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Jun 20, 2014 - 06:42 PM
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2014 Sonoma Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - AJ Allmendinger
Posted by: ASkyler on Jun 20, 2014 - 06:41 PM
NASCAR News
2014 Sonoma Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - AJ Allmendinger


AJ ALLMENDINGER, NO. 47 KINGSFORD/CLOROX CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Sonoma Raceway and discussed racing Sonoma, progress team is making and other topics.

YOU ARE A NATIVE OF LOS GATOS, CALIFORNIA. SONOMA COULD BE A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO PICK-UP A WIN THIS WEEKEND. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT BEING HOME IN CALIFORNIA AND BEING AT SONOMA:

"It is always good to come back to Sonoma. I missed it last year for a good reason, I was winning at Road America (Wisconsin - NASCAR Nationwide Series), so we will just put that out there (laughs). I missed being here. Being a home race for me, it is nice to see my family, and some friends and all that. But it is one of those things that you have to split up between doing your job, and then seeing all your friends and kind of hanging out and catching up. A good opportunity to try and get a win. But, you can’t put too much pressure on yourself getting here saying this is the only race we have a shot to win at. Just kind of taking the weekend as it comes, and really going from there - step-by-step. Really proud of this team so far where we have gotten. Excited to announce that Clorox signed up for three more years, so that is good to have that on our race car and to get that solidified. By the end of their contract, I think it will be 20 years that they have been with this race team. Just a great brand to have on this car. Good things going into this weekend and hopefully we can build on that and have a good weekend all together."


 

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DO YOU REALLY LOOK AT THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY WITH ALL OF YOUR ROAD COURSE EXPERIENCE TO MAKE IT INTO THE CHASE WITH A WIN HERE?

"I would be lying if I said I didn’t come in here with the mindset that we have a shot to win this thing. But at the same point, the Sprint Cup Series every weekend, it is so tough now. It is a lot different than 10-15 years ago when I thought you looked at the series and said maybe there are five, or eight or ten guys at most that can win on a road course race. Now it is so deep and everybody has gotten so good at road course racing in general. We tested here for two days, which was big because I felt like what we started here with at the test, we would have been way off if we had come back and hadn’t tested. It was a good two-day test. I don’t want to walk into this weekend saying ‘If we don’t win this race, then it is a disappointment’. We just need to have a solid weekend, and if we can run inside the top-10, good. And, if we can be inside the top-five and have a shot to win it, then it’s a great weekend. That is how I look at it."

THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS, YOU HAVEN’T HAD GREAT RUNS, ARE YOU IMPROVING?

"You have to look at the nature of our team, it just doesn’t happen overnight. Last year this team was 30th or 31st in points. I feel like the Series itself has gotten deeper with everybody stepping up their level of competition. We are going to have those weeks, up and down. We’re not a Hendrick team. It is what it is. We are a one car team that is slowly building. I think if you look at RCR as a whole, just the general from the alliance to RCR itself, we’re all a little bit behind. It’s not like the RCR cars are dominating, and we’re hanging on to the back. We’re all pretty close together. I think it has opened the question, are we good? We have the potential of being good. Are we there yet? No. On our best weekends like this, can we go win a race? I think we can, but are we going to have weekends to where the last couple of weeks we just struggled to run 20th. That is the nature of it. I was kind of….you look at it last week, and I was frustrated after we got done with the race and thinking ‘man, we are struggling’. Then you look at the guys I was racing around during the race - Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle - those type of guys. It is tough in this series right now. We just have to keep getting better each weekend. We’re going to have our ups and downs. We’ve had some great runs this year. We’ve had some runs that you would expect from a single-car team that is trying to build. So, the good thing is our team owner, Tad Geschickter, he is the most patient person, and I’m not. So, I get done and I’m like "we’ve got to fix this’. As he told me when we started this, ‘this isn’t a one-weekend, a one-race, a one-year thing. I’m in this team for a long-term period’. We just have to keep getting stronger together."

HAVE YOU USED THE STRONG RUN AT TALLADEGA IN MAY TO PROPEL THE TEAM FORWARD AT DAYTONA IN JULY?

"The good thing is our ECR engine has a ton of power when it comes to the superspeedway races. A lot of that is based on luck too. I thought we had a fast car, but I had to miss all the wrecks, too. I was around about three of them, and that is just part of it. I look where we are strong and we are weak…our superspeedway program. At Daytona, we had a fast car, and we had a mechanical failure. At Talladega, obviously as you said, finished fifth. Our short-track program has been pretty good. I think the places we struggle are really the mile-and-a-half race tracks. I feel like those are the tracks where you really see the bigger budgets really come out because aerodynamics are so critical there. Just having those extra resources, and that extra testing that those teams do, really help them on the mile-and-a-half race tracks. So I feel like that is where our weakness is. We got to Daytona in a couple weeks. Hopefully it is off of a couple of really great runs here and at Kentucky next week. We’ll just play it out and see how it goes. The way I look at those races is you just have to put yourself in the right place. If it goes wrong when you are in that spot, then it goes wrong. As you are not the cause of the big one. That’s all you can do."

HOW MUCH OF AN UNKNOWN IS QUALIFYING HERE?

"It will be interesting. I think out of all the places we have been to, this will be…I won’t say crazy, but I think it is hard to determine. The spotters and the teams I feel like throughout the course of the qualifying, they’ve done a good job. You don’t want to get in anybody’s way. You don’t want anybody to get in your way. I’m sure there are people who have gotten blocked for a lap or two, but for the most part I feel like qualifying has worked out where teams are nice to each other, and spotters work with each other to get their driver a clean lap. Here it is hard to do. You can sit here on pit road and say ‘okay, there is nobody coming into (turn) 11 for 10 seconds, roll out there and have a clean lap. Well, by the time you get back to 11 to start your lap, how many more cars could have rolled out. And that is something you don’t want to use your tires on your out-lap. You kind of want to get them up to temp, but you don’t want to over abuse them. I think those are what is really going to be critical, especially the first group. As you start getting less cars, it’s not as big of a deal. But the first group you are going to have a lot of cars that are maybe on a cool down lap, or are trying to get their tires in when somebody is on a hot lap. It’s hard to hide around here. You can’t really hide and get out of the way. I think that is what will be the most critical. Hopefully we have good speed out in practice, and we see that and can go out in the first group and can nail a lap, and then just sit and wait and let your tires cool down. It will definitely be interesting."

HAVE YOU NOTICED THE RACING HERE GETTING MORE AGGRESSIVE HERE IN THE LAST FEW YEARS?

"I think just the competition level has stepped up. It’s not like if you are fast, you kind of blister through the pack and you have a few guys you are racing. You look at how deep the field is now at the road course races, that’s why it is aggressive, because it is hard to pass. Everybody is so close. If you get kind of stuck in the back of the pack, it is hard to go anywhere. You look at Marcos (Ambrose) last year at Watkins Glen - he was leading the race, and pit strategy worked out where he restarted 20th, and it was hard for him to go anywhere, and he dominated that race. It just shows how deep the field is especially around this place. It is so tight. The double-file restarts are some of that. Before when it was single, everybody was kind of in line and then if you made a pass, you made a pass. You go through these first how-many corners side-by-side and that is when you can really make your most time. So it’s definitely gotten more aggressive and I think the competition level has just gotten higher, and that is what it relates to everybody being so aggressive. Also around this place, your fenders don’t matter as much as Watkins Glen, so people seem to use them up a little bit more."

WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THIS COURSE FOR YOU, AND WHY?

"The biggest thing to me is just saving your rear tires. That is something that this place - especially with how much horsepower these cars have now - just being able to save your rear tires. You’ve seen in these races the person that is able to have better forward drive as the run goes on; the first few laps the tires have a lot of grip and everybody is kind of getting after it. But after about five, six, seven laps the rear tires really start to off and you see the cars that have better forward and lateral bite off of the esses and off of 11 here; those are the good cars. In practice it is really forcing on getting good forward drive and saving the rear tires. Then in the race, when you are behind someone, that is really the critical thing is to not fall into their tempo and their mistakes, and using your car more trying to get around them. It is real easy to see a guy make a mistake or just try to be aggressive, and you quickly burn your rear tires off, and then you are done the rest of the stint. I think that is what everybody works on here, and that is what they focus on is trying to get the forward drive. If you don’t have that, you aren’t going to win the race, so it is the most critical part of this race track to me."

WHEN YOU GO TO WHERE YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY ARE NEAR HERE, DO YOU CRUISE AROUND, OR WHAT DO YOU DO?

"I hated high school, so I definitely don’t go back to high school. My goal of high school was just getting through it. I had to have a 3.0 to make sure I got through it so I could race every weekend. That was it. I made the mistake one time, it was during the winter. I always found my grades going into the winter were better because I wasn’t racing go karts all winter. I made the mistake one time and thought I would see how good I could get my grades, and I got a 4.0, and my Mom was like ‘hmmm, okay I see now’. I don’t go back to high school. I wouldn’t even say I roll through my old town. Nobody really knows me, and that is the way I like it. I sneak under the radar, and nobody really knows me, that is my happiest moment. I actually don’t get back much. I am fortunate enough that my parents come to a lot of races; they come to all the west coast races. They still live in Hollister, and they come to at least 10 or 12 races. I only come back really for Christmas."

TALK ABOUT KENTUCKY - THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THAT RACE TRACK AND THE CHALLENGES:

"It is definitely the most unique mile-and-a-half race track that they had. It is definitely bumpy. It is kind of wavy. It’s not like harsh bumps, but there are a lot of waves in the race track. I think one and two is way different than three and four the way you drive them. It is unique. It makes it a lot of fun. There is not a top of grip on the race track; I think that is why we see such good racing there. The line kind of moves out and the tires go off, but it is a tough place to set your car up for. It is one of those weekends if the weather is right where you practice during the day, and then you go into the night, and it makes it critical to try to guess what the setup is going to do as you go into the nighttime. It is a fun race track. I never got to run a lot of trucks or Nationwide there. I didn’t do any races. Only tested there a little big, so it’s been a lot of fun when we race there."


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