Ford Racing press release
AJ Allmendinger is 13th in points and knocking on the door of a Chase wild card spot heading into Saturday night. Allmendinger must win and have Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart fall out of the top-10. He can also snag a wild card spot by winning the race and finish higher in the points than Denny Hamlin if Brad Keselowski does not move into the top-10. It is a confusing scenario, with one basic concept. Allmendinger has to record his first career win tomorrow night to score the coveted spot.
YOU HAVE TO WIN THIS RACE TOMORROW NIGHT TO HAVE A SHOT AT THE CHASE. “Yeah, it is pretty simple. We have to win and get a little bit of help. We don’t have to worry about everyone else and where they are at points wise until you cross the finish line and unless we win it doesn’t matter. I feel like over the last six weeks we have been getting stronger and kind of flying under the radar. Our last four finishes have been eighth, tenth, 11th and 12th. We have been right there. As a race team I feel like we are getting better. I feel like we had about three or four more races before the Chase started because I feel like we are starting to get there and be a contending race team. It is pretty simple. We go out there and try to win the race and let the cards fall where they may fall.”
DO YOU CONSIDER WHERE YOUR RACE TEAM IS AT RIGHT NOW TO BE THE NATURAL PROGRESSION OF WHERE YOU EXPECTED TO BE, AND WHAT IS YOUR SATISFACTION LEVEL WITH THAT? “I felt like at the beginning of the year we weren’t too bad and then we kind of hit a lull in the middle of the season. When we were off, we were really off. We had a couple of races where we finished like 25th and 27th or something like that. I felt like our consistency wasn’t where it needed to be and we struggled with that. I feel like the addition of Greg Erwin over the last six weeks we have been stronger and as the weekend goes on progress really well and we run a lot of laps in practice. I feel like during the race we run well. We are progressing better than we had been and I feel that as we keep getting stronger we are a 7th-8th to 13th place race team right now. Hopefully as we keep getting stronger, whether we make the Chase or not, we can take the last 10 races and contend inside the top-10 on a consistent basis. There are races coming up like Loudon and Dover that we have been really good at and maybe get a win. We are getting there but I wish we had a few more races before the Chase starts. The Chase doesn’t define our season. If we don’t make it, we can take those last 10 races and have a chance to run up front every weekend. If we get to Homestead and are a lot better than where we were last season, I will be happy with that.”
NOW THAT YOU ARE IN THE HEAT OF THIS WILD CARD THING, DO YOU LIKE IT? “I wish we would go back to 12 guys. We are 13th in points and only like seven points out of it. No, really I think it is cool for the fans and the drivers. Everybody has a shot and I am sure it will be played up really well on TV Saturday night. I think it is a good thing.”
DO YOU ANTICIPATE TAKING WILD CHANCES TOMORROW NIGHT? “I think you have to just race normal. If there is a shot at the end of the race you are going to try it, but that is every race right now. It is hard to win one of these things. The way the races play out now, any little thing you can do to try to get yourself up front with how aero sensitive the cars are you are going to do it anyway. To make the Chase, you want to try to win at all costs, but for me I am not going to do anything crazy that is going to cost us a bad finish too. Whether you make the Chase or not you still have to focus on having a good finish and points for the rest of the season. If the opportunity is there to try to steal one we are definitely going to try to do it but it is not going to be, I guess doing real crazy things that could hurt us on the race track and not finish well.”
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST THING GREG ERWIN HAS BROUGHT TO YOUR TEAM? “I think Mike Shiplett did a good job of getting the race team really organized. All our cars were well prepared and our people were well prepared. Mike had a good play. Greg brought experience. He is a race winning, championship contending crew chief. Just his experience level throughout the weekend. How the weekends are run. Changes made during practice. We are one of the race cars with the most laps every practice session now, which is good for me because I am still learning out there. During the races, the way he calls the races. He knows when to maybe take a big swing at it and when not to take a big swing at it, whether I want to or not. Overall I think it is just the experience he has brought and his mentality has been good for the race team and for me. I think the organization, especially on the 43 side of it, they were really close to Mike so I was nervous how they would take to the change but everyone has been really good of fitting in with the change and moving forward with the race team.”