AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 WIX Filters Ford Fusion
"It was a bit of a surprise. The car was good in practice. In race trim I was really excited about it. With about the 15 laps we ran the car was handling really well, and then in qualifying trim the thing seemed pretty good, but the car was better than the driver honestly in qualifying. I usually struggle here, so for the actual qualifying lap Mike Shiplett, he does a good job pumping me up. I saw my teammates were fast and they were saying the track had a lot of grip, so I just went out there and tried to lay down a lap the best I could and the car was solid. It got a little bit tight in three and four. I don't know if that hurt us and our chance to maybe get the pole, but, all in all, from where we were in practice and how the car was handling in race trim I'm real excited. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and to go out there and work on the car, and for Saturday night to get the new sponsor, Wix Filters, get that up there. The car looks really cool, so hopefully for their first primary on the 43 we can go out there and put on a show for them."
ARE YOU FEELING LIKE SOMETHING HAS CLICKED FOR YOU? "Honestly, it's just experience with the race team. This is my first full year working with Mike Shiplett and all the guys on the 43. For us to come together and really assemble the team, at the end of last year we kind of had a few of our guys working together, but, really, it's our first full year and obviously working with Ford for the first full year. The alliance with have with Roush Fenway, I think it took awhile in the beginning of the season to get our cars and what we wanted and I think just over the last six to seven weeks Mike and I have been really working well together. We kind of made some changes inside the race team engineering-wise, just putting a couple people here and there and I think that's helped a lot, so just all together we're clicking. The race cars are getting better, the guys at the race shop are building great cars, making the cars lighter. This is probably the lightest car we've run all year - the newest, updated body - so the cars are just getting better and when that happens I get more confidence, Mike gets more confident, and I feel like we're clicking. To me, what's exciting is we've had some good races but even the races that we've struggled in - Kansas, even Fontana last week - when we're running 30th in the beginning of the race, those are the races typically at the beginning of the season where we would finish 25th. We'd kind of stay there. We wouldn't make the car any better. We'd struggle all day and we finished 10th at Kansas and if it wasn't for that late-race yellow last week at Fontana I think we had a chance at 10th, so those are the races I'm really proud of - the ones we struggle in and can still make something good out of it. That's what makes these teams that are so good - the 48, the 29 - makes them what they are is not the good days, but when they're struggling, to make something good out of it."
WHAT ACTIVATED THIS SUCCESS FOR RPM? "It's everything I really talked about. The alliance with Roush Fenway and Ford keeps updating stuff and making motors faster. We're working well together and I think all the cars are starting to run well and that's good, especially in qualifying trim I think the last few weeks there has been an RPM car on the pole or the front row, so the whole race team is working well together, working hard and just trying to go out there and make everything better. It's not one thing, it's a lot of small things and everybody is working well together. When the teams run strong, I think that just gives everybody confidence and it shows throughout the organization."
DID THE TRACK CHANGE MUCH FROM PRACTICE? "For me, like I said, the car was good in race trim. I know what I want it to feel like in race trim here, it's just that I've always struggled in qualifying. It was the same thing, the car wasn't really that bad in practice, I could just never really get a good lap and a feel for how to get around this place, especially today with being so cool. There was so much grip on the race track that you just really had to get after it and to be able to go back in the truck and look to see what other cars were doing on the race track, being compared to like the 39 and the 20 car - seeing what they were doing on both ends of the race track helped me out a lot, and listening to Paul and Elliott on the radio talk about how much grip the race track had. I went out there just knowing that there was gonna be a ton of grip and to just try to get after it from the things I learned. I think the car was good all day, I just needed to keep getting better."
YOU'RE KIND OF ON A ROLLERCOASTER WITH QUALIFYING OF LATE. "We got on such a good roll there qualifying-wise and Kansas all weekend we struggled and we were never really good. We were struggling, especially on Friday and Saturday, even Sunday we struggled a lot, and we pulled something good out of it at the end there. Fontana last week we were second after practice, but didn't have a great draw. We went out second and just got the car a little bit too tight, so I think it was a combination of the draw hurting us last week and I didn't hit a real clean lap last week, so I felt like the car was a lot better than we qualified. We came here and it was the same thing, we unloaded well. The biggest thing for us, and something that I think over the last six or seven weeks that has improved, is just unloading good off the hauler and getting on the race track and being good in race trim, and then being able to go over to qualifying trim and make that work, so I think it's part of the way the Sprint Cup Series is, you just have to keep working hard and some weeks are better than others."
Credit - Ford Racing