's the great thing about 24, whether AJ is talking about NASCAR, has also Champ Car experience. There's a lot of sports car drivers from Europe or Formula One drivers. So the great thing is it's such a diverse series which brings different drivers from each discipline together.
So when we get together, I can tell you it's not that serious, especially the last test. I mean, everyone's quite excited to do it. And there's a lot of joking going on. But definitely once the 24-hour weekend starts, everyone is a competitor and they want to go out there and win those races.
So we still try to have a good time, but we're definitely out there to try and win the 24 hours.
Continued in part 2