AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Insignia Ford Fusion
ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN
"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."
SHOULD THE AVERAGE FAN CONSIDER THIS A SURPRISE THAT YOU ARE ON THE POLE?
"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."
DID THE TRACK CONDITIONS CHANGE MARKEDLY BETWEEN HAPPY HOUR AND QUALIFYING?
"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.
DOES IT MAKE IT ALL THAT MUCH SWEETER BEATING YOUR FORMER TEAM TO GET YOUR FIRST CAREER POLE?
"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."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE EMOTIONS OF GETTING YOUR FIRST POLE?
"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."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR SEASON THUS FAR?
"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."
HAVE YOU SEEN ANY IMPROVEMENT IN YOUR PIT CREW THROUGHOUT THE SEASON?
"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."
JUST LOOKING AT THE QUALIFYING ORDER AND THE SPACING OF THE FORD CARS, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR CAR AND THE OTHER FORDS?
"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