AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion, took time during a break in testing at Daytona International Speedway to discuss how the test was going, what the team hopes to accomplish this weekend and his thoughts on the upcoming year.
WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THIS NEW SURFACE?
"It is definitely smoother. It is funny, testing the Grand-Am car, it feels the same. It has little choppy bumps in it. It is not glass smooth like Talladega feels like, but it definitely has a ton of grip. I think the previous tests showed, just looking at what people were saying that we are going to run three or four wide. Three-wide might be okay, but this place isn't wide enough for four-wide like at Talladega. The crazy thing I am struggling with is that the wall doesn't feel straight when it comes through the corners. It almost kind of has little points where it jots back at you. If you are up against the wall, you almost have to watch where the wall moves. That is something, for me, I have noticed. Other than that, it is the same old Daytona."
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY THINGS YOU GUYS ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT ON THIS FIRST DAY OF TESTING?
"We are just messing with stuff in the race car to help with speed. We can do stuff in single car runs to look at what helps straightaway speed, cornering speed and stuff for the race. Stuff that maybe you don't have notes on and can go to if you need more speed or handling. Handling won't really be key anymore, it will be key to be fast in the corners. We are messing with stuff like that."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW NOSE AND HOW DO YOU THINK IT WILL AFFECT RACING?
"It is hard to tell right now. I know that they at least look a lot better which is a good thing. The way the nose is going to race I am not really sure. It is tough right now after this morning session because we are out there by ourselves. It seems like maybe it isn't as abrupt when it does hit the ground. The old splitters, there was so much of it there; because it was big it was tough to tell if it was hitting the ground and if you hit it hard it really smashed the nose. Those are my initial looks at it, but we won't really know how it changes racing until we get into big packs here at Daytona and then in aero traffic at other race tracks."
YOU ARE ON RECORD THAT THE SECOND HALF OF LAST YEAR WAS BETTER ON THE TRACK BUT OFF THE TRACK STUFF BECAME A BIT DIFFICULT. NOW THAT ALL OF THAT IS SETTLED, WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS YEAR AND HOW WILL YOUR NEW TEAMMATE MARCOS AMBROSE IMPACT YOU?
"Well, it isn't so much Marcos as it is going down to two cars. I think that will be really good for the team. This team has had a lot of good resources, but it was just spread too thin. Obviously we went through a rough time at the end of last year that we fought through and hopefully we are better because of that. We are more funded now and more money helps. We have some new race cars to start the year, which we didn't have last year, and I am really excited about that. I think that overall last year we had a good race team. We weren't great, we weren't really good. We were good. I felt like we were a top-15 team last year. We need to work on consistency throughout the race. Ever race, for basically the last six months, I felt like we were a top-10 team at some point during the race but we would lose that at certain areas and couldn't get it back. Homestead is a great example. We were running fourth and then in one run we fell back to 25th and fought all day to get it back. Only because of a fortunate yellow were we able to get a chance to get that back and we were able to finish fifth. It is not even mistakes."
HOW DO YOU TAKE THAT NEXT STEP?
"We have to figure out why our car is on that edge that when it goes bad, it goes really bad. If we can get better with that, I think we will be okay because we have the speed. For me it is a critical year. We have to win. We have to be more consistent and win some races and get that off our back. It felt like each year as a driver I have progressed. The first couple of years I was just trying to survive. In 2009 it was just trying to get through the year as a fourth non-funded car. Last year I thought we worked together and gave ourselves opportunities to win, but didn't take advantage of it at times. We have to give ourselves more of those opportunities and we need to come through and win. We need a lot more top-10's and some top-fives. I think we have to have a 12-13 place average in both qualifying and races. If you do that, you are going to have a good shot at being in the Chase.
Credit - Ford Racing