AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 44 Ford. Drive one. Ford Fusion is coming off a 10th-place finish last weekend at Texas in his Ford debut with Richard Petty Motorsports. Allmendinger, who will be driving the final two races in a Ford as well, spoke about joining the manufacturer full-time in 2010.
A LOT OF PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW THAT THIS ISN'T YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE DRIVING WITH FORD RACING.
"I guess it's a small world in racing and everything always seems to come full circle. It was great because in Champ Car in 2004, I actually started in 2003, but the Champ Car Series just went to one engine manufacturer and it was a Ford Cosworth, so we have good memories of racing Fords. Now if we could just get these Cup engines turbo-charged we'd be sweet. It would be great, but there are a lot of fond memories and, obviously, in 2006 we got on that roll and won five out of nine and kind of left on a hot streak. So it's exciting for me to be able to come back and experience being a part of the Ford family again, and I think people don't really notice it because we were just one engine manufacturer there and it wasn't that main competition level, but the Ford Cosworth people were fantastic and I look forward to the same here."
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST GOAL FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM IN THE NO. 44 FORD THESE LAST TWO RACES?
"We want to learn. It's not as easy as just pulling the sticker off the car from a Dodge and putting it on as a Ford and just putting a new motor in the car. You've got to change the front of the car and change the rear of the car a little bit to match what the Ford template is, and I think that's really just want we've got to learn. The team built a brand-new car for Texas and we've got a car ready for Phoenix as well, but there is a learning curve. In a perfect world, you just want to go throw it on the race track and go, 'There's that Ford power. Everything feels great. The car is handling great. We're gonna go win.' But it's not that easy because the competition is so tough, so I think in these last couple of races we want to learn a lot. Obviously, we want to run well, but we just want to build a notebook going into next year and that's really what it's all about. We've got a great opportunity to learn and be ready for Daytona and really start the season when this 43 team next year will have had time to work together. We'll have had about 10 races and that will be important, but, no matter what, I'd still like to go out there and average in the top 15 these last three races and hopefully get a couple of top-10s and have something to be excited about in the off season."
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOUR LEARNING CURVE HAS GONE ON THE CUP SIDE?
"I've experienced a lot of change in Cup in three years. I've gone from a couple of different teams and three different manufacturers now, so I'm getting the full gauntlet of what it's like to be in Cup, but this year I have to take it as good and bad. Heck, I was only scheduled to run five or eight races this year and we've run the full season. We had to be out of the top 35 in points at the start of the season and now we're solidly in. We're 26th, but, at the same time, I know we could have been better. There's just a lot of little stuff like getting caught up in wrecks and little things that have happened that have cost us maybe being in the top 20 in points. I really feel like that's where we should be for a full season and where we could have been, but, at the same time, we had to switch teams during the year when the 43 and the 44 teams switched. I got to work with Mike Shiplett and the guys last year when I came over to the team, but we were split apart at the beginning of this year and now we're back together, so it's just a lot of stuff that we've learned. All in all, I can't complain. I've run the full season and, like I said, I look at these last few races that whether we move up in points or move back in points, if we can just have strong races and learn a lot going into next year, I can look at these three races as successful and that's really what I'm all about."
Credit: Ford Racing