AJ ALLMENDINGER, No. 84 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Starting Position: 8th How was your qualifying run? "We tightened the car up. I probably under-drove it not wanting to overdo it. I really didn't think the lap was really...
How was your qualifying run? "We tightened the car up. I probably under-drove it not wanting to overdo it. I really didn't think the lap was really that good. Thanks to everyone at Red Bull Racing to give me a good car -- for it to not feel that good and still be that fast, and Toyota for giving a big motor down the straightaway. I think we'll have a better car in the race. I think it's going to be hard to pass, so starting up front is going to be key."
Was the test here at Pocono helpful? "I think, for us, always having a test at a race track were we're going to go race at is key. It showed at Charlotte. Here, it's been really good. This is one of the places last year -- I made one of the two races -- but still I struggled with the race track. I really didn't know how to get around it. For me to get a lot of laps on the race track was key, as well."
Do you feel more comfortable at the track? "Turns two and three were probably my biggest problems last year. Now, with that patch where you kind of stay out of the bumps in turn three -- it's helped me a ton to get around this place. Turn two -- with these cars -- it feels like you just kind of have to get the thing through the corner instead of the old cars it seemed like you really had to drive the wheels off it through the whole corner to pick up speed. Here, you just have to get the car into the corner, know it's going to be tight off, and have a good run off the corner. I feel a lot better here."
What do you plan to work on tomorrow in practice? "We're just going to keep working on the race set-up. Keep getting better at that. The 83 (Brian Vickers) guys have done a good job with the race set-up. We're getting a lot better, but we still need to gain a lot. Really, we have to work on the start of the race -- that's where we struggle. We seem to get the car really good the second half of the race, but we're either a lap down or way in the back. So, now we have to get the thing good at the start of the race. Stay where we are at or move to the front. Just have good pit stops and stay up front."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 10th
Are you pleased with your qualifying run? "Well, I don't know. This is probably the best this M&M's Toyota was, but Jimmie (Johnson) laid down one whale of a lap. It was definitely a pretty great lap by those guys. I think that my hold judging by our lap time there. Hopefully, that's a top-10 start for us. We just need a good starting spot for Sunday. We're not all that happy with the way things have gone here this weekend. We've got some work to do. Addington (Steve, crew chief) is going to try to brainstorm something here. I'll call him tonight and we'll figure something out tomorrow, hopefully, and get better."
What were the track conditions during qualifying? "It's hot. The sun popped through and really warmed up the race track so speeds are really going to slow down. That's why I was surprised to see Jimmie (Johnson) lay down the lap that he did. Our lap looks like it's pretty good among all of the rest of the guys who are in the .50's and .60's, and now there are guys slowing up all the way into the .54-second bracket. I wasn't really expecting to see that. I think that will hold up pretty good. I don't think that will hold up quite as well as I would've expected. The more that the track changes with these cars you really see it. If the track heats up 10 degrees it's like the old car with the track heating up about 30 degrees. It just escalates everything so much more."
Can you talk about what advantages you see with the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas compared to other cars? "Judging by last year we won 18 races as a company over there. This year we've been really successful and really have been running well on the mile-and-a-halves and the bigger race tracks. I just feel like our packages in the front end are a little bit better and overall the cars are a little bit better. I wouldn't say our horsepower numbers are where they should be yet, but Mark Cronquist (engineer, Joe Gibbs Racing) and all of the guys at Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) are working on that and trying to make it better. If we can get better there we'll be able to keep up more so down the straight-aways. As far as car handling, I think we are just a little bit further ahead of the box I guess. We're working better with where the car is right now."
Have you noticed any change in the team dynamic at JGR with the success you've had so far this year? "Not really. From the way that I came in to where it is now, it all feels like the same. If you ask Tony (Stewart) or Denny (Hamlin) that question they might be able to know more because they've been there for Tony's been there forever and Denny's been there for a couple of years. As far as I'm concerned I feel like everything is the same as what it was when I got there. Everybody's still digging and working hard at the shop and they're all splitting their time with the 20, the 11 and the 18. If you're thinking that there are people leaning more towards the 18 side of things I don't see any of that."
Have they come to you for any kind of advice because of the way you have grasped the new Toyota car so well? "We all have a little bit of differences in our driving styles and stuff like that. Those guys have come over and talked to me a little bit. Denny (Hamlin) more last weekend at Dover. He had a little bit of trouble he felt like qualifying. We talked a little bit about stuff. Tony (Stewart) I went to him actually. I felt like they were pretty good a few weeks back. I'm not exactly sure where we were. Denny was also good at Richmond. I went and talked to him there. We translate stuff back and forth and we try to communicate. Our team meetings and stuff that we have sometimes are a little jumbled up because of the fact that either myself or Denny or Tony is running a Nationwide race so we're not always able to make it."
What is the hardest part of the track for you? "The hardest part of the track for me is probably turn one and then turn two is the second hardest and then turn three is the third hardest. Turn three -- the wear that everybody is running is that patch that they laid down and it's just going to look like railroad tracks. Everybody is going to be in a line through there. It's going to look like a train race. It's going to be hard because we won't be able to pass. You can't go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because when you come off the corner you're eight to 10 miles-per-hour slower than the guy on your outside and they are just going to blow right by you going down the straight-aways. Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two. If somebody can get a good run off of turn two getting back up high and getting in line to get on that patch getting into turn three. Besides that, turn one we just can't get the cars to turn down there because there's so much load on the bump stops from going 210 miles-per-hour down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a buck 40. Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you've got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit you tend to knock the wall down off the corner so it's tight."
What are you doing with the car that is putting you a step ahead of other drivers? "I guess through the tests and stuff I've tried to learn the new car and my adaptability between the trucks in the Nationwide and these new Cup cars I've raced so many different vehicles that you learn so many different things and you can try more things when you get into a different vehicle and I think it kind of lends more to my performance of running better because I've got more ideas to try than maybe two or three like the other guys and what they've learned from the past. From there, the car now I think is more car than it is driver with the engineering staff trying to make these cars better. The better teams are the better teams as usual and the guys that don't have quite as good a handle on the car their drivers suffer a little bit. I think the older was more 60 perfect driver 40 percent car and I think with this car it's 70 percent car so it's a little bit different."
TONY STEWART, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 12th
How was your qualifying run? "It wasn't anything stellar. We were a little bit too free and we were tight in practice. The good news is that we finally got the car to respond to a change. The bad news is we slowed down just a little bit."
What would a top-10 finish here at Pocono mean to you? "You try to get a top-10 finish every week. It's no more important this week than it was last week or next week. The only thing you can do is try to go out and get the car balanced good and have good track position all day. Track position has always been critical here and that part won't change this weekend either. You just have to work on getting your car balanced to where it will stay good for a long run and hope you can get good track position."
How was your qualifying run? "I felt qualifying was horrible, to be honest with you, but it seems to be holding up. The lap we ran, we ran a .20 in practice and I felt like we could go run a teen at least, if not better. And, we ran a .60. The car just got really, really tight coming out of turn one and I had to lift right before I hit the wall, or we would have hit the wall. We lost like six-tenths between turns one and two. I tried to run a second lap, we just got too hot. I thought we were going to be 37th or 40th, at best."
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Kinko's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 16th
How was your qualifying run? "Our FedEx car was really good in practice, which is a good sign for things to come in the race. We just can't get qualifying figured out. That (qualifying) lap, we slowed up four-tenths from where we were in practice, which I think maybe the track has slowed up a tenth or two, strictly because of conditions. It makes that 48 (Jimmie Johnson) lap even more impressive. I definitely think his lap is going to be hard to beat. Mine's going to be pretty easy to beat. I bet most guys beat it."
What will you focus on tomorrow in practice? "We're going have to figure out what the car has because we're going to have a lot of cars to pass when it comes to the Pocono 500 on Sunday. That's a good part about it -- this race is long. You've got plenty of time. We've come from the back this first race before and won it. Definitely, not too concerned."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Starting Position: 19th
Are you pleased with your qualifying run? "That was the best we've run. Practice earlier I ran about a tenth slower than that. More importantly, that's the best it felt. The track's probably a little bit hotter than it was earlier and I ran a faster time, but what matters to me is I could really feel my tires up underneath me -- the front ones at least. And, those are the ones that generally cause me trouble. "
Was the test here beneficial? "Well, it gave us a lot of confidence when we left after the test because we felt like we had a pretty solid set-up and a solid test. When we got back here, we didn't feel the same feeling. So, testing is crazy. Sometimes you wonder about it all, but you learn. Basically, what we need is more track time with these cars."