This Week in Ford Racing September 28, 2010 AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion, has registered three straight top-six starts (Dover, 2nd; Richmond, 3rd ; and New Hampshire, 6th) and is coming off a 10th-place ...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 28, 2010
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion, has registered three straight top-six starts (Dover, 2nd; Richmond, 3rd ; and New Hampshire, 6th) and is coming off a 10th-place finish last weekend at Dover in which he led 143 laps.
Robbie Loomis, director of competition for Richard Petty Motorsports, talked with Ford Racing about that team's improvement and where the organization stands going into 2011. In addition, Allmendinger's comments from Sunday's AAA 400 are being re-run.
ROBBIE LOOMIS, Director of Competition, Richard Petty Motorsports
WHAT HAS TURNED THINGS AROUND FOR THE 43 TEAM LATELY? "I think there have been a lot of things, not any one thing, but I think AJ is really working hard on his communication to the team. We've put a lot of effort towards this team to move forward into the 2011 season. We're kind of using these final 10 races to stack our pennies, you might say, knowing the people that are going to be with us moving forward. We've kind of lined them up to get behind the 43. I think in the past we always had Kasey and we all kind of rode his deal. Kasey is obviously a great talent and a top performer for us, but what we discussed seven or eight weeks ago is we have to figure out how to do this without Kasey and without those guys that have been our leaders for us as a company. We're really excited about Ambrose coming on, but the better baseline we can establish, the better we'll be. We took Eric Warren, who is our technical director on the RPM side, and really put a lot of focus on him with Mike Shiplett, the team, and Phil Surgen, the lead engineer on the 43 car. We're just trying to re-establish so we have a good baseline heading into next year, and when Marcos walks in we can team him up with somebody that knows good stuff."
AJ MENTIONED THAT THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW INTERNAL CHANGES, ARE THOSE YOU JUST TALKED ABOUT WHAT HE WAS REFERRING TO? "Yeah, I think it's those things I just touched on. It's not really any one thing, just a little more focus to the overall effort from the pit crew to the engineering to the crew chiefs. For our race team in the past, Kasey has reached a level that he's good enough to go out there and give the feedback and give the direction that he needs to get his car right, and I think with AJ we're just now trying to spend more time understanding what his needs are because he's a younger driver. We're trying to get him to articulate in a clearer manner to the crew chief what he needs, so that Mike Shiplett and the guys can make the right adjustments for him."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THIS SEASON AS A WHOLE FOR RPM? YOU SWITCHED TO FORD, ENTERED AN ALLIANCE WITH ROUSH FENWAY AND MOVED YOUR RACE SHOP LOCATION IN A RELATIVELY SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME. "I think the switch to Ford has been great. We couldn't be happier with that. I think Ford has given us a great amount of support and our technical alliance with Roush and the job Robbie Reiser and those guys have done with our race cars has gone really well. It's been a mixing of cultures, I guess, and that's probably been the hardest part. I think it's gotten better and better as time goes on. As far as putting two companies together, I don't think it could have gone much better than it's gone, other than our end result needed to be better on the race track. Our performance was there, we just didn't get the end results."
DO YOU SEE SOME LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL AS FAR AS IMPROVING YOUR PERFORMANCE ON A CONSISTENT BASIS? "I think in this sport you get up every day and try to work really hard. It's about who wants it the most, so that's how hard you work. There are times I see light, but every time you think that, you wind up falling further behind, so you just have to keep working and wanting it really bad. The difference between the guys winning and what we're doing right now is not very much. It's just a matter of maybe one call or one pit strategy or the driver making one move different on the race track. When you're not winning it looks like the gap is huge between winning and not winning, but we're very close and all the Fords are performing really well."
DO YOU FEEL A WIN FOR THIS TEAM IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER? "Oh, yeah. It's been a long, long time, but in 1995 we had Bobby Hamilton and this season is starting to feel like that with the 43 team. We've had a lot of times we were running in the top 10 or the top five and things would happen, and then all of a sudden we started hitting our stride and I think we finished ninth in points the following year in '96. So I really feel like the team is coming on as a group and the whole key is that the crew chief and AJ are doing a great job of communicating."
AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion (Finished 10th) - YOU HAVE FINISHED BETTER BUT YOU HAVE NEVER RUN AS WELL AS TODAY. WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE TODAY? "A fast race car and starting up front. It was fun to lead. No wonder Jimmie is smiling so much. It's actually a lot of fun to lead. Everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports is building great race cars and Doug Yates and all those guys are bringing a lot of horsepower. The car was dialed in and just a stupid five-cent washer got inside the tire. I'm not sure when. It must have been right when we pitted and left the pits. As the run went on the car started freeing up and then I asked how long it was before I was supposed to pit and he said, 'Twenty laps,' and I'm like, 'I'm not gonna make it.' I knew something was wrong. I knew the right-rear was going down and after that you're just fighting back the rest of the day. We're getting really good at fighting back and making good finishes out of a problem that happens. I would like to have a consistent race one of these days, but we've got fast race cars and we're getting there. They saw us lead. They saw that we had the speed there. They saw the Insignia/Best Buy Ford just out there flying. It was a good day, but it could have been a great day."
WERE YOU TWO LAPS DOWN? "I don't know. I just know that once the tire was flat I had to drive my butt off. That's all I know."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE ONE OF THOSE GUYS THAT ISN'T NECESSARILY GOING TO BE HAPPY TO SEE THE SEASON END BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE SAVING YOUR BEST FOR LAST. "I love racing, so I always hate when the season ends. I'm not looking at that. We've got eight more races to go, so we've got a lot of work to do. I still feel like we can get to the top 16 or 17 in points and if we keep running like this, maybe we can sneak a win in there. We still have two months before I've got to worry about the season ending."
DID YOU WANT THAT RACE TO GO LONGER SO YOU COULD MAKE UP SOME MORE SPOTS? "It's tough. I felt like my car was really fast for 25 laps, but once the tires kind of leveled off it was really hard to pass. My car was really good on restarts, so we got a yellow out there and got another set of tires and tried it again. I thought we had a chance, but the thing was that under yellow we'd pull all the rubber up off the track and then we'd go green and my car would be really fast. But once we laid the rubber back down, it felt like we were getting way too tight - almost like the splitter was hitting the rubber and making the car too tight. I felt if we could have cleaned the race track off and then went at it hard for 25 laps we had something."
DO YOU THINK YOU'RE INCHING CLOSER TO FINDING THAT CONSISTENCY? "I think we're getting there. To say, can we go out and win one? We've got to keep getting better. We've got to be consistent inside the top 10. Today was a big day for that. To be able to lead so many laps. I think that was quadruple the laps I've ever led, combined in Cup. We've just got to keep getting there. Of course, winning is the ultimate goal and that's what we want to do, but we have to go baby steps here. We have to be one of those cars that are inside the top 10 every weekend and then we'll get there."
NOTE: Allmendinger led 143 laps on Sunday. Prior to the race, he led only 43 laps in his Cup career.
-source: ford racing