Darlington Raceway 500
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion, climbed back into the top 12 after last week’s seventh-place finish at Richmond. Allmendinger, who stands 11th in the point standings, visited the Darlington infield media center to answer some questions from the press.
I’m excited that we’ve been able to go out there and not do anything to hurt ourselves.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CREEPING BACK UP IN THE STANDINGS. “Last week at Richmond was really good to get a top 10. I feel like we’re on the cusp there. We’re hanging in there. We’re not doing anything spectacular, but I’m proud of the team because we’re not making a lot of mistakes either. We’re just kind of just hanging around and having decent finishes and running fairly well, but we definitely need to keep getting better to be one of those teams that you consider a top 10 every week contending for the chase. I’m excited that we’ve been able to go out there and not do anything to hurt ourselves. We’ve really just had one bad race at Bristol and everything else has been inside the top 20 or top 15. If we can just keep getting better and steadily improve, I feel like with what we’ve already done and being right there on the edge of the top 10, we can have a chance at making the chase. We just have to be smart and keep getting better as a race team.”
DO YOU FEEL YOU’VE GOT SOME MOMENTUM WITH SOME TRACKS COMING UP THAT HAVE BEEN GOOD FOR YOU? “Yeah. I feel like what’s happening at Richard Petty Motorsports in general has been really good. Lisa Brown and everybody on the marketing side bringing in new sponsors like Nautica for a race deal last week was really cool, and I know they’re working on other potential sponsors to bring a new flavor to NASCAR, so I think things like that have been really good for the race team and for us to go out there and keep running better and better has been a good thing. This weekend is gonna be a tough challenge. It has historically not been a great race track for me, but by the same point, this year is completely different. To go into Dover next week I’m really pumped up for. Charlotte, we’ve had decent runs there at times, and, obviously, with the All-Star break there is a lot of stuff we can work on, so I’m excited with the upcoming schedule and what we possibly have, but, at the same time, we know what we need to work on and that’s the intermediate race tracks. We’ve got to get a lot better there to really be a contending team each week. My goal was to get to the All-Star break with at least a chance inside the chase, and if we have two good runs here, we’ll be right there. It’s been good so far.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE THE FIRST TIME YOU SAW THIS PLACE? “I thought they completely messed up the design of the race track when I got here. I said, ‘This can’t possibly be an oval. What’s going on here?’ It’s insane to me. The race track is awesome with how narrow it is. What’s exciting for me is, honestly, the history of the race track. I rolled in here last night and when you roll through the gates and get here, the history behind the track is something that always excites me and excites me about NASCAR in general. Obviously, the race car that I get to drive has a huge part to do with that, but it is definitely a tough race track. I drove on it once before it was repaved and it was tough, and now that it’s repaved it’s tough in a different way because it’s so fast you can’t make a mistake. It’s a tough place. That’s all you can say. There’s not a lot more to describe it.”
DO YOU FEEL YOUR ORGANIZATION IS PRIMED TO EXPAND TO THREE OR FOUR CARS? “I think there is always progress made, like I said about the new sponsors that we’ve been able to bring in and potentially have more opportunities to bring more in is a good thing. At the same time, I feel fortunate to be 11th in points. We’ve just been real consistent. Marcos has had a lot of bad luck. The way I look at it, until we get both of those cars contending in the top 10 every week on a consistent basis, to try and think about going to three or four teams, to me, isn’t very important. We’ve got to make sure our two cars are fast first, and then make a third one fast and make a fourth one fast. The ownership may see it a little bit different, but, to me, it’s still early. We’ve raced nine and we need to be focused on continuing to get better as a race team. You don’t see a lot of organizations that don’t have a couple of cars already fast add a third car and all of a sudden make everybody a lot faster, so, to me, that’s what our goal has to be is make sure the first two cars are well funded and fast each weekend, and then focus on a third car and then a fourth car.”
CAN YOU LOOK AHEAD TO DOVER FOR US? “For me, I really enjoy Dover. It’s a place that I’ve liked as soon as I got there. Obviously, it’s high-banked and fast. It’s just really a fun place to drive each lap that you’re on it and, relatively, we’ve had really fast race cars there, so I was excited. We did the Goodyear tire test there and it went really well, so, for me, I’m trying to get through Darlington and have a good run and, hopefully, be consistent here and keep ourselves up in the points, and then I’m really looking forward to Dover.”
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO LEARN TO LIKE THIS PLACE AND DO WELL? “After it kind of keeps kicking your butt it’s kind of hard to get to that point, but this year is completely different than last year coming here. Last year, we were struggling and it just seemed like the ball was dropping everywhere that we went and something would go wrong. Last year, we had a brake failure and had a big wreck, so I look at it like, yeah, it’s in the back of your mind that, for me, I’ve never had a great run here, but, at the same time, I do enjoy the place. I enjoy driving it and this year is completely different than where we were last year, so I’m excited about it. For me, it’s always there. You know you have to have a good run, but there have been several places like that for us where we’ve been able to go to and have a good run and kind of just get out of there with a decent run. At Talladega, we were running good all day and finished 11th and that’s a place where I’ve never had a good run, so you just have to have a good attitude about it. For me, it’s a tough place to tame, but I’m ready to get on the race track. Ultimately, it’s all about just getting there and getting on the race track and seeing where you’re at.”
-source: ford racing