Continued from part 1 Q</I>: In the last 10 laps, you won't be tearing up like you said you were at Portland. Sort of the ghosts of Edmonton have been put to rest, I assume. AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah. It's something now I can go back ...
Continued from part 1
Q</I>: In the last 10 laps, you won't be tearing up like you said you were at Portland. Sort of the ghosts of Edmonton have been put to rest, I assume.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah. It's something now I can go back to Edmonton and really go out there and I really enjoyed the track last year, and hopefully I can translate some of the stuff we had at RuSPORT, the car was so good at Edmonton last year, with Forsythe.
Yeah, I mean, now I don't have to go to Edmonton as not having won a race and thinking, God, was that my only chance and am I ever going to get another chance? I've gotten it now. I can erase those memories from my head, more focus on going out there and trying to get more victories and slowly hopefully having chances to chase down Justin and Sebastien in the points.
Q</I>: Until those last 10 laps when you had those tears in your eyes, clearly in the lead, all you can do is blow it, what was it like having the great expectations a lot of people put on you for the last several years of being that great US hope? Could you feel that baggage lifted also?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: No, because that was never on my mind. Nobody, as I said, is going to put more pressure on me than me. Obviously I knew everybody wanted me to win earlier. Heck, I wanted to win earlier than this. When the time is right, that's your time to win, I think that's when it happens.
That was never really something in my mind, like hopefully this allows the fans to root for me now or they believe in me more, the media can stop writing about when I'm going to win. For me, it was just coming down to the fact that it was finally me proving a point to myself that I can do it. That's what it's always been about.
Q</I>: You said you got the news, weren't that bummed out. Feel-wise, was that a better car you were in over the weekend? Did Forsythe give you the kind of tool you like? Explain the difference.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, I definitely sat in the race car and come down to that it was what I wanted the feel in a car. The rear-end on the car was absolutely amazing. So much rear grip for the Bridgestone tires to hold the racetrack. I enjoyed the car. The car was good from the start. My engineer and I were just kind of gelled right away. He goes about business kind of the way I do. It was a total of everything. Yeah, obviously you can't win without a great car. That's what Forsythe gave me the whole weekend.
At the same point, the atmosphere around the team, I just can't keep talking about that enough, the guys seem like they really enjoyed being there, they wanted to be there, they loved working on the car, they believed in me. When I came in the pits, they were going to be right on top of the pit stops. It's kind of everything gelling together.
The team, I just can't thank them enough because they were absolutely fantastic during the whole weekend to give me those opportunities and give me the feel in the race car I wanted and give me the feel at the racetrack that I wanted.
Q</I>: When the thing happened with RuSPORT, did you know this was a possibility? Had there been any murmurings? Were you a total free agent for a few days?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, as I was let go, no, I didn't know that was an opportunity. It quickly got to me that Gerry wanted to possibly sign me. I think we talked actually that day initially just to see what was out there, if I'd be interested, if he was interested. Although I didn't sign till Tuesday night of last week before Portland, it was still kind of in the work from Friday on.
Q</I>: That had to boost you knowing one of the big team owners in the series was interested.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: For sure. It definitely made the rest of my weekend a lot easier, to go there and try to get engaged, promising my fiancee that I might have a job. It was definitely a lot easier knowing that.
Q</I>: Could you have give us some thoughts about being the guy who was in the place of a Mexican driver.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I mean, the way the situation happened, it was unfortunate. I really like Mario. I believe he's a fantastic driver. He's got victories in the series. He's always quick. Obviously it was a weird situation for all of us because as I was coming in the trailer on Thursday with my box of stuff that I just went over and picked up at RuSPORT as Cristiano and I were passing each other, Mario was getting his stuff out of the trailer.
I wouldn't say it was a weird feeling, but it was just kind of like we both know that it really had nothing to do with either of us, it's just the way it situation worked out.
Luckily Mario landed up in a ride. Hopefully he stays there or he furthers himself and stays in the series because he's an asset to the series. He's an asset on the racetrack and he's a great person off of it. Hopefully he stays in the series and we keep him.
Q</I>: You said it's a North American based series. Can you tell us something about more Mexicans being in the Champ Car.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Exactly, that's what it comes down to, we need Americans in the series for the US races. We need Canadians in the series for the Canada races. We need Mexicans in the series for Mexico City and Monterrey. Mario needs to stay in the series. If we can get one or two more back in the series, I think that would be ultimately great.
Q</I>: Talking about Toronto, the race with you being in Forsythe, PT, with Lynn being there, has a lot more significance than before. Would you agree with that?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, exactly. It's obviously going to be a big race for the team because PT is the man there. The Forsythe car last year was absolutely amazing. Between him and Sebastien, kind of had the field covered until the incident. That's what allowed Justin to get in there and get the victory.
But, yeah, it's going to be a great race. As you said, Lynn is from there. I've always enjoyed that race. I had great success there in Barber Dodge and Toyota Atlantics. Hopefully I can finally translate that into a great race in the Champ Car World Series.
I'm really looking forward to that weekend. I'm just really looking forward to the rest of the year. I enjoyed myself in Portland. I think it's just going to continue throughout the rest of the year.
Q</I>: Got to be looking forward to doing some debriefing with PT because he must have some tricks up his sleeve.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: You try to pick PT's brain as much as you can because he has tricks up the sleeve everywhere.
Q</I>: Turn one in Cleveland, what are your thoughts going into the start this year?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Fortunately enough, I've actually gotten through turn one every year at Cleveland. Hopefully I continue that streak. It is Cleveland. We all know that. We know what it's like. We know the risks because we are crazy race car drivers. We see such a wide open area going into turn one, we know how many positions we can make up. The problem is, everybody has the same thought when we're doing that. We all get to turn one at the same point.
I'd like to say the best place is leading into turn one, but sometimes that's not always the best place. But ultimately we're going to come down to we're going to try to qualify on the pole and lead into turn one, close your eyes, get into turn one, go racing from there.
Q</I>: Coming back to San Jose later in July, does it make it that much more sweeter?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: It makes every race that much more sweeter now. When you get the monkey off your back, you can kind of relax, go out there and race for victories, know how to do it. To be able to come to San Jose as a Champ Car race winner and hopefully at that point maybe a couple-time race winner, I'm really looking forward to it.
Obviously that race was huge last year, not only for myself but for the city with 160,000 people that were there. San Jose has done a great job in improving the track, probably making a lot better racing for the fans and the drivers.
I think there's going to be a lot more people there. The racing is going to be that much more exciting.
Q</I>: Tell us about your fiancee. How did you meet? Have you set a date?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: We actually met because in 2003 she won the Miss Molson Indy contest in Canada at Vancouver and Toronto. The past couple years, she'd been kind of running the competition and taking care of the girls for the Face of Champ Car. We met like that, got to know each other last year. Just kind of blossomed into this.
No, we haven't set a date yet because more than anything we have to figure out living condition. I live here in Denver. I'm going to probably move since I don't need to be here any more, not being with RuSPORT. Once we figure that, we'll take care of the rest.
Q</I>: You're in Canada with your girlfriend getting ready to propose. How precisely did the word come down to you from RuSPORT? How did they explain it to you?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: It happened Friday morning. As I said, I kind of knew that it was going to happen because Paul Tracy kind of called me and let me know that Carl was looking at Cristiano as his driver, they wanted to make a replacement. That happened Thursday. Carl called me Friday morning and let me know.
As I said, it wasn't something that was a huge shock to me because we all knew it. It's not just one person in the team or a couple people that know it. The chemistry wasn't working. It was kind of just dragging through every weekend. The team and I were probably stalling with each other, not making that many improvements. Because of that, it wasn't a huge shock. The timing of it kind of hurt because at that point I didn't know if I was going to be in a car for Portland. I was really making a run through the points.
Other than that, it was just the mere fact that team chemistry wasn't working and I knew that. I was okay with that. Things work out for the best. I landed a better ride at Forsythe, a better situation all around for myself. I really enjoy the team. I'm happy for the change.
Q</I>: When you were being interviewed on television, Justin Wilson came over and gave you a hug. Good sportsmanlike gesture. Looked like he was going to make a pass on you. Instead he locked up the brakes. Could you comment on the good sportsmanship.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: That's just it, Justin and I are good friends. Just for the record, I smoked him in mini golf last night in the tournament. I opened my points in the mini golf championship. I'm happy with that.
No, it's just something that we are good friends. We respect each other on the racetrack. I was happy for him when he won at Toronto and Mexico City. We ran hard. He knew the challenges that I went through. He was pretty shocked at the change.
I think he was truly happy for me. We're always going to race each other hard on the racetrack and race each other clean. It's a lot of mutual respect back and forth. Everybody knows what I believe in him as a race car driver. To have him come over and give me the congrats, that was great. That was nice of him.
Q</I>: Have you noticed much of Graham Rahal the last several weeks, coming on as a 17-year-old?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Graham, I watched him in the Atlantics this year. I watched him when he was in Star Mazda last year. The kid is really good. For his age, he is really, really maturing. He's really quick. As I've been telling people, I am the only American in the series right now, but there's a lot of great Americans coming up through the Atlantic Series. I think Champ Car is going to be strong with American drivers. Graham right now obviously had a bad race at Portland where he got taken out being on pole in turn one. I look for him to challenge for the championship the rest of the year and probably win a few more races. He's really good and fun to watch.
Q</I>: Have you ever during tough times wish you weren't named AJ?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I wouldn't have changed anything up to this point in my career. As I said, after Edmonton, what doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. I've had to go through a lot. I think over this last two weeks it showed how much I had to go through. It also showed people how strong I am mentally, that I can come right out there with Forsythe, brand-new team for myself, the guys with me, get the job done. I've had a pretty fortunate career, pretty lucky career. Hopefully I can continue that for many more years.
Q</I>: You and PT, you've been up and down, sideways with one another. Have you been getting along the last year or so? I know there was a time when you really didn't.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Oh, no, we've always gotten along. Yeah, I mean, Mexico City, everybody points to that, says that was a big deal. We're race car drivers. We have the same personality. That's why he chose me for his go-karting team in 2000. What people don't see is at the banquet, we had a celebration drink. We were fine at the banquet. We just want to go out there and win. When things happen, things happen. That's what it comes down to.
We've been fine before I got to the team. We're fine at the team now. Hopefully we can push each other to go out there and make Forsythe the best team possible.
Q</I>: Probably pushing each other is going to make both of you better. Is it difficult to have somebody with a similar personality? You're both kind of hot-headed and emotional.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I think it comes down to it's going to help the team. As we found out, one thing we wanted to see was if we had the same driving style. We started with the same cars, were able to describe them exactly the same. I think when you have two drivers that are very quick and read the cars the same way, it helps the team to be able to work on one kind of overall great setup. Sure, we're going to have little differences in the car. The cars for the most part are always going to be close because we do have the same driving style, we do read the cars the same. The teams know we're always going to go out there and we want to win. When we're not winning, we're emotional. It's just a matter if the team is able to deal with that. Forsythe understands that. That's why they brought me on board. I think it's going to work out for the best.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our Champ Car media teleconference today. We'd like to extend our congratulations to AJ, thank you for coming on the call. We are heading into round six of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford this weekend, the 25th anniversary of Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland presented by US Bank, running Friday through Sunday. Qualifying on Friday and Saturday, the race on Sunday begins at 2:30 eastern and can be seen live on CBS Sports.