Thursday, April 29, 2010

Richmond Preview

No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion

• Allmendinger has made six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at the .75-mile Richmond, Va. track
• Allmendinger holds down 24th place in the owner points standings

AJ Allmendinger on Richmond: “Richmond is a cool track to go to. Obviously it is completely opposite of racing at Talladega. We go from one of the largest tracks back to short track racing. I’m looking forward to what this weekend will bring. We had a really strong No. 43 Ford Fusion this past weekend but didn’t have quite the result to show for it. I’m so proud of this Richard Petty Motorsports team. They gave me great pit stops at Talladega and good pit stops will be key this Saturday night at Richmond.

“The fans are going to get to see lots of beating and banging under the lights. We grabbed the pole and ran well a couple weeks ago at Phoenix and while Phoenix isn’t exactly like Richmond, I’m ready to get there and see what we can do with this No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion.”

Crew Chief Mike Shiplett’s Thoughts on Richmond: “Richmond has a really compact schedule, almost like a one day show, so it’ll be a busy weekend. The track is great though and it’s cool to race there under the lights. It’s always great to get back to short-track racing. Going into Richmond we now have a pretty good understanding of the spoiler. This No. 43 Valvoline team has had some strong runs the last couple of races even though last week in particular, we didn’t have the finishes that equal those runs.

“Track position is really key here so how we qualify will be a big focus and then our pit stops will have to all be solid. Richmond is a high speed track, but the fans are definitely going see some beating and banging. Like with Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, we’ll face practicing and qualifying during the daytime and racing at night. We’ll have to keep our eye on how the track changes as the sun goes down and be sure we’re prepared to make any necessary changes to the car to adjust to changing conditions.”

Chassis History: The No. 43 Valvoline team led by crew chief Mike Shiplett has prepared chassis No. 289 for this Saturday’s race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. This is the Ford Fusion Allmendinger and the No. 43 team raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in February.

Support The Paralyzed Veterans of America: There are several ways you can help support the PVA, a veterans service organization established in 1946 that helps our military heroes who have experienced spinal cord injury or dysfunction. Enter a raffle to win a Jeep CJ-2A Willys restored by Petty's Garage. Visit Don’t miss out on the second annual King’s Cup—Karting For A Cause event hosted by Richard Petty on Tuesday, May 25. To learn more about how you can participate in the King’s Cup, visit:

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Ramble: Talladega Edition

Sexy’s Been Brought. So What’s Next for AJ Allmendinger? Maybe You Can Help Decide.

Imagine you’re a twenty-five year old open-wheel racing superstar, coming off of a major winning streak. You find out you have just been handed a prestigious NASCAR Cup series ride with an innovative sponsor like energy drink giant, Red Bull. The majority of NASCAR fans don’t have a clue who you are, and the company wants to give you a catch phrase or slogan that they can market. What do you use?

That is the predicament that AJ Allmendinger found himself in as he prepared for his debut NASCAR season in 2007. An avowed music lover, AJ turned to the latest hit songs for inspiration. It just so happened that Justin Timberlake had a new single out titled SexyBack. It had a good beat and you could dance to it, so AJ used it as inspiration. He proclaimed that he was going to bring sexy back to NASCAR.

The phrase stuck, perhaps more than AJ wanted it to. I would guess that everywhere he went and every appearance he did that Justin Timberlake song was playing. He was also teased a bit by the media during interviews, most notably during his first appearance on SPEED Channel’s Trackside show. At that time AJ clarified that the sexy he was bringing to NASCAR was his wife Lynne.

Nevertheless, the catchphrase and the song continued to be associated with the driver as he went through the hard knocks of his rookie year. When Red Bull replaced AJ with veteran Mike Skinner for five races in early 2008, signs and petitions went up everywhere stating that fans wanted sexy back in NASCAR. The fans got their wish as AJ made his return for the spring Talladega race, now behind the wheel of a “sexier” silver #84 car.

Since that time, AJ has been through a lot of transitions in his NASCAR career. He came to a new team, went through two manufacturer changes and a couple of company mergers. Now he has settled into the King’s famous #43 car with sponsor Insignia/Best Buy on the hood. AJ has the ability as a driver to win races, and is continuing to develop the chemistry and confidence in his team to make his first trip to Victory Lane.

Yes, things have changed for AJ. So now it’s only natural that he might want to update his slogan or catchphrase. Bringing sexy back to NASCAR has gone a little stale after the eventful career he’s had so far. When Darrell Waltrip asked him about the saying on AJ’s most recent visit to SPEED’s Trackside stage, AJ seemed open to the idea of a change. Not only that, but he wants his dedicated throng of fans to help him out in finding a new slogan.

AJ is up for the fan vote in this year’s Sprint All-star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. And according to sources at Sprint, he is ranked in the top ten for the number of votes he has received. During his latest Trackside appearance, AJ threw out the possibility of letting the fans choose his new catchphrase – on one condition. The fans have to vote him into the All-star race first.

When I asked AJ if he was seriously thinking about giving his fans that power, he replied in the affirmative. Here is what AJ said on the subject via his Twitter account: “Everyone knows now I'm sexy and I brought that to NASCAR. Time to change it up. New ERA with Best Buy, time for a new slogan.”

Wow! What an exciting incentive for Dinger fans to start voting extra hard for their driver. And for fans whose favorite driver is already in the race, this is an opportunity to have a little fun in helping a driver find a new marketing image. Only time will tell whether or not AJ wins that fan vote. In the meantime, NASCAR fans should start thinking about a slogan that fits AJ the best. Yours might be the one he picks.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Talladega Race Recap

Sunday’s race was a typical Talladega race with almost non-stop action from the drop of the green clear through the third attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. For the most part the cars were two or three wide the entire time, and while there was plenty of crashing going on, no cars went airborne during this restrictor plate race.

I’ve gone on record as saying that I don’t like Talladega. In fact, I hate it. It’s nerve wracking because you have no clue what kind of day your driver is going to have until he has actually crossed the finish line for the final time. With most other races, you have an idea of what to expect based on how he is running early. If his car is good, you’re hoping for a top 10 or a top 5. If he’s not doing so well, you have to set your sights on just making the most points possible. But at Talladega, you can go from 1st to 30th on the last lap. My stomach was churning with anxiety the entire time.

So why did I watch? Because I couldn’t not watch. Fear of the unknown is worse than just facing the anxiety of AJ having a bad finish, or god forbid, a bad accident. The racing was exciting, though. It certainly makes your adrenaline pump while watching, so I can see the fascination with it. And I definitely enjoyed watching that #43 Best Buy/Insignia Ford Fusion leading the freight train a few times. Still, give me a race where the drivers have more control of their destiny and I’ll be happier.

With only three starts at Talladega and finishes all in the 30-something range, AJ’s finish of 19th on Sunday actually wasn’t that bad. He was also the highest of the four RPM cars, but that was mostly due to him being the only one of the bunch that wasn’t involved in an accident. Getting in a wreck was one of the few things that the #43 team didn’t have to face during the race, even though there were a few close calls.

While AJ and spotter Tony managed to keep the Insignia car out of all the big pileups though, the team still had their share of trouble. Problems with the front shock rebound made it difficult for the front tire changers to pull the tires out of the wheel wells during pit stops and setting AJ back each time he made a stop.

Then there was some sort of hiccup with the fuel supply system on a restart that made the engine not run good. There was a moment of panic as the fuel pressure gauge bounced around before finally settling back into place, but unfortunately the sputtering car had lost the draft and was drifting further and further behind each lap. A timely caution saved AJ from going a lap down though, and the mysterious problem never resurfaced.

AJ did get some drafting help throughout the race from a somewhat unlikely source – the #18 JGR car of Kyle Busch. The two seemed to be very fast together, and AJ shot right to the front of the pack on several occasions. While the lead swapped back and forth often in the same lap, AJ was officially credited with leading at the line on three different occasions, for a total of five laps.

As the race wound down and the inevitable triple green-white-checker situation set itself up, AJ and the team faced the most troublesome of the problems that had plagued them all afternoon. For whatever reason, the motor in AJ’s car was very sluggish coming up through the gears. Once up to speed in the draft, he ran just fine.

On the final restart though, the #43 car just couldn’t get going and the line he was in wasn’t going to wait for him. He got left out in the cold and dropped like a rock through the pack, barely managing to latch on to the back end of the field. From there he had no one to draft with and move back up into the top 15 where he had spent most of the day.

AJ ended up finishing in 19th place, which really wasn’t indicative of how the Insignia Ford ran all day. But I said before the race that a good day at Dega for me means all the drivers get out of there safely, and that was achieved. Now onto Richmond and some REAL racing.

Talladega Post-Race Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER -- No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion
Finished 19th

“I’m really proud of this Insignia/Best Buy team. My guys worked really hard and gave me some really good stops. You never know what Talladega is going to bring. This place is so crazy. Our Ford Fusion was really fast. My crew chief Mike Shiplett and spotter Tony Hirschman were definitely key in keeping me calm and out of those accidents today.”


KASEY KAHNE -- No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion
Finished 21st
“We seemed to get in everybody else’s mess today, but I was the one that missed pit road and got us back there. We were pretty quick the whole race and I just misjudged pit road. I hit the brakes and thought I could beat a bunch of guys in, but the car in front of me hit the car pretty strong and got slowed up way early, so I had to go around him and keep going. To me though, NASCAR let us do our thing today. It was pretty wild and pretty crazy. There was a lot of pushing, but not too many wrecks. It was no worse than any other time and they just left it up to the drivers, so I actually thought it was pretty cool.”


PAUL MENARD -- No. 98 Turtle Wax/Menards Ford Fusion
Finished 25th
“Our Turtle Wax/Menards Ford Fusion was pretty good at the start. We were racing hard, but we were also trying to race smart. You knew even before the race started that there were going to be problems and all you could do was hope you could somehow avoid them. Everything just happens so fast in Talladega and once that wreck started, I just wasn’t able to get out of the way. There were cars coming from every direction.

“The car was still driving pretty well after the wreck, but when we were in line for the Lucky Dog award, we couldn't seem to get a caution. The guys worked really hard on pit road today and I’m proud of them. It was a day that could have been a lot better, but I suppose it could have been even worse. That’s just Talladega racing for you.”


ELLIOTT SADLER -- No. 19 Stanley/Bostitch Ford Fusion
Finished 33rd
“It’s definitely wild with this new spoiler. It’s definitely wild racing and bump drafting and it’s just Talladega at the end. I’m not sure what happened. I felt like I got hit in the right rear and turned up in the wall, but I don’t know what happened. I feel sorry for all my guys with Stanley and Bostitch that came on for this weekend.

“You know the wreck’s gonna happen. It’s Talladega and you can’t change it. You just wish that one day you’d be on the good side of it instead of the bad side, so I hate that we got in the wreck. We got in one wreck and made a bunch of repairs to it and made it better. We were just trying to get in line there at the end, but I’m not sure what happened. We’ll just try to regroup and go to Richmond.”

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Talladega Results

Aaron's 499 Finishing Order
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jamie McMurray
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Mark Martin
6. David Ragan
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Kurt Busch
9. Kyle Busch
10. Mike Bliss
11. Carl Edwards
12. Martin Truex, Jr.
13. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
14. David Reutimann
15. Scott Speed
16. Tony Stewart
17. Greg Biffle
18. Travis Kvapil
19. AJ Allmendinger
20. Robby Gordon
21. Kasey Kahne
22. Jeff Gordon
23. Bobby Labonte
24. Sam Hornish, Jr.
25. Paul Menard
26. Robert Richardson, Jr.
27. David Stremme
28. Matt Kenseth
29. Brian Vickers
30. Kevin Conway
31. Jimmie Johnson
32. Jeff Burton
33. Elliott Sadler
34. Brad Keselowski
35. Ryan Newman
36. Joey Logano
37. Marcos Ambrose
38. Regan Smith
39. Michael Waltrip
40. Max Papis
41. Johnny Sauter
42. Joe Nemechek
43. Dave Blaney

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Talladega Preview

No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion

• Allmendinger has made three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at the 2.66-mile Talladega, Ala. track
• The driver started the event from the fourth position in his first start there in 2008
• Allmendinger holds down 23rd place in the points standings

AJ Allmendinger on Talladega: “I am really looking forward to Talladega this week. I think our team has found some momentum and I want to keep it going. We’ve posted back-to-back top-15 finishes, plus we grabbed the pole at Phoenix and led laps there. At Texas on Monday we could have just given up after that late race accident but this No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy team just kept fighting.

“This will only be my fourth start at Talladega and I haven’t had the best of luck so far. We ran well at Daytona - our Richard Petty Motorsports Ford was so fast there - so I’m hoping some of that translates over to this weekend’s race. It was so cool to pass through the field at Daytona and put the No. 43 in the lead position. I really hope this could be the week we put the No. 43 back in Victory Lane.”

Crew Chief Mike Shiplett’s Thoughts on Talladega: “Talladega is like a big lottery. If you get in the right line at the right time you can go from the 20th position all the way to first or from first to all the way back to 20th in one lap. Its just being in the right place at the right time, finding people that will help you and missing the wrecks.

“At Talladega handling is kind of a non-issue. Its mostly about horsepower and how fast you can go because the track has so much banking and its so smooth since they’ve repaved it. You’re just wide open all the way around the 2.66-mile track. You never have to lift out of the throttle. We switch gears too this week as far as downforce goes. At Texas it was all about downforce where as here it will be about not having downforce, not having drag in the car.

“NASCAR did a test last month here and they played around with the new plate and the new spoiler. They think they found a good balance. The spoiler is not really going to make a big difference. It may affect drafting a little bit in the sense that it may make you suck up behind a car faster because the car in front of you is going to make the air get a little farther out creating a pocket for you to drive into. But that should be it. The No. 98 Richard Petty Motorsports team participated in that test so we have its notes to work with as well.”

Chassis History: The No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy team led by crew chief Mike Shiplett have prepared chassis No. 682 for Sunday’s event at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. This is the same Ford Fusion the team ran in the season opening event at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February.

Notes: The DIRECTV NASCAR Head 2 Head Challenge began this week at Texas Motor Speedway. 32 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams competed in a bracket formation challenge to benefit charities of their choosing. Allmendinger’s crew was pitted against the No. 14 team. Since the No. 43 Ford finished ahead of the No. 14, Allmendinger will compete in the next round this weekend in Talladega. This week he will be matched up against the No. 56 car driven by Martin Truex Jr.

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Texas Race Recap

If it wasn’t for Denny Hamlin winning less than three weeks after having knee surgery, Mother Nature would have been the top headline for the Texas race weekend. The Sprint Cup competitors managed to get in a practice session and qualifying on Friday, but the remainder of the weekend was completely washed out.

When the cars lined up for the race on Monday morning the drivers hadn’t turned a lap for two days, and the last time the machines had been on the oval they were in qualifying trim. Add the lack of practice time in with the debut of the spoiler at a track larger than a mile, and a new tire combination, and I’m sure some teams were apprehensive over what they would have for the 500 mile race.

AJ qualified the #43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion in 17th place and quickly moved forward three spots when the green flag flew. A tight condition overall and an especially aero-tight feel back in traffic took its toll in that first stretch of green flag laps and he lost what he gained at the beginning of the run. Thankfully the scheduled competition caution at lap 25 let them come in and make some adjustments.

Pit road was a busy place with nearly all competitors on the lead lap, and AJ got into his pit box a little deep leaving him with very little room to pull out and slowing down his pit stop. He restarted the race around 21st position and was again fast on the start, but faced the same tight condition on the longer runs. AJ moved up through the field though and was in 15th place when former teammate Brian Vickers brought out the caution.

After a short run under green another caution flag came out around lap 100 and the team decided to gamble for some track position with a 2 tire stop. The gamble seemed to work as AJ restarted in 6th position and was able to maintain pace with the lead pack. Then another short run brought them to pit road again, this time for 4 tires.

AJ took the next green flag in 18th position and was moving through the field when some tight three-wide racing led him a little too close to the grass on the apron of the track. Even though it was only a small chunk, it clogged up one of the openings on the front of the car. Thankfully AJ was observant enough to notice the water temperature climbing, and with a long green flag stretch looking eminent, Mike Shiplett called him down pit road to clean the grill.

The unscheduled stop averted a blown engine, but it put AJ down a lap to the leaders in 29th place. Since Shiplett made the call to fill the car full of fuel while he was on pit road, AJ was out of sync with the leaders of the race. As green flag pit stops started to cycle through, the hope was for the caution to come just right in order for AJ to be back on the lead lap. Unfortunately, green flag stops came and went a couple of times with no luck falling AJ’s way.

Leaving AJ out as long as he could each run almost backfired for Shiplett and AJ even went two laps down at one point. The green Insignia car was fast though, and AJ passed the leader in order to get one of those laps back. Then just when it seemed like hope was lost and he would end up two laps down again, the caution finally came out. This time Mike Shiplett made a gutsy call to take the wave around and get back on the lead lap, even though it would put them short on fuel.

Running in the 20th position with older tires than all the other cars on the lead lap, AJ did a great job with his Ford Fusion and picked his way through traffic. Unfortunately AJ had to pit ahead of schedule after not coming in under caution. Thankfully the race stayed green and everything cycled out again. With 40 laps to go AJ was now running in 10th place, but was short a pit stop compared to the rest of the lead pack group.

Now at this point in the race I was being cautiously optimistic. I like to say that I am a pessimist in optimist’s clothing. I really hope that luck will fall AJ’s way, but deep inside I don’t think it’s going to happen. The entire 200 laps that he spent trying to make up for that unscheduled pit stop, I kept my fingers crossed for it to work out that way, but at the same time shielded myself from disappointment by not expecting it.

The one thing that seemed different this time around was that Mike Shiplett played the part of a cheerleader for the #43 group. While AJ was almost eerily silent on the radio, Mike kept assuring both driver and team that they WOULD get their lap back. That they had too good of a car for a twenty-something place finish.

What really convinced me that AJ had a chance for a decent finish though, was when a tire rub from contact with the #24 car sent Jimmie Johnson down pit road for an unscheduled stop. As the laps wound down, AJ and Jimmie were on the same pit cycle and needed a caution to fall because they both needed to pit again. And since we all know that Jimmie has a golden horseshoe hidden somewhere, at that point I knew AJ would be alright.

Sure enough, David Reutimann felt like the race wasn’t exciting enough and decided to put on a little fire and smoke show for the crowd, drawing that much needed yellow flag. That was the good news – the bad news was that AJ was pitted just 2 stalls from Reutimann and neither crew chief nor pit crew could see him coming down pit road due to the cloud from the fire extinguisher’s used. Spotter Tony stepped in though, and guided AJ effortlessly into his box for a four tire stop.

Now in 12th place with four tires and a fast race car, AJ looked like a lock for a top ten finish. As the race restarted it was obvious that he had a better car than those ahead of him, but their battling with each other left no room for AJ to get past. Then when drivers decided to take things three wide and Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Carl Edwards all made contact in front of him, AJ just had nowhere to go and was an innocent victim in the pileup that ensued.

While AJ initially thought that the damage was severe enough to end their day, that turned out not to be the case. AJ was headed into pit road early so the team could look at the damage when the red flag came out. Knowing from an incident with teammate Kasey Kahne in a prior race that passing the pace car under red flag would earn a 1 lap penalty, Shiplett made a heads-up call to have AJ stop right at the entrance to pit road until the yellow came back out.

Sending crew guys closer to survey the damage while the race was under red flag, the crew chief then assured AJ that the repairs could be done on pit road. Once the yellow came back out, the crew went to work fixing the right front fender and making sure there were no severe mechanical problems that would jeopardize AJ’s safety if a tire were to blow out.

Even though the steering wheel was cocked slightly, indicating a problem with the toe of the car, AJ lined up for the restart at the tail end of the field for pitting too early. With 15 lap-down cars between him and the rest of the lead lap group, and not really knowing how capable his wounded car was, AJ made a wise choice to just hang back and hope for another caution to get him on the back bumper of the guys he was racing for position. This time his luck didn’t hold out though, and for what seems like the first time in ages, the race didn’t have a green-white-checker finish.

AJ brought the #43 Insignia car home in 13th position, thanks in large part to both the driver and the team never giving up. If AJ had gotten down over what happened and not driven his hardest the entire time, he probably would have ended up two laps down and in a lot worse position. Mike Shiplett did a great job up on the pit box adjusting the car and keeping the team morale up. It was just a really strong overall effort by everyone on the #43 team, and even though the car was better than a 13th place car, it truly was a great finish.

Now hopefully they will take the good momentum from Texas, as well as some of the luck that helped them out, and roll into Talladega with a good head of steam. RPM has been putting out stellar restrictor plate cars, and adding Yates horsepower under the hood should be a huge plus. I expect the cars to qualify well, but more importantly, to draft well. Anything can happen at Dega – even a first win.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Texas Post-Race Quotes

KASEY KAHNE - No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion
Finished 5th
HOW DID YOU FINISH FIFTH? "About six of them disappeared in front of me and we were left. We had a decent car. It was real loose. The front was pretty good, but the back was really loose the whole race in our Budweiser Ford so it was just kind of a struggle. Once you get back there you're pretty equal with a lot of cars, so we needed some cars to disappear."

HOW WAS YOUR DAY? "We had a good run. We started fifth, so it was a pretty decent day. We fell back at one point. The car was pretty loose the whole race, so we just fell back trying to work on it and make the right adjustments. It was a fine line, so we never really got it, but we had a good finish. The team did a good job and it was nice this weekend to get a top five, so it was good for our Budweiser Ford."

A NICE WAY TO END THE WEEK? "Yeah, it was a nice ending. I would have loved to win, like everybody here, but it was a good ending. We've had a great week and the team did an awesome job today. They stepped up and we got a top five. We probably weren't the fifth-fastest car, but that's where we ended up. We needed that, so it was good for us."


AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion
Finished 13th
"I'm proud of the whole Insignia/Best Buy Ford team. Everybody on the 43 did a great job. The car was really fast. We were a little bit tight to begin with and just kept fine-tuning and making the car better. There was so much grass on the race track. At one point we got grass in the grille and basically had to fight 150 laps to get our lap back, but the car was so fast. At the end, the car was the best it had been on the outside for that restart, but we had nowhere to go. It could have been a lot better, but it could have been a lot worse. We'll take it."

YOU GOT LUCKY IN THAT MULTI-CAR WRECK. "We got the right side damaged a little bit. The toe is pretty knocked out, so that last restart we were behind all the lapped cars. The toe was knocked out and at that point you just want to survive. Like I said, it would have been a lot better. We outran the 9 and those guys all day and they finished fifth, so I think we could have had a lot better, but we also could have been in that mess."

WHAT ABOUT THE SPOILER COMPARED TO THE WING IN RACE CONDITIONS? "It's still tight. I was really tight behind other cars, but once I got on my own I was really fast. I think it's just us as a race team to keep working on making the front of the car better because it's gonna be tight. If somebody got to the outside of you, it made it loose like the old car used to, but it was a good start."


ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 19 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Fusion
Finished 18th
"We started off pretty good, but we still have to work on our communication a little bit. We're still a young team and Wally is crew chiefing a lot of times for the first time at these tracks, so he and I still have to work on our communication. We just couldn't get the car better. We started off decent at the beginning and felt like we had something to work with, but we just never could get it better and get it in the race track like we needed to. We salvaged the best possible finish we could get, but you always want a little bit more. We'll regroup again and go to Talladega and see if we can get them there."


PAUL MENARD - No. 98 Quaker State/Menards Ford Fusion
Finished 35th
"We had a fast Ford for sure, but it just took us a long time to get going on restarts. We were hitting the splitter a little bit too hard. When we had those two or three long green-flag runs, that was when our car was the best. We could make up a lot of ground, but it was one of those deals at the end where you kind of knew it was going to happen."

WHAT DID YOU SEE DEVELOPING THAT LED TO THE MULTI-CAR WRECK? "It was so hard to pass all race long we knew that if we were going to have a caution with 20 lap to go that people were gonna try to make moves. Once it gets strung out, it's real hard to pass and that's what happened."

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE SPOILER? "The car drove a little bit different. You turned off the wall a little bit tighter and it rotated really good off the gas, but the car seemed to get a little bit tighter than with the wing. I don't know if it was just this track or if it's our setup, but we'll know more in the weeks ahead."

Credit - Ford Racing

Texas Results

Samsung Mobile 500 Finishing Order
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kurt Busch
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Mark Martin
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
9. Martin Truex, Jr.
10. Greg Biffle
11. Ryan Newman
12. Jeff Burton
13. AJ Allmendinger
14. Brad Keselowski
15. David Ragan
16. Scott Speed
17. Marcos Ambrose
18. Elliott Sadler
19. Sam Hornish, Jr.
20. Matt Kenseth
21. Regan Smith
22. Max Papis
23. Bobby Labonte
24. Travis Kvapil
25. Bill Elliott
26. Robby Gordon
27. Kevin Conway
28. Joey Logano
29. David Gilliland
30. Jamie McMurray
31. Jeff Gordon
32. Tony Stewart
33. Carl Edwards
34. Juan Pablo Montoya
35. Paul Menard
36. Clint Bowyer
37. David Reutimann
38. Brian Vickers
39. Reed Sorenson
40. Joe Nemechek
41. Michael McDowell
42. Mike Bliss
43. Dave Blaney

Friday, April 16, 2010

Texas Post-Qualifying Quotes

KASEY KAHNE - No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion
Qualified 5th

"We had a couple things that you just kind of learn over the years what the car is doing and I felt like the guys jumped on that stuff. What I fought there was hardly anything, it was actually really good and I just slid around a little bit. That was a pretty solid lap. We have a great team and it should be pretty fun on Sunday. It's a good track for us and I think we should run strong. We've qualified well. There are still some good cars to go, but it'll be a top 10 and it'll be a decent starting spot for Sunday."


AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion
Qualified 17th

"That was alright. We were just a little bit loose overall. This place is so sensitive, especially with the heat, that just trying to get the rear grip is tough. It's a fine line from being a little too loose and being just a little too tight. We would have liked to have been a little bit better. I thought we could be in the top 10, but were just too loose. I thought we had a decent car in race trim. It's gonna rain at some point here, so I don't know if we'll get any practice tomorrow. I think we'll be 18th or 19th, it'll be raceable and we'll go from there."


PAUL MENARD - No. 98 Quaker State/Menards Ford Fusion
Qualified 25th

"The draw isn't helping us for sure, but we picked up two-tenths from practice. With the way everything stacks up, the field is so close for being such a big, fast track, everybody is right on top of each other, so a little bit goes a long ways. That's just kind of so-so right there, but we've got a good race car. We were really good in practice and I was happy with how it drove. We made some adjustments that improved things, so I'm looking forward to the race."

Credit - Ford Racing

Texas Qualifying Results

Samsung Mobile 500 Starting Lineup
1. Tony Stewart
2. Sam Hornish, Jr.
3. Greg Biffle
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Jeff Burton
7. Kyle Busch
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
10. Ryan Newman
11. Kurt Busch
12. Jeff Gordon
13. David Ragan
14. Martin Truex, Jr.
15. Jamie McMurray
16. David Reutimann
17. AJ Allmendinger
18. Joey Logano
19. Kevin Harvick
20. Carl Edwards
21. Juan Pablo Montoya
22. Joe Nemechek
23. Scott Speed
24. Dave Blaney
25. Paul Menard
26. Regan Smith
27. Max Papis
28. Matt Kenseth
29. Denny Hamlin
30. Mark Martin
31. David Gilliland
32. Marcos Ambrose
33. Michael McDowell
34. Mike Bliss
35. Travis Kvapil
36. Bill Elliott
37. Brad Keselowski
38. Robby Gordon
39. Elliott Sadler
40. Kevin Conway
41. Bobby Labonte
42. Brian Vickers
43. Reed Sorenson
DNQ David Stremme
DNQ Terry Cook
DNQ Johnny Sauter

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Texas Preview

AJ Allmendinger
No. 43 Insignia Ford Fusion
• Allmendinger has made four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth-area track
• The driver posted a top-10 finish in the fall race at the Texas track last year
• Allmendinger moved up three positions in the point standings after last week’s 15th-place finish

AJ Allmendinger on Texas:
“I haven’t done a ton of Sprint Cup racing at Texas Motor Speedway, but I feel like I’ve been able to improve every time I’ve been there. We had a pretty decent finish last time the Series was there, so I’m hopeful for good things with this Insignia Ford Fusion this weekend. I think we have a little bit of momentum on our side with the pole run and then a top-15 finish in Phoenix last week, so we’ll try to take advantage of that this weekend. Plus, our Roush Yates engines will give us plenty of horsepower.

“I don’t think the spoiler is going to have much of an effect on things in Texas. It’ll have more than the past couple of week on the smaller tracks, but we tested in Charlotte and compared a lot of notes, so I think we know what to expect and how to adapt the car to the change. Mike’s a pretty smart guy, and I know he and everyone involved with this Richard Petty Motorsports team has spent a good deal of time working on some different things in regards to the spoiler, so I’m not too worried about that being any kind of a problem for us.”

Crew Chief Mike Shiplett’s Thoughts on Texas Motor Speedway:
“We tested the spoiler at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway a couple of weeks ago, but this weekend will be the first time we actually get in race trim around other cars, so I think there will be some things that we’re going to have to learn pretty quickly at Texas about the attitude of the car and how we want to run with the spoiler on the back.

“It’s a big downforce track. It has a lot of speed and it doesn’t have a lot of grip so you usually fight a little loose off the corners and not turning in the middle there. We’ll concentrate on those things this weekend and see what we can do.”

The DIRECTV NASCAR Head 2 Head Challenge begins this week at Texas Motor Speedway. 32 NASCAR Cup Series teams will compete in a bracket formation challenge to benefit charities of their choosing. Allmendinger’s crew is pitted against the No. 14 team. The team that finishes highest in the race will move on to compete in the next round next weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Monday, April 12, 2010

Phoenix Race Recap

I’m going to start this Phoenix Race Recap off the day before the actual race. On qualifying day Friday, AJ reached a milestone in his NASCAR career – his first pole win. The 28 year old open-wheel alum is no stranger to starting out front, having led the field to green every season in his professional open-wheel career except for his rookie ChampCar season in 2004. Yet this was the first time he had ever qualified P-1 since moving over to stock cars in 2007.

Getting a NASCAR pole is something that AJ can now cross off his to-do list. First top ten, first top five, pole position, race win, championship. These are goals that every race car driver strives to achieve. AJ now has three out of five, and the fourth isn’t too far off. More than just a driver milestone though, winning the pole gives the whole team a measure of pride that can’t be bought. Being #1 on qualifying day gives the pit crew, the guys back at the shop, as well as the driver a reason to puff out their chests. On that day, they were the best of the best and everyone knows it.

Not only that, but it gives the fans of that driver a huge boost, as any of my Twitter followers can attest. You would be hard put to find anyone outside of AJ’s immediate family who was more proud on Friday. AJ has never given me a reason not to hold my head high as a fan of his, but I won’t deny it was a huge thrill to see his name at the top of the board at the end of qualifying. The smile on his face and the faces of his family made me happier than you can imagine.

There isn’t a whole lot of emphasis or reward for winning the pole in NASCAR these days. Qualifying first doesn’t pay points, and the Budweiser Shootout in February is no longer made up of the prior year’s pole winners. So some may say that it is only a minor accomplishment and no big deal. However, it is still important on race day. Not only does the pole winner get first pick for pit selections, but they also get that all-important clean air. And when the race started late Saturday afternoon, AJ used that to his best advantage.

Getting a good lead on his former team car, the 82 Red Bull ride of Scott Speed, AJ put down the fastest laps of the race early and stayed out in front of the competition. He led the first 17 laps of the race until an early caution brought the field into the pits for tires. A few competitors stayed out and a couple more only took two tires, but AJ still restarted the race in the top 10 – and managed to stay there for the first 100 laps of the event.

Eventually a tight condition that caused the front tires to hop and slide across the race track, combined with a bad brake vibration going through the corner, dropped AJ out of the top 10 and clear back as far as 24th position. Some big adjustments and the setting of the sun seemed to turn the backwards slide around though, and by lap 200 AJ was back in the top 20 and gaining positions.

The 43 team worked hard on pit road, giving AJ good pit stops to help him out. Crew chief Mike Shiplett kept working on the car to get it better, and AJ did his thing on track to eventually climb clear to the 11th position as the laps wound down. It looked like the race would end under green with AJ falling just short of a top 10, but with only 3 laps to go the caution came out and set the competitors up for a green-white-checker finish.

I don’t envy the decision that crew chiefs have to make in this position, but I agreed with Mike Shiplett’s call to pit from 11th position and take just two tires. AJ would have been a sitting duck with no tires at all, and four tires would have put him in around 18th position for the restart. While he might have gained some ground from that spot, it would be unlikely to get back up into the top 10.

So instead, AJ lined up for the final restart in 5th position with some very good cars with four fresh tires behind him. Anyone watching could see what was coming, as I’m sure AJ could as well. When the green flag flew, Jimmie Johnson ducked under AJ and made it three wide on the narrow front stretch. AJ attempted to block, but Jimmie had his nose inside the #43 fender by that time. Trying to push Jimmie any lower would have just landed AJ nose first into the inside wall.

Unfortunately, being stuck in the middle of three wide going into turn 1 at Phoenix isn’t a good position to be in. And on older tires, AJ did his best not to get run over as he tried to fall into line. A hit from Brad Keselowski didn’t help, and AJ dropped numerous positions as the white flag flew. Then an overly aggressive hit from Marcos Ambrose nearly took out half the field and left AJ dropping back even further to a final finishing position of 15th.

It was an unfortunate ending after such a promising start, but it is still a good day when you can be disappointed with a top-15 finish. The 43 team was strong all weekend long at Phoenix , and will hopefully be able to carry some of that momentum on to Texas . Next weekend will be an interesting test of how the new spoiler reacts on the cars, but after AJ finished on top of the practice chart at the Charlotte test a couple weeks ago, I am hoping for big things at Texas . Who knows, maybe I’ll get to see how AJ looks in a cowboy hat & six shooters.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Phoenix Post-Race Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion
Finished 15th

"It was a tough day. We have to keep working on our race cars. It was pretty cool to be on the pole and get out there and lead some laps, but it is a tough race track with the way the conditions change out there. We fell behind a little bit, but the guys did a good job."

TALK ABOUT THE WAY YOU FINISHED STRONG? "Well, at the end of the race we got it back. We were the best we had been, but it is NASCAR, so eventually you know you are going to get a green-white-checkered. We were damned if we do and damned if we don't on tires. We take four and we are behind everybody, we take two and we are in front of everyone that took four. You aren't going to hold Jimmie Johnson back on a restart with two tires. He split me and that put us in the middle, and then we got down in the corner where Marcos Ambrose hit me and sent me for a ride. We were lucky we didn't get into a wreck."


PAUL MENARD - No. 98 Moen/Menards Ford Fusion
Finished 29th

“Obviously we were hoping for a lot more than that tonight. We were just off a little bit all the way around and if you want to run up front, there’s no room for that. That said, I think the true test of how good a team is, is how they react to adversity and tonight was our first taste of that. This is a great group of guys and I know we’ll take this race, learn from it and put it behind us. We’ve run well and we’re not going to let one disappointing performance get us down. We’ll be an even stronger team in Texas.”


ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 19 Stanley Ford Fusion
Finished 31st

“It wasn’t our best night. The track changed throughout the race and we could never really keep up with it. We missed it a bit heading into the race and then we just couldn’t make our Stanley Ford any better. The guys worked hard though and I’m always proud of the work they do. We’ll go at it again next week and see if we can’t get things turned around for us.”


KASEY KAHNE - No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion
Finished 39th

WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOU AND KURT BUSCH OUT THERE? "I didn't see it. I didn't see it, but from where I was I thought I gave him lots of room and I'm pretty sure he just got loose and came up. Basically he hit me as he was spinning sideways. It is disappointing that's for sure."
WAS THE TRACK PRETTY SLICK? "Yeah, it is slick but it always is."

Credit: Ford Racing

Phoenix Race Results

Subway Fresh Fit 600 Finishing Order
1. Ryan Newman
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Mark Martin
5. Juan Pablo Montoya
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Carl Edwards
8. Kyle Busch
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Joey Logano
11. Marcos Ambrose
12. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
13. Kevin Harvick
14. Robby Gordon
15. AJ Allmendinger
16. Brad Keselowski
17. Martin Truex, Jr.
18. Sam Hornish, Jr.
19. David Ragan
20. David Reutimann
21. Scott Speed
22. Greg Biffle
23. Tony Stewart
24. Jamie McMurray
25. Jeff Burton
26. Regan Smith
27. Bobby Labonte
28. Scott Riggs
29. Paul Menard
30. Denny Hamlin
31. Elliott Sadler
32. David Gilliland
33. Kevin Conway
34. Terry Cook
35. Kurt Busch
36. Travis Kvapil
37. Brian Vickers
38. Joe Nemechek
39. Kasey Kahne
40. Max Papis
41. Johnny Sauter
42. Dave Blaney
43. Michael McDowell

Friday, April 9, 2010

Phoenix Pole Winner Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Insignia Ford Fusion
Pole Winner

"I knew we were going to be quick. We were quick in practice, but when you go out there you just don't know how much grip is going to be on the race track. I knew I was going to have to get everything out of it to get up there and have a chance at beating them. For us, I felt like so far with these first six races that we have been getting better on Fridays and Saturdays, but we missed qualifying just a little bit and that would kill us at the start of the race. As everybody knows, when you get mid-pack with these race cars, everybody is so close that it is tough to pass. I felt that if we could just get a solid top ten start it would help us tomorrow. We were decent in race trim, but we need to be a little bit better. Everybody on the No. 43 team, Mike Shiplett, all the guys worked really hard. It is great for us to get our first career pole together. To start up front is really cool, but the big picture is tomorrow and that is what we are focused on."

"Heck, it is my first one, so I would probably say yes to that. It is just so nerve wracking when you go into qualifying, especially with how close everything is if you make one little mistake it seems like you lose 20 spots. I just wanted to put a solid lap in. I feel like we have been showing that we are getting quicker, unfortunately the results aren't showing that. We have been caught up in a lot of other peoples mistakes. We are 26th in points and we belong higher than that. I told the team this is a key six-week stretch before the All-Star break. If we can go out there are get into the top 15 in points and have good runs every weekend, then I think we can go into the All-Star break knowing we have a chance at the chase. That is our goal. Tomorrow is going to be a solid day. The race has more laps in it now, so it is all about patience. If we can be up front and lead some laps and be consistent it will be a good day for us."

"The track got a lot more grip in it. I was surprised by it. When qualifying started I was watching in the hauler and was surprised at Kyle's first lap time. The track hadn't been shaded that much and it was still really hot out there, so it surprised me. Once the shade started creeping in, you knew the grip would be there, but I didn't think it would be that much. It seems like at a lot of these older race tracks that just a couple of degrees change really makes a difference.

"No, I didn't think about it at all (laughter). I am not going to lie. I told Scott after qualifying that I was either going to run a 26.70 or a 29.0. I didn't know which one because I was going to drive it down in there and hopefully it stuck. Scott is a great qualifier. He has been like that ever since he got there. Those Red Bull guys always give good cars for qualifying. Anybody that has been let go, however, you know what it is like to go out there and beat your old team."

"It is exciting to get that first pole. It is a small victory, but it means so much to this race team and me. In this sport, it is all about confidence. To know we have a good car and to go out there and back it up in qualifying is great. We seemed to be just missing it a little bit each week, so to go out there and get the job done is a big deal."

"It has been difficult so far. I know we are getting better each weekend. Mike Shiplett and I feel like we are working really well together. We know where are strengths are and our weaknesses are. We had the fastest car at Daytona and I got spun. Seems like we shoot ourselves in the foot quite a bit. We had a couple of good races in Atlanta and Bristol to get the momentum back. In Martinsville I think we were hurt by the rainout. It is difficult to be 26th in the points because I feel we are better than that. We have to go out there and be consistent because I know we are a solid top 15 team but we can be a solid top 10 team."

"Yeah, they are working hard and have been at the shop the last few weeks. At Martinsville it didn't show because we got wrecked, but we had good pit stops. They are definitely working hard. We made a couple of changes and they are ready to go. Being on pole is going to pump them up even more."

"I don't know. It seems like as a whole, all eight cars have been like that. I think as we keep building the race team at Richard Petty Motorsports and have the alliance with Roush Fenway and Ford Motorsports in general, we are going to keep getting better. This track was tough today. It seemed like everyone was sliding around out there. You look at the lap times and there is no margin for error. One little mistake and you can drop ten points in a heartbeat. We were pretty fast in race trim, but it is a long race tomorrow. It is something to build on. We are learning each other and we will all use the good data we have tomorrow and as the season goes on."

Credit: Ford Racing

Phoenix Qualifying Results

Subway Fresh Fit 600 Starting Lineup
1. AJ Allmendinger
2. Scott Speed
3. Sam Hornish, Jr.
4. Marcos Ambrose
5. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
6. Joey Logano
7. Juan Pablo Montoya
8. Martin Truex, Jr.
9. Carl Edwards
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Tony Stewart
12. Michael McDowell
13. Jamie McMurray
14. Ryan Newman
15. Jeff Burton
16. Jimmie Johnson
17. Kyle Busch
18. Joe Nemechek
19. Kurt Busch
20. Kasey Kahne
21. Brian Vickers
22. Brad Keselowski
23. Mark Martin
24. Kevin Harvick
25. Clint Bowyer
26. Denny Hamlin
27. Matt Kenseth
28. Regan Smith
29. David Ragan
30. Greg Biffle
31. Dave Blaney
32. Paul Menard
33. Robby Gordon
34. Max Papis
35. Scott Riggs
36. David Gilliland
37. Johnny Sauter
38. Elliott Sadler
39. David Reutimann
40. Bobby Labonte
41. Travis Kvapil
42. Kevin Conway
43. Terry Cook
DNQ David Stremme
DNQ Aric Almirola
DNQ Mike Bliss
DNQ Brandon Ash

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Phoenix Preview

No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion

• Allmendinger has made three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix International Raceway
• Valvoline returns to sponsor Allmendinger’s No. 43 Ford this weekend
• Allmendinger finished 13th in the fall race in Phoenix last season

Allmendinger’s Take On Phoenix: “I am ready to get back to racing this weekend and look forward to heading out to Phoenix. We ran well there in the second race last season and picked up a top-15 finish. I really believe this No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion team can pick up where we left off out there.

“We had a rough go of it back at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and our day ended way too early. I was proud of my guys for working so hard to get back in the race and I think this Richard Petty Motorsports team is eager to get back on track and make up what we lost. We’ve tested at the little track at Rockingham (N.C.) and have two short track races under our belts. We know what we need to do and this team has what it takes.”

Thoughts From Crew Chief Mike Shiplett: “This weekend’s race at Phoenix kicks off a long stretch in the season where we won’t see a break until July so we’ve been working really hard in the shop to make sure we’re prepared for everything that might come at us. We’ve got a great group of guys and we are always ready to go, but we have to make sure we are prepared for anything that might happen. If you get behind during this stretch, it’s tough to make it up, especially if something unforeseen happens and you find yourself with extra work in the shop.

“In Phoenix, you really fight drive off and can get bad loose off the corner. That and the fact that the race starts in the day and goes into the evening will keep a crew chief and a driver on their toes. You’ll have certain adjustments that you need to make to keep the splitter from hitting the ground too hard when the sun starts to set. It’s a little tough to know exactly what you’ll need because we don’t have practice during the time of day in which we race. The key is to keep the car handling well as the day changes into night.”

Chassis History: Chassis No. 277 has been prepared by Shiplett and the No. 43 Valvoline crew for this weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway. This particular chassis ran at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California in February.

Support The Paralyzed Veterans of America: There are several ways you can help support the PVA, a veterans service organization established in 1946 that helps our military heroes who have experienced spinal cord injury or dysfunction. Enter a raffle to win a Jeep CJ-2A Willys restored by Petty's Garage. Visit And don’t miss out on the second annual King’s Cup—Karting For A Cause event hosted by Richard Petty on Tuesday, May 25. To learn more about how you can participate in the King’s Cup, visit: