NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest
January 15, 2010
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
DENISE MALOOF: A.J. Allmendinger is here. Richard Petty Motorsports, new year, new look. Did you have an interesting off-season?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well, first off, the off-season was not that good because I tried to do some go-kart racing and I got my butt kicked by a lot of 12-year-olds. For that, that was not good. I know we need to have a good year at Richard Petty Motorsports because in those two go-kart races I've gotten my butt kicked enough that I'm good for the year.
I'm really excited being a part of the Ford Racing family, and I think with all the changes at Richard Petty Motorsports made, I'm really pumped up to go out there and get the season started and come here to Daytona. I know we'll have a lot of horsepower and fast race cars, and hopefully that will just translate into the rest of the season.
Q. Can you explain what it's been like in the shop, especially since you're working under the Roush Fenway umbrella and trying to prepare things where they have such -- it's not as easy as just grabbing a part and putting it on a car, that there's a process and accounting and approvals and paperwork? It's a new way of doing business, and especially in light of you all did run some boards at the end of last year, but they were not the Roush Fords. The noses were different because your engines didn't fit. Are you a little bit behind right now? And how frantic is it in the shop right now?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Well, I think with change there always comes a little bit of time and trying to figure out how the process is working. I'd be lying if I said that we were ahead of schedule. Definitely everybody is working hard in the shop. But you know, my Daytona cars are about done, and they're working on the process of getting the next group of cars in.
You know, I think as hard as they're working, I haven't seen that much excitement from the guys in a long time, and I think that's the coolest thing is the fact that everybody knows the opportunity that we have here being a part of Ford and working with Roush Fenway and having that relationship and just trying to use the knowledge, and obviously that organization is one of the best ones to go after and be a part of.
You know, they're working hard as we speak. They've got a lot of work to do. We get to test on Monday in New Smyrna, so that's something I'm looking forward to, getting back in the car and feeling it out and learning what it's all about. There's a lot of excitement, and you'll see it on my face a lot.
I feel that this is probably my best opportunity. It's the first time I can come into the season with just the knowledge and the goal of going out there and running great every weekend and possibly having a chance of contending for the Chase. I think that we have that possibility, and for the first time coming here to Daytona, I know I'm actually going to be in the show. I'm pretty sure -- I don't think 11 or 12 points can buy points from me and knock me out, so I'm pretty sure we're in the show. I'm really pumped up, and so is everybody else.
Q. You mentioned the go-karts. As far as your ability there, even though you didn't have really great results, do you think that that transfers to the regular season? Does it help you to race more in other words in that type of racing?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, I think it'll -- driving a go-kart is nothing like driving a stock car. It's nothing like driving a Cup car. So in that aspect, it doesn't help in that sense learning things about a Cup car. But at the same point, just having your relaxes in the off-season -- go-karts are one of the best things to drive in general for training and especially for racing to go out there and just keep in shape. I'm a guy that enjoys working out. I try to work out every day, and you can go to a gym and work out every day that you want, but there's nothing like simulating being in a race car and especially a go-kart because they're so physically hard to drive.
For me it's about racing. If I could race every week and race something, I would. It's about trying to have fun. Obviously you saw on my face it wasn't a lot of fun because I still hate getting my butt kicked. But it's enjoyable to go out there and do it a lot more. Obviously with the Cup schedule, it's hard to go out there and find time to actually race a go-kart and enjoy it.
But I think just doing that, I kind of -- I hadn't been in -- it's hard for me because in the last couple years not having a lot of racetracks around the Charlotte area, I haven't been in a go-kart, so I only got to do it once or twice a year, and that was something that was tough. So being able to do those races, the PRI show and do the WKA cart week out here, it kind of got those juices flowing and got me excited. I think I'm going to work on a go-kart team and have stuff for me to run during the week when I want and have a friend of mine that ran Paul Tracy Karting when I raced it run the team. It's just fun to be driving something.
Q. Assuming you'll drive the 43 car this year, could you speak to that a little bit? I know your respect for the King, what it means to be driving that race car in NASCAR.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah. Just being a part of Richard Petty Motorsports in general, last year just being able to drive for the king is something that I cherish, something that I respect a lot. I'm honored that he chooses me to drive one of his race cars, and it means a lot. I know the history of it, and it's something that I take to heart. Hopefully I can go out there and just make him proud, and that's important to me. I want to run well for the whole race team, but especially for the king, just go out there and make him proud. Obviously he got a couple of wins last year with Casey, and that was great. But to be able to put that car back in Victory Lane would be something that I'll always remember, and hopefully can just make him proud. That's something that is real important to me, and I want to work and do everything I can on and off the racetrack to try to make that happen.
Q. Follow-up question about the Ford Armada that seems to be growing out there this year. Casey last week in Nashville talked about his teammates and mentioned seven guys, the four Roush guys and the RPM guys. How do you view the relationship between RPM and Roush at this point and do you consider yourself part of that team?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: We're going to have those ties as a Ford Racing family. For me I'm still fairly young at stock car racing. This will be my fourth year, but this will only be my second full year. So for me to be able to add four guys that I can go to at any time and share information with, especially the caliber of drivers that they have over there, it's just something that I know I can learn a lot more from. I hope I can bring something to those guys, too, at some point and help maybe step their game up a little bit. But I know for me just having four more strong guys, whether we're sharing car information or I can just go pick their brain about driving these racetracks, it's something that's going to help me a lot. That just adds to the excitement of being part of Ford and what we've got going on at RPM.
I know, as I said, as the year goes on, we're just going to get stronger. But I know just the fact that I can use all the tools that are going to be there to help me out is something that's going to be big for me this year.
Q. Coming from an open-wheel background yourself, what kind of learning curve do you think Danica Patrick is going to face? I know you didn't race with her in Champ Car, but have you seen anything to suggest she could be successful?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I got to race against her in go-karts and Barber Dodge and the Atlantic Series. She's definitely got the talent. I mean, I know if she -- she wouldn't have gotten to this point without any talent. Still as a race car driver no matter what promotional tool you use or anything like that, you still have to have talent to go out there and be able to do that. She's definitely in the right situation. That was something when I came into NASCAR I struggled with. I was on a brand new team with a brand new manufacturer at that point, didn't have a lot of test data, wasn't in a stock car a lot. That was something that I fought and I felt like it put me behind a lot just trying to learn the race car instead of learning how to race the car. Those race weekends I was just running laps really instead of trying to race the car.
She's got the right situation where she's at and doing some ARCA races and doing the Nationwide Series. She's definitely going to be doing it the right way, and obviously I think she's still going to be an IndyCar driver for at least a few years. The way the schedule breaks up, it looks like she'd be able to run the stock car and then focus on the IndyCar because there's no way -- I only did it for two races between Champ Car and running the Truck Series in '06 when I was looking at making the switch. There's no way possible that you can run both cars kind of back-to-back each weekend and be focused on the right way. They're so different, just driving the race car was completely different. I had to do it at Road America in the Champ Car. I came back after doing two truck races and had won four out of the last six Champ Car races. I was three seconds off after a practice session. That's how different it is. She's going to be doing it the right way and she's got the talent.
You don't really truly understand how difficult it is until you start doing it, and that's something that's going to be tough for her. But we've seen that she's strong-willed. She's obviously under a lot of pressure all the time. She sticks at it and keeps doing it, I think she'll be successful at it.
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you, A.J. we'll see you soon.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|