Gillett, Petty, Allmendinger - Ford Friday interview

Foster Gillett, Richard Petty and AJ Allmendinger were on hand Friday morning in the media center at Watkins Glen to formally announce that Richard Petty Motorsports has signed Allmendinger to a multi-year contract extension. Gillett, Petty and ...

Foster Gillett, Richard Petty and AJ Allmendinger were on hand Friday morning in the media center at Watkins Glen to formally announce that Richard Petty Motorsports has signed Allmendinger to a multi-year contract extension. Gillett, Petty and Allmendinger discussed the future of RPM and the No. 43 car.

FOSTER GILLETT OPENING REMARKS "We are here to announce that we have re-signed AJ Allmendinger to a multi-year extension to drive the No. 43 Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports. I think this is a wonderful move for the company and we are really excited about it. We really appreciate everyone's hard work to get this done and we really appreciate all of the support of our wonderful partners to make this possible. AJ has worked really hard on the track and with our sponsors to become an integral part of our family. From Richard's and my standpoint, any thought of him not driving for us was a difficult one. We are pretty excited about this and believe AJ is a big part of what we currently do and going to be a bigger part of what we do in the future."

AJ ALLMENDINGER OPENING REMARKS "It has been an exciting year for me. It is the first time in my career that I could say I have been at a place that I could build off of. That was something that between all the partners, as Foster said, especially with Best Buy and Valvoline, I have had more fun than I have ever had in my race career. To be able to drive the No. 43 has been a huge honor that I really enjoy. With the partnership with Ford, there are a lot of really great things happening at Richard Petty Motorsports. We looked at a lot of places and went through a lot of things and Tara, my manager; she asked a lot of hard questions. In the end, we got the answers that we wanted to. I feel like this is a place that I can just keep building on. We are definitely not where we want to be when it comes to where we are at right now, but I see the potential and want to keep building a team around me that continues to get better and go out and contend for victories every weekend and hopefully eventually get a championship. That is the goal."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHERE THE ORGANIZATION STANDS NOW AND IF THERE ARE FUTURE ANNOUNCEMENTS COMING?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: "When you are in a process like this, you are going to look around at all the options. Tara wasn't easy on these guys. She asked the questions that I needed to know to feel comfortable about making the decision to stay here. It came down to the fact that I see the potential. They gave the answers that I needed to hear. To know that this is a stable place and a place we can really build on. For me, that is all I needed to know. For me it is all about going out there and trying to win races. Anybody that has been around me knows that is all I care about. I think that a lot of it had to do with Jamie Allison, the head of Ford Racing, and Ford in general being huge supporters of this race team and huge supporters of me. Between RPM and Ford in general, they really made me feel like they wanted me to stay and be a part of this company as a whole. In the end, it made the decision easy. I look at the race teams that are out there, the 48's, 24's and 11's, they have had huge success, and a lot of it is because they have been together for so long. I feel like we started something great here and we just need to build on it now."

FOSTER GILLETT: "I think that AJ and I have a great friendship and a mutual appreciation for what we are trying to do. I think we have accomplished a lot together since we have both been here. I think we have been open with each other through this process. In an athlete's career, one of the great moments in your life is having the chance to choose what team or organization you are going to be with. It is your chance to put your own stamp on things. I think through many years of trying to get to this level you have to compromise. You finally arrive and get a chance to choose. We wanted AJ to choose for the right reason to be here. There are no secrets between us. We are all teammates here. We have a lot more good news coming as an organization. We have a base of which we believe we can propel cars to victory on a regular basis. I think drivers and partners want to be a part of that and we look forward to rolling that out in the future. We are excited to start with AJ and the No. 43 car because it is important to all of us. We are going to go down a path here for a few weeks and hopefully have a lot more news as we go. It is exciting times here at Richard Petty Motorsports."

RICHARD PETTY: "We have some announcements in our pocket. We like to have press conferences, so we wanted to spread it out a little bit (laughter)."

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SPECIFIC THINGS YOU SAW THAT ALLOWED YOU TO MAKE THIS DECISION AND DID YOU ACTUALLY TALK WITH ANY OTHER TEAMS?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: "Yeah, I am not going to sit here and lie. We talked to a lot of teams, which for me with everything I have been through the last three years in NASCAR, to have a lot of big team owners coming up to me about the opportunity to drive for them is pretty special. It is similar to last year with the King starting a fourth car with me with the Gillett family. They saw that I am passionate about it and want to go out there to win. For anything, that just made me feel good and know that I am doing the right things on and off the race track for people to want to talk to me. In the end, it is the relationship with Ford. They give us all the tools we could ask for to go out there with a chance to win every weekend. The new motor is getting a lot better and we are building on that. It was great to see Ford back in victory lane last week with the new motor. In general at RPM, the team is a lot of fun to be around. Everything at the race shop is a good energy and that is always fun to be around. The race cars are getting better every weekend. Like I said before, I am not where I want to be at when it comes to points and trying to contend to win races, but we are getting there. For me, it was tough to go out there and know everything we have built up here and go to a different team and have to start all over again. If you look at the great teams in NASCAR, they are not one and two year teams; they are teams that have been around for five or six years together. We have potential here and that is all I needed to see. We needed the right answers from Foster and Richard and those guys to know that this was a stable place. Tara fought hard to get those answers and Foster and Richard have been completely open and honest. We got the right answers and it made it very easy to know this was a place we could build on."

WHEN WE TALKED EARLY THIS YEAR YOU WERE HAVING SPONSORSHIP ISSUES, DO YOU FEEL THAT IS STARTING TO TURN AROUND FOR AUTO RACING?

RICHARD PETTY: "I don't know that it has turned around everywhere, but the partners we have had before have been really good to work with. We have a couple of new people that I think are coming on board, so really from an overall view it has not been easy by any means. I think it has come down better than what I thought it would. I see the deal of people tightening up, but they are loosening up in the deal of knowing they need to be advertising and be out in front of the people. It is coming together pretty good for us right now."

FOSTER GILLETT: "If I could elaborate on that, I think because of what we went through in the past with Dodge I think we were forced into the marketplace at a time it was at its worst. I don't know many other teams that have added sponsorship and changed manufacturer affiliation like we have. We have a realistic idea of what the marketplace holds and run our race team to that. I think other race owners are going to have to look at how they do their business as they go in the marketplace and try to understand what partners are willing to do. I think things have changed and it is changing. I think Richard Petty Motorsports is at the spearhead of that. I think we've been through it and come out the other side. I think we understand what our partners need to be successful and others in this garage are going to have to do that. I feel proud that we have gotten through it and we are going to see others go in our wake. We are excited about that."

I HEAR A LOT OF BUZZ WORDS LIKE STABILITY AND COMMITMENT, BUT WHAT DOES YOUR SPONSOR LINEUP LOOK LIKE FOR NEXT YEAR AND HOW MANY TEAMS DO YOU ANTICIPATE TO RUN IN 2011?

FOSTER GILLETT: "Obviously we have an opportunity we are seeking and things we have already done that we are waiting to talk about. It starts here and we will see over the coming weeks as we roll out or driving roster and partner roster we will have answers as we go along. Things are very good here. Richard and I were talking last weekend in Pocono and you saw a smile on both of our faces because it felt positive with what we were going through and what we had ahead."

LOOKING AT WHO IS DEPARTING RPM AT THE END OF THIS YEAR, ARE YOU PREPARED TO BE A LEADER OF THIS TEAM DEPENDING ON WHO IS COMING IN AND SECONDLY CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR ROAD COURSE SUCCESS?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: "Yeah, that was a big selling point. I am ready to be a leader of this race team. It is something that I thrive on and excites me every day to know that I can be the guy. I have the confidence in myself to know I can lead this team and represent it to the best of its abilities. Hopefully, when people think about Richard Petty Motorsports, they think about me as the guy and the leader. It pumps me up to think about the opportunity to be the spearhead to take this team to a lot of victories and eventually a championship. As far as the road course racing goes, it is what I grew up doing. I grew up in Indy car and it is different with different techniques that you have to use, but now in the Sprint Cup series, everyone seems really good at road course racing. In the past you had a few guys, road course ringers that would really stand out, but now there are a lot better road course drivers than guys that are struggling at it. I don't think anybody has an advantage now when you show up to these places, but I still love road course racing and wish we did a little bit more of it."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE SILENCED YOUR CRITICS A LITTLE BIT CONSIDERING WHERE YOU WERE AT SIX MONTHS AGO AND WHAT DID YOU TELL AJ AND TARA TO CONVINCE HIM THAT HE SHOULD STAY?

FOSTER GILLETT: "I think in this sport it is wonderful because the talking happens on the track and I think that AJ and Tara see our commitment to getting better. I think some of that is through our partners that have continued to support us and our unbelievable partnership with Ford. Since day one that we walked through the door they have been excited about us being there and wanted AJ to stay. I understand the criticism because it is part of life and part of sports. It is what churns the pot and keeps everything going. We do this for ourselves, our partners and our own success. We are our hardest critics. I think we hold ourselves to high standards and try our best. We look forward to winning races and progressing to championships and try to do everything we thought we could do. I met AJ at my bus in Talladega after he had separated from Red Bull and there were six races to go in the season and we talked about putting him in our car. I told him that he made the right decision to come to RPM because this was going to be a long term relationship that we were going to work on. I am proud that those five races turned into a season and a second season and then a long term relationship. We are excited about that and we all want to win together. We are a family and we are pretty excited."

CAN YOU ADDRESS HOW YOU SEE AJ AS A LEADER IN THIS ORGANIZATION GOING FORWARD?

FOSTER GILLETT: "I think AJ's passion for this sport is obvious. I think the way he works with our partners and our people is phenomenal. I think there are some drivers on different teams that call in and are around, but AJ is in our shop daily and knows every single person on our race team. Our guys root for him a lot because last year and in previous years, every person has felt a part of AJ and what he is doing. When I told the guys in the shop, it was great news for them. We are looking forward to AJ being that and stepping to the forefront, blazing the way and other people trying to catch him on our team and we encourage him to do that. We like the way he drives and how he handles our partners and so we think that is the future, which is why we have done this."

-source: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Richard Petty
Teams Richard Petty Motorsports , CIP