AJ ALLMENDINGER, No. 84 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Starting Position: 4th Were those qualifying laps all driving skill? "I would like to say that it was all driving skill, but it really wasn't. I just want to thank everybody at...
Were those qualifying laps all driving skill? "I would like to say that it was all driving skill, but it really wasn't. I just want to thank everybody at Red Bull -- they busted their butts to get this car ready. It was important for everybody at the team to make this race, but it was probably doubly important for me to make it -- just getting back in. They worked so hard -- I just want to thank them, all the credit goes to them and Toyota -- they brought a ton of horsepower. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, but unfortunately we didn't do any drafting practice so now I have to start near the front and see where that goes."
What happens the first time you come to pit road as you car was set up to qualify? "I think it would be a little different if this was Daytona, but Talladega is a lot smoother with a lot more grip on it. We'll keep having to adjust on it, but everybody is just going to be in a big group. It's such a long race, hopefully we just kind of take our time whether it is at the front or at the back and just work from there. You just wait to go until it's 50 laps to go. I'm looking forward to every bit of it."
What were you thinking inside the car? "I don't think I've ever been so nervous to shift a race car as I have been today. There's not a lot that a driver can do except by missing a shift or not being smooth on the wheel, but I got through the gears and let off a big sigh and thought, 'let's move onto the next thing'. All the credit goes to everybody at Red Bull Racing and at Toyota. They worked hard and they knew how important making this race was for me. Hopefully we go tomorrow and have a good race and kick start the rest of the year."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&Ms Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 5th
After performing so well at Daytona, I bet you couldn't wait to get back to a restrictor plate race? "Well, actually we probably could because this is Talladega and I don't run very well here. I don't finish, ever, here. We'll see how it goes this week. The M&Ms Toyota is pretty strong here off the truck. We made some changes to it, trying to make it better in race trim and make it suck up better. That stuff sort of helped us there. It qualified well so that doesn't necessarily matter. We'll see what happens and see if we can keep it upfront there at the beginning part of the race and what not. If we get shuffled back we'll just go to the back. That is going to be pretty hard I'm sure with the way I am, but that is what you've got to do to finish here."
Can you talk about how good the Joe Gibbs Racing cars have been today? "Yeah we are very good. It's a testament to Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing just building some great race cars. A good qualifying effort today for the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota and the rest of Joe Gibbs (Racing), but what lies in tomorrow's race is really what counts so we'll hopefully try to keep it up front again. If not, we might fade to the back even though that's not quite my style. That's how you finish them here so we've got to figure out how to finish them."
Will you really drop back tomorrow? "If you expect to be in victory lane you're probably going to have to. We'll see how it all plays out and what shakes in the beginning of the race and see how crazy everybody is and we'll go from there."
Do you already have a strategy figured out or are you going to play it by ear? "You play it by ear, really. It's just hard to figure out what exactly to do at restrictor plate races. For us, watching races from the past, it seems as though guys that hang back can stay out of trouble and do the best."
What is the key to the Joe Gibbs cars qualifying so well today? "I think it's just great racecars and a lot of work in the shop trying to get the things to roll good without drag and then building the good bodies without drag. Obviously, horsepower and having that Toyota horsepower upfront."
Are the longer tracks more fun or more work? "They're easier to drive and the cars seem to be a little bit easier to get around the race track at the bigger tracks because they don't turn in a 40-acre field and we've got about a 40-acre field here. We've got it to where it will probably work ok."
How fun is it on a track like this to get out and cut it loose? "You can't ever cut it loose because you've got guys that are all over you all the time with the draft and the way the plates are and everything. You're stuck with everybody all the way around. If you can get by yourself and get out there's probably times if they were unrestricted you could probably pull away a little bit, but that's not the racing that we have."
How many friends do you have behind you now? "Well, I either have a lot of friends or I have no friends. They're either happy for me or mad at me. I think that there are a lot of good guys out there that will help us. There are a lot of good guys I found yesterday that we can probably work with in the draft. Who's my car worked well with and who's worked well with mine. That's kind of how you have to play it here at restrictor plate races."
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 7th
What is it about superspeedways that these Toyotas are qualifying so well? "It's just a testament to what Mark Cronquist (JGR engine builder) does and everyone at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) helping to develop these engines. Toyota has really been good over the last year and a half on these superspeedways so our whole FedEx Freight team is excited about this weekend. I've got to say congratulations to all the FedEx employees -- its 35 years this weekend. It's older than me. It's been a good weekend so far. We've practiced really well and I'm excited about the race on Sunday."
Does it matter what your pit selection is this week? "That does matter because most of the time you come in here it's under green you don't want to be blocked in by somebody. For the most part it probably matters less here than any other race track we go to."
Since the resurfacing here has this track gotten faster and smoother? "Yeah, it's been great. The people that resurfaced this place has done just an excellent job. As fast as we run around here and as smooth as it is, it's just amazing that anyone did that good of a job repaving this place. Hopefully any of the new race tracks to come will use the same company because they're great."
Does it feel good to already get a win this season? "Yeah, it's good to get the win pressure off of you early in the season. It kind of lets you race a little bit more relaxed the rest of the season. Our whole FedEx Freight team has been working hard each and every week to try to get those wins and to try to get those bonus points for the chase. To get one knocked out early is definitely going to be a bonus for us."
How was your qualifying run? "The Red Bull No. 83 team did a really good job today. They've done a really good job of improving on the speedway program since the beginning of this program -- which was only what a year and a few months ago? We've come a long ways. We're really happy with the car yesterday in race trim. We're pretty happy with it in qualifying. I wish we could have done a little bit better, but I think we'll have a really good start tomorrow."
Why did you start your qualifying lap on the bottom rather than the top? "Did I do that? I can't count very well and I get confused and sometimes I forget to go to the bottom when I go up top so I just figured I would just start there."
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Starting Position: 26th
Were you happy with your first qualifying run at a superspeedway? "Yeah, you know you always want better, but the Aaron's Dream Machine Camry was really good yesterday. Superspeedway racing is new to me so it's going to be something that we're going to have to learn a lot tomorrow and try to stay out of trouble and try to make some friends. I'm really happy with Bill Pappas (crew chief) and all the Aaron Dream Machine guys that worked really hard at the shop to build us a good speedway car. This new car is hard to get speed out of it and they've done a good and hopefully we'll be able to start in the top-20 here and just have a good day tomorrow and run all of the laps."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Starting Position: 33rd
You had a good pickup from the first lap to the second lap, but are you surprised at how slow the speed was? "Yeah, it was not very fast. The important thing is we're in -- we're in the top-35. We certainly didn't pull out all of the stops, but I definitely thought it would have run a lot faster than that but it didn't so we'll just concentrate on the race."
How is your car going to be tomorrow at the start of the race? "Depending on where we start, you just try to either -- depending on what group you want to -- if you want to try to follow in the back and play it safe there or if you want to try to run up through there. The car is pretty versatile and moves around a lot and I think everybody's car is driving pretty well. We just have to get with a good pack of cars and see if we can either ride somewhere or ride to the front -- one way or the other."
-credit: toyota motorsports