AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Busch’s Beans Chevrolet SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed his season thus far.
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR SEASON SO FAR: “I think so far up to this day it’s been a good season. The switch over from Toyota last year to the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) alliance this year with Chevy for us has been tough.
The first few weeks we had good runs but we just had some bad luck or just some things that happened that took us out of a really good finish. I feel like the last two weeks we have put Friday’s, Saturday’s and Sunday’s together and that is where our good runs have come out of. I look at that it is relatively new. It’s six races in. I don’t want to get too over excited about where we are at, but the direction where the team is headed and I feel like as we are gelling together I like what is in the future for us. It’s just kind of taking it one day at a time.”
FOR TEAMS LIKE YOURS THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL WHO HAVE NOT WON YET THIS SEASON BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THERE HAS BEEN A LOT MORE PARITY. DO YOU SEE MORE PARITY AMONGST TEAMS IN GENERAL? “I think the depth of the field this year is really strong, at least it’s been a lot stronger than it’s been the last couple of years I think. At the top you are still going to have your same normal guys, but I think just 20th, 25th on back all the way into the 30’s every team has gotten a little bit stronger. Stewart-Haas adding a fourth car with Kurt (Busch), Ryan Newman switching to the No. 31 things like that. Teams like ours having an alliance with RCR. Even like a team like Tommy Baldwin Racing getting some RCR equipment.
So I feel like everybody as a whole has gotten stronger. With the new rules package, whether it’s that or not, or just everybody kind of working out the kinks of just these cars; I feel like as you said, the depth of the field and just six winners in six different races it’s been fun to watch and be a part of. A team like ours you know the ultimate goal is to win. That is why we show up every weekend, but we have got to set realistic goals as well.
That is to continually keep getting better. This is a team that was 30th, 31st (in points) last year and we are 16th in points right now. We have got to be a consistent top-20, top-15 team to get inside the top-10 and give ourselves shots to win races, to learn how to do that. That is something that hopefully we can continue each weekend and get better and kind of keep being in the mix at least and being competitive.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES THESE RACES THIS YEAR UNPREDICTABLE OR LESS PREDICTABLE AT THE FINISH THAN THEY HAVE BEEN? “I think it’s just everybody is pushing the limit. If you look at Fontana with some of the tires issues I think relatively that was the teams trying to push air pressures right to the max and even over the max and things like that. Everybody is so close when it comes to speed wise. You are looking for hundredths of a second instead of tenths of a second to try to get up there. If you find a couple hundredths of a second that is like 10 spots.
I think just track position plays a real key. You can’t just go out there and run 90 percent for half the race and then get after it. You have to be kind of full tilt from the start and because of that it allows guys to over abuse their tires, over abuse their race car. Whether you go on pit road and you lose a couple of spots on pit road right at the end you know track position being key. Everybody is just so close. I think the way the race plays out you just kind of never know at that point what is going to happen.”
THERE IS TALK OF THE POSSIBILITY OF HORSEPOWER REDUCTION. DO YOU HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT THAT? HOW MIGHT IT PLAY OUT RACING-WISE? WOULD IT BE BETTER OR WORSE? “As a driver and you look at less horsepower, you don’t like that. You want the most horsepower you can get. If it’s something that really controls the cost of the sport, to me it’s a benefit if you do it the right way. If It’s really going to help save the teams and the engine builders money in the long haul, to me that’s a benefit. So, ultimately, if it’s done for the right reasons and it works out for all the right reasons, then that’s a good thing. But if it’s just to take horsepower away, as a driver, that’s not a lot of fun. So, I don’t know how it will play out.
“You know, we did that test at Charlotte when they did the restrictor plate thing; kind of like they do at the Nationwide Series with the tapered spacer and to me, I didn’t think it changed a lot. And it made momentum a lot bigger of a deal if you got kind of bogged down, guys behind you would have bigger runs. But just they way the cars drove and raced around each other, it wasn’t that big of a difference. So, I’m not really sure what’s going to happen with that. It’s a matter of if it’s done the right way. If it really genuinely saves money, then that’s a good thing.”
THIS QUESTION IS RELATED TO YOU GOING BACK TO INDYCAR LAST YEAR IN RELATION TO JUAN PABLO MONTOYA AND KURT BUSCH. JUAN IS NOT EASING BACK INTO IT AS EASILY AS YOU DID. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU WERE ABLE TO GET BACK INTO AS QUICKLY? AND, HOW DO YOU THINK KURT WILL DO, HAVING NEVER RUN IT BEFORE? YOU SET THE BAR VERY HIGH. SHOULD PEOPLE THINK KURT SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THE SAME THING? “It’s very tough. And I think with IndyCar racing, just because it doesn’t get as much exposure and maybe the big names or the quantity of the field, you look at the names. Everybody knows Helio and if you look at Will Power. Or your look at Ryan Hunter-Reay. He won the championship two years ago. You don’t really recognize those names. And I went back there and the series is so difficult from top to bottom.
“And for me, it was just hard to go and try to run top 10 and figure out how that is. So, it’s not easy just to jump back in and do it. Juan has had a lot of testing. He’ll be fine. He’s never been to St. Pete. When you go to those street course races, you don’t get a lot of track time. It makes those weekends tough. But, I think he’s a world-class racer. We’ve seen it. He’s won in everything. So, he’ll be fine. Kurt going to Indy being at Andretti, he was fast at his rookie orientation.
He’s a hell of a race car driver. So I think he’ll be fine as well. The only thing is, just the way those cars race at Indy compared to driving by yourself, it’s a lot different. And I spent a lot of time during the month of May last year trying to learn how to be in traffic. And heck, I even went into the race still wishing I had more practice. So, that’s a big challenge. But I think he’ll be fine. He can wheel a race car, for sure.”
DO YOU HAVE A PREDICTION IN MIND FOR THE NUMBER OF RACE WINNERS IT WILL BE THIS YEAR? DO YOU NEED A BIGGER NUMBER TO HAVE YOURSELF INCLUDED IN THAT? “The way I look at it is that we just need to win this weekend. I don’t care what the number is. Heck, the way it’s going right now, you could have upwards of 15 or 16 or 17 or 18 (winners). It could make the whole ‘win in you’re in the Chase for sure’; it would throw a whole chink in the armor there. There are so many different guys that have an opportunity to win the race, but it doesn’t change my outlook. As I said, the ultimate goal is to win, but we’ve got to take it step-by-step and take baby steps at it and be more competitive each weekend.
I don’t really worry about per say, the points, until we get to just past the All-Star race and get through the 600 and then you start kind of looking and teams kind of start hitting on all cylinders and figuring out where they’re at. But for myself and this race team, I’m having a lot of fun with it. I get to work with a lot of great people. Just the team chemistry is coming together. I enjoy being around it. We get to work with a lot of great partners.
We have a lot of big name brands that have been with this team for a while and I like the direction we’re headed about just the race team and the sponsors and all that together. It’s just week-by-week and day by day for us. But it’s fun to be a part of it. My goal is to at least go out there every weekend and people say we can’t sleep on this race team; we’ve got to watch out for him. I think we’re slowly getting there.”