Sunday, February 27, 2011

Phoenix Post-Race Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion
Finished 9th
"It was all right. I don't know why this race kind of works out like that. You always get some yellows early and guys doing two tires and no tires. We got in the back and got in that wreck where we got a little bit of damage, but I don't think it really affected the car. I felt like, overall, we had a pretty good car. We were on a fine line with the long runs. We would either be really good or we'd be a little bit loose and struggle, so I felt like if we could have stayed green a long time, we would have been really good. There at the end it was a good battle with Kurt. I was trying to get him for eighth, but, all in all, to start with an 11th and 9th with as many wrecks that we've been in and not actually gotten wrecked is all right. We'll take it."

IS THAT WHAT THIS TEAM NEEDED TO START THE YEAR? "Definitely. You always want a little bit more and you always think you can get a little bit more. I'm not sure where that puts us in points, but there were a lot of guys ahead of us that had a lot of trouble. All in all, Vegas is not the best race track for us, so to have two good finishes going in to that and build something off of it should be good."


MARCOS AMBROSE - No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion
Finished 16th
"We got a finish. We got in a hole after Daytona and we just had to finish today. It was a good first day and a good learning experience with Todd Parrott. I know I've got great stuff and I know I can really do well, we just had to get a start somewhere and today was a pretty good start."

HOW WAS THE DAY OVERALL? "Our communication was really good. We stayed calm and I felt fresh in the car. We've got a good vibe going. We just had to get a start. We had one bad run and it was a long one where we went a lap down. It happened towards the end of the race and we just couldn't get it back."

Credit - Ford Racing

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Phoenix Qualifying Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion
Qualified 15th
"I'm not sure where that's gonna end up. That's probably gonna be 17th or 18th from the looks of it, so that's not very good. It's disappointing from yesterday. We had a decent car and brushed the wall, so you go out there and you're not really sure. The guys did a good job. The driver wasn't that good."


MARCOS AMBROSE - No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion
Qualified 29th
"I'm a little disappointed. That's my first time really qualifying for this team and we're all new and learning each other. I just left a little bit out there."

Credit - Ford Racing

Friday, February 25, 2011

Phoenix - AJ Allmendinger Media Visit

AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion, is coming off an 11th-place finish in last week's Daytona 500. Allmendinger, who earned the first pole of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career in this race a year ago, spoke with the media before Friday's first practice session at PIR.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT LAST WEEK AND THIS WEEK? "It was crazy last week. I didn't really know what to expect. We were fast early on. Mark and I got hooked up and we led a few laps early in the race, and then we got caught up in that big wreck a little bit and got some damage to the nose, and then after that it seemed like every wreck that happened I was around it, so it was strange, definitely. I think at the end of the race, for what we went through, we had fenders folded in on the tires - the car looked like you got done racing at Martinsville than Daytona, but to come out 11th - I wanted to come out with a solid top-15 finish, compared to last year when we started bad, so I was decently happy with it. I felt like we could have been a little bit better, but to come out 10th in points, there's no disappointment there. I look forward to this race track. Last year, we probably had the best car for qualifying at both races, but in the race we were just a little bit off. I felt like we were on the edge of a top-10 car both races. Things that we've had to work on, Mike Shiplett and I, we've tested a little bit. I felt like the things we struggled with here last year we kind of worked on, so I'm looking forward to getting on the race track."

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE $5 MILLION INDY CAR PURSE AT LAS VEGAS IN OCTOBER? "It's definitely interesting. Five million dollars isn't anything to shy away from. The way I look at it, and it's something I learned in racing a long time ago, is you don't ever say 'no' to anything. You never just say 'no' and you never turn it down. It would definitely be interesting. The guys and girls that are in that series, I've raced against a lot of them and I've beat a lot of them, so it's definitely something that I know I can go out there and compete with them since I've done that in the past, but, at the same time, it's so early on. We're only at race two here in the Sprint Cup Series and that's my focus. As that would get closer, I would look at where I'm at and what's going on with this side of it and how the season is going, and then you start making a judgment off of that and whether I would want to go and do that race or not, whether it would be smart or not. But you never say 'no' to anything, so we'll just leave that open."

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE TWO-CAR RACING AT DAYTONA? "It's a different way to racing, definitely. It's not any worse, it's not any better, I don't think. There's a lot more strategy that goes into it, and that was something everybody heard on the radios - whether it was spotters having to spot two cars or just drivers having to spot for themselves and the guy behind him. It was funny because multiple times I had some voice come over my radio and ask me to work with him. I'm like, 'Who the hell are you? Who's talking to me?' 'Oh, this is David Ragan.' I'm like, 'Oh, OK.' The next yellow I'd be like, 'Who in the hell is this?' 'Oh, it's Carl. It's Carl. Do you want to work together?' I'm like, 'How do you keep getting my radio channel? Leave me alone.' (laughing) I mean, it was strange. I don't know. In one way, because you're not three and four-wide all the time it's better, but in other ways you know that you have to be pushing somebody, otherwise you're left out to dry and you're just gonna be driving there by yourself. There is good and bad to both of that, but the way I looked at it, I needed something different because I think my average finish on superspeedways were like 35th, so I needed something different to happen. We finished 11th, so that was a good thing, but it'll be interesting at Talladega, knowing what we've learned at Daytona, how much Talladega will be different compared to the way it has been. We'll find out more. NASCAR, I commend them. They tried to do a lot of things to help it, but until you stop making the bumpers line up so closely, you're not gonna stop it, so we'll see how Talladega goes when we get there."

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU AND MARCOS TO GET OFF TO A GOOD START FROM HERE ON OUT? "For myself and Marcos, just working together has been a lot of fun in the short amount of time. We both have personalities that like to have fun or are always joking around, so, for that reason, it's been a lot of fun. When it just comes to my side of it on the 43, you have to have a good start to the season. Last year, I felt like from midseason on we were a solid, top 15 race team, but we started the season so bad - I think five out of the first 10 races we finished outside the top 25 and you just can't do that. You're not gonna make up points, especially the way the points are now, you can't make that up and think you can make the chase. So Daytona was a big step. I was really nervous about Daytona and just trying to get through there smooth and not have anything happen and get a solid finish out of it, which we did. We've got some good and bad race tracks. Phoenix, I feel we've been pretty decent, but Vegas is a place we've really struggled. Fontana, for us, has been hit or miss, just like Bristol, so I look at those five races. If we can get through there with good runs, I think it'll give this race team and myself lot of confidence and that will just carry us through the rest of the year."

DO YOU SEE THIS TWO-CAR DRAFT HAPPENING OTHER PLACES? "No. We've been to places like Fontana and Michigan. Those are probably the two closest race tracks when it comes to that. Yeah, if you come off the corner and you can get hooked up with somebody and push them by somebody, you'll do that, but it's not gonna be anything like that, except at Talladega and Daytona. Daytona, the only reason it started happening is because we repaved the race track, so it's definitely strange. It's a different way of racing. Talladega will be interesting. It's funny, the track is only just over a tenth-of-a-mile longer, but it seems so much bigger and the cars heat up so much quicker there, so it will be a lot different when we get there. The way I look at it, I've got six or seven races before I've got to worry about that again."

HOW ABOUT RACING HERE AT PHOENIX? "For me, it's a fun race track. I like the miles and the shorter race tracks. They're a lot of fun. Phoenix has always been a good race track for myself and for this race team. Ever since Mike Shiplett and I joined together at the end of 2008 when I came over to the race team and did five races, he's always had really fast race cars at these flatter kind of race tracks. He's found something in the front end that's always been good for this type of race track here and at Loudon. I like this race track. I like the fans. We always get a big crowd here. The weather is always sunny and it's not too cold right now. It's just a fun place to go to. I like that we kind of changed the schedule around and we come here the second race now, so there are a lot of good things. For us, the biggest thing was coming out of Daytona we have a little bit of momentum. Obviously, we'd like to be where Trevor was standing, but at the same time, to come out of there with a solid finish, which is something we haven't done a lot of at the beginning of the year was big for us. So I'm excited to get on the race track here. This new practice format is gonna be a little bit different. Today is all about getting your car set up for the race and qualifying. We don't have much to do tomorrow, except for qualifying, so we'll see how that plays out and how we want to use these practices. Mike and I have talked about it a little bit. We'll just see how the track plays out. With this place, the track is always changing a lot as more rubber gets built up, so I think it's gonna be a little bit different knowing the fact that we're not really on the race track tomorrow, and then on Sunday, when the track is all rubbered up, it's gonna be a lot different than anything we've practiced on so far."

HOW DIFFERENT IS IT TO BE HERE NOW AS OPPOSED TO WHEN WE WERE HERE IN NOVEMBER? "This is a lot better feeling than this time last year when we were ending the season trying to figure out what was going on. For me, just like everybody else, I stressed about it during the week, but once we got to the race track, it's more credit to Mike Shiplett and the crew guys for showing up and having their mind set on the job at hand and that was making the race cars fast. I think, more than anything, I don't know if I ever got that mindset of, 'This team is not gonna be here.' I always felt like something was gonna work out and they were gonna figure something out between the King and the tradition of the 43. Robbie Loomis and those guys were working so hard, so I never had in my mindset that this team is not gonna be here, it was just 'how is it gonna be here, what's it gonna look like, what's gonna be the background.' At that time, Best Buy was still trying to figure out whether they were gonna stay in the sport, what was going on through everything, so I was worried more about that because I built such a good relationship with Best Buy and had so much fun with them the whole year. We were running so well together and that's what I was more worried about, was trying to make sure that they were still a part of the race team. It's a lot better feeling now. I think there are still things that can obviously always need to be sorted out and can be better, but it's a lot better than where we were at this time last year. The biggest thing I saw at Daytona, and I think a lot of people saw it, the King is just smiling again. He's having a good time laughing and when the King is smiling, the rest of us are smiling. That was more cool to see than anything."

HAVE YOU SEEN ANY EXAMPLES OF TREVORMANIA THIS WEEK? "If you turn on every TV show you see it. For me, it's cool in one way because you get at team like the Wood Brothers, I look at the Wood Brothers kind of like Richard Petty Motorsports and the King in general. They went through some hard times and to get somebody different up there winning with the rich history of them being in the sport and seeing that 21 in victory lane was really cool. It would be the same thing as trying to get the 43 back in victory lane. It was fun to see a different race team, a different person step up and go out there and surprise everybody. That was really cool to see that. At the same time, I'm not gonna lie, I was a little jealous. To go out there and to win your second race and get your first career victory at Daytona, that was something that I was dreaming of and sitting there watching him celebrate it was cool in one way, and in another way I was sitting there just kind of 'what could have been.' That's the way racing is, but I think it was just really good for the sport to get a team like that. Hopefully, more than anything, that propels the Wood Brothers to be able to maybe do more races and maybe do a full season. All in all, that would just be great for the sport to have that happen, but it's been definitely good to get a new face out there and have all of that happen for the sport."

WHERE DID YOU START RACING? "I started with BMX bicycles. My dad was a local dirt track racer in California and we just grew up at a race track. I went from bicycles to quarter midgets to go karts, up through the open-wheel ranks and switched to NASCAR in 2007 with the association with Red Bull. For me, it's not probably the normal path that you would take, but I don't know if there is a normal path anymore."

HOW DO YOU NEED TO SET YOUR CAR UP HERE AT PHOENIX AND WHAT IS YOUR MEMORABLE MOMENT HERE? "The biggest thing, and it's something that we have fought, is when the track starts getting a lot of rubber on it - more in turn three, it starts building up on the race track and when your right-front kind of hits that it gives out. I think you've got to set your car up a little bit free to get turning through the center of the corner, especially in three and four, and you need really good forward bite off. When we've been our best, we've had our car turning after about 20-30 laps in a run and you still have decent forward drive off. At our worst, we've had it where it feels like the right-front tires just blows out in the center of three and four. You've just really got to work on getting your car through the center and that's something as the tires get older it gets a lot harder to do. That's something we've focused on in testing is working out a package to keep the car turning, help it stay free in the center, and still have that good bite off the corner. For me, I have great memories of winning my first career pole here in the spring race. That's something that as I'm coming up and getting better in this series and getting better in Sprint Cup in general, you start checking off things you've got to do first and to get my first career pole here was something that was really cool. And then we came back for the second race and almost did it again. I really enjoy the surface. The way it will probably work is I'll probably win this weekend and that's why they're changing the race track, but I really like this place. It's a fun place to get around."

HOW HARD WOULD IT BE TO FIND AN INDY CAR RIDE FOR OCTOBER? "It's just like anything, it would take a little bit of getting used to as far as going out and doing it again. I don't think I'd try to show up on Sunday to Vegas and go try to win the race without testing it. But it's just like anything else, it comes back to you. On an oval like that, it's flat out. More than anything, I would just have to be comfortable in the car and getting used to it again and know how much is too much when it comes to being loose there. It's just like anything, it comes back to you. You offer somebody like Chip or Roger a chance to win $5 million, they might jump at it."

WOULD WEATHER THROW A CURVE BALL AT YOU GUYS IF IT RAINS AND IS COLD HERE? "I think just everything between the potential weather and the practice schedule, it's gonna be a lot different. I think if the weather happens the way they're talking about, to go out in this first practice schedule when there's the least amount of rubber on the track that there's gonna be and it's gonna probably be the coolest that it will be on the race track before the race, it'll be a big deal. It's just like anything else. Fortunately, the track is gonna be the same for everybody else as it will be for me, but it's definitely gonna be a different weekend than we've had before."

Credit - Ford Racing

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Phoenix Race Preview

No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion
• Allmendinger has made five starts at Phoenix International Raceway
• Allmendinger enters this race in 10th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings
• Allmendinger won his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole at Phoenix in last year’s spring race

Allmendinger on Winning the Pole Last Year in Phoenix: “Winning the pole last year was incredible. It was my first Cup Series pole and I felt like it was a turning point in our qualifying program. Since I’ve been with my crew chief Mike Shiplett and the guys on my team I’ve always qualified well at Phoenix and I knew it was only a matter of time before we got our first pole. We have a great qualifying package there and it’s a place we’ve always been really fast. It’s a track where it is easy to miss your marks during qualifying, so to hear Shiplett come on the radio and say we were on the pole last spring was really cool.”

Allmendinger on Phoenix International Raceway: “I’m excited to get back to Phoenix and race the Valvoline Ford on the west coast where I grew up. Phoenix is a unique track because it’s a race where you depend on driver technique. It’s a lot flatter than most of the tracks we go to and it’s slick, but that’s what makes it challenging and fun to race on.”

Crew Chief Mike Shiplett’s Keys to Getting Around Phoenix: “At Phoenix, both ends of the track are very different, so you have to work really hard to get the car balanced because it’s easy to get loose off of the corners. Turns 1 and 2 are much different than Turns 3 and 4, so even if you have your car perfect in 1 and 2, you’ll be way too loose off 4. Turn 2 opens up and you have a lot of race track, but 4 doesn’t open up like that and it’s pretty easy to hit the wall. We’ve got a good car this weekend that we tested in January at New Smyrna Speedway, so we’re looking forward to getting it on the track Friday.”

Shiplett’s Thoughts on the Daytona 500: “I was pleased with how the race ended. We finished with all four tires on the ground and on the lead lap. I think we had a better car than what our finish showed, but all in all it was a good day for us in the points.”

Chassis History: The No. 43 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 729 for this weekend’s event at Phoenix International Raceway. This Valvoline Ford is a new car, but was tested at New Smyrna Speedway in Smyrna Beach, Fla. in January.

Notes: Allmendinger has five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix International Raceway and his first Sprint Cup Series pole came in last year’s spring race at the 1.0-mile oval. Allmendinger has completed a total of 1,624 laps at the track and has an average finish of 19.4.

Allmendinger will have a different look this weekend as Valvoline will make its first appearance of the year as the primary sponsor of the No. 43 Ford Fusion.

Richard Petty will be inducted into the Diecast Hall of Fame at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. on Saturday, February 26, at 7 p.m. The Diecast Hall of Fame represents those individuals who have made a direct impact on the diecast collecting community through their hard work and dedication. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

The new Richard Petty Motorsports site is now up and running. Check out news on AJ and the rest of the RPM team at

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Q & A with NSCS Driver, A.J. Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger pilots the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports back to the track where he had his top two qualifying efforts last season, grabbing his first career pole in the spring Phoenix race and following that up with a second-place qualifying effort in the fall race. Allmendinger sat down with Ford Racing to discuss what that was like last year, the message he got from team owner Richard Petty, and how the impending changes to Phoenix International Raceway might affect him and more.

AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
YOU SAT ON THE POLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YOUR CUP CAREER AT THE FIRST PHOENIX RACE LAST YEAR, IN RETROSPECT, HOW DID THAT FEEL AND WHAT KIND OF CONFIDENCE DID IT GIVE YOU? “Since I have been with Mike (Shiplett) and the guys I feel like we have always qualified well at Phoenix, even back in 2008 when I did the five races with the team. Phoenix has always been a place we have been fast. I like it because I think there is more driver technique that you have to use there since it is a lot flatter track. It was cool because we were fast in practice, and we have been fast in practice before there, we went out for qualifying and it is such an easy place to miss your marks. We always just missed it a little bit. It was really cool when Mike came over the radio to say ‘You are on the pole!’ and I remember my leg was shaking down the back straightaway because he told me that if I couldn’t get any more to shut it down. Driver optimism kicked in at that point and I figured I could drive it into three and get even more. It was really cool. We almost sat on pole the second race there too. Our qualifying package has been really good there and our race package has been decent, but that is something that we focused on in the off season, to get better at that there.”

YOU AND THE KING HAD A COOL EXCHANGE AFTER YOU GOT THE POLE, DO YOU REMEMBER THAT MOMENT AND WHAT WAS SAID? “Yeah, he said in a nice way to not screw this up. He kind of gave one of those fatherly pep talks about how proud he was, but how we had to focus on the real thing. I didn’t know at the time that the 43 car hadn’t been on pole for like 11 years. I didn’t realize the significance of it at that point. I realized it after the fact when people started telling me about it. It was a cool feeling. It is nice to get your first one out of the way and I felt like that was a real turning point for us qualifying during the season. We were absolutely horrible the first few races in qualifying. We were so bad and we had been pretty good the year before so I feel like Phoenix was a turning point for us in that regard. We had a couple of stretches in the middle of the year where we didn’t qualify well, but at the end of the season I felt like we unloaded well and had a chance to win the pole at every race. I think Phoenix though was the turning point for us when it came to qualifying.”

BECAUSE OF YOUR RECENT SUCCESS AT PHOENIX, DO YOU LOOK AT IT AS A PLACE WHERE YOU MIGHT ALSO BE ABLE TO GET YOUR FIRST CUP WIN? “I look at every track that way. We go in every weekend trying to go with the same attitude of winning, but, yeah, I think you look at tracks where we have had success at, Phoenix, Dover and Loudon especially, and you get a little more excited about it. Like I said, even though we have qualified well there and ran decent during the races, I don’t feel we have been contending for top-10s there and we need to get better at that. Over the offseason we have really been able to sit down and pinpoint the areas we needed to work on. In the little bit of testing we have done, we have focused on those areas and have ideas of how we can make it better. You don’t really know until you go to that place and get on the race track and feel what it is like, but I feel like we are going to have better race cars and the motors will be better. I think we have better ideas of what to do, so I am looking forward to it.”

IS IT DIFFICULT AS A DRIVER TO GO FROM A TRACK LIKE DAYTONA AND THAT STYLE OF RACING TO A PLACE LIKE PHOENIX AND THE STYLE YOU HAVE TO RUN THERE? “It isn’t a big deal at all. It is what we are paid to do and it is what makes it exciting. If every race track were the same it would be boring and you wouldn’t want to do it. It is something that every really good driver at this level is really good at, adapting to a new race track. You go there and you just get excited about every race track in its own right. Once you leave a track after a race your mindset immediately switches to the next track.”

AFTER THIS FIRST RACE AT PHOENIX THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE SOME CHANGES TO THE TRACK. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE IMPENDING CHANGES? “If I go win this first one, I will be really mad that they are changing it for the second one (laughter). If we struggle I will be really happy though. Phoenix is tough. It is kind of like Daytona. Maybe it needs to get repaved, I don’t really know. The track isn’t really breaking up there, but maybe it does need a repave. It is slick and there is hardly any grip, but that is what makes it fun. I have heard what they are doing and the ideas they are talking about with maybe more banking and stuff, but I don’t think we will really know until we see what it looks like. I don’t think you can have an opinion on it until then. I just need to focus on next week and then we will wait and see the repaving job and I am guessing NASCAR will give us a test there, but I don’t really know what my thoughts are until I see it.”

HOW MANY RACES INTO 2011 UNTIL YOU SORT OF KNOW WHAT KIND OF SEASON YOU MIGHT HAVE? “I think you just have to go in stages. If you look at the season, you can break it up into four parts. If you look at the first nine races as the first part of that, I think you can get a general idea after the first five or six races though. There are so many different styles of race tracks in those first five or six races. You come to Phoenix from Daytona, then Vegas which is a mile-and-a-half and then off to Fontana which is a different race track and Bristol and Martinsville. You get a lot of different race tracks in the first six races. You really get to see where you are at on all levels when it comes to the races. Our biggest thing last year and part of it was a new era coming into Ford and working with Roush Fenway because everything was different. We struggled at the beginning of the year, more than we thought we would. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. If we do everything to the best of our abilities and let the rest happen, then we should be okay. If something happens out of our control, then it does, but last year I made mistakes and us as a race team made mistakes. We took chances that didn’t work out. I think that you get to the All-Star break and you kind of see where you are at. At that point you can reset your goals. Hopefully, we get to that break and are inside that top-10 or on the verge of it and we know we can go compete. We have to be smart the first half of the season though. You can’t win the championship at the beginning of the year, but you can surely take yourself out of it. We did that last year and our goal is to be smart. We can be a top-15 team easily. At best, we think we can get inside that top-10 and compete for a championship. That is our goal.”

Credit - Ford Racing

Tuesday Ramble - Daytona Edition

Swing Your Partner, Do-Si-Do

Plate track racing has certainly taken on a unique look in the last few races. We saw two-car tandems first make an appearance at the smooth as glass track of Talladega where cars can draft through the entire corner. Drivers realized that two cars working together were faster than a whole train of cars like we typically see at restrictor plate tracks. And now with Daytona getting new pavement which made it nice and smooth also, we saw last weekend that those pairings work well there also.

I’ve seen a lot of people who like the two-car drafting and a lot of people who hate it. It’s different for sure, and to some people change is never good. My verdict is still out on whether or not I like the tandem racing. I’ve never been much of a fan of plate racing anyway. Forty cars in one huge lump circling the race track was nerve-wracking because you never knew what was going to happen until the last lap. It seemed like everybody just rode around until the final 10 laps of the race.

Every time a driver would try to make something happen no one would go with him and no one could make forward progress. At least now you have a partner who is committed to going with you and there is a lot more passing for position going on. On the down side though, there seems to be a lot of danger involved because of the faster closing rates and the fact that the driver of the second car can’t see in front of him.

To me, I thought the racing at Daytona was very intense. There was a lot of strategy involved and a lot of room for error, which made it exciting. This two-car tandem drafting seems to be here to stay now that both plate tracks are smooth enough to hook up together around the entire track. I expect to see more of it at Talladega in a couple months. But honestly, racing is racing – I like it all. New school or old school, I’m fascinated.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Daytona Race Recap

Sunday’s Daytona 500 started under gorgeous Florida blue sky and was blessed with good weather and no potholes for the entire duration. There were a record 74 lead changes among a record 22 different leaders. There were also a record number of cautions and Trevor Bayne became the record youngest driver to ever win the Daytona 500 at 20 years and 1 day old.

With so many records broken during the Daytona 500, I hoped to see a record high finish for AJ Allmendinger in his #43 Best Buy Ford entry also. After obtaining a career best finish of 3rd in 2009, the 29 year old California native looked like he might have the car to beat that number when this year’s Great American Race started. He began the race in 15th position and by lap 4 was in the lead with the help of Hendrick Motorsports driver Mark Martin. The two started nose to tail and had worked out a plan to pair up in this new style of tandem racing that plate racing has morphed into.

The plan looked to be working as AJ and Mark stayed among the frontrunners during the first ten laps of the race. AJ led four laps total in those first dozen laps and was scored as the leader of the race after a caution came out for the blown motor of JJ Yeley. Crew chief Mike Shiplett then called the #43 driver down to pit road to top of with fuel while a handful of drivers who had pitted on an earlier lap stayed out. Mark Martin had also pitted and the two restarted mid-pack with the same plan of working together.

Unfortunately, the dirty air and close side by side racing in the middle of the field made it difficult for cars to latch together and move to the front like they had been able to do earlier. The two fell back to stay out of trouble when it became clear that they were in the eye of a building storm and at lap 20 AJ was scored in the 33rd position. Then caution came out for the blown engine of Kevin Harvick and Shiplett decided to see if right side tires would help AJ and Mark move forward in the field.

When the race restarted on lap 26, AJ and Mark were in the middle of the pack again but were making forward progress. Then Michael Waltrip and David Reutimann got in a tangle in front of them and both drivers were caught up in the Big One which took out some of last year’s Championship contenders. Thankfully AJ only got a small amount of right front nose damage and the crew was able to get him patched up without losing a lap. His partner in the #5 car wasn’t so lucky and went 3 laps down while under repairs on pit road.

With AJ restarting at the back of the field after multiple pit stops and Mark behind him with the lapped cars, the two decided to go ahead and work together once again. The racing got wild pretty much immediately so the two drivers just took their time until they had room to maneuver and then hooked up and ticked off laps. Despite being 3 laps down, Mark managed to get those laps back during the numerous cautions that came out in the mid-section of the race. Sometimes he and AJ restarted together and paired up, and sometimes they were too far apart to make it work and had to choose different dancing partners. AJ worked well with Roush alliance member Carl Edwards, former teammate Paul Menard, and former Petty Enterprises driver Bobby Labonte.

By the last quarter of the race however, Mark was back on the lead lap and near enough to AJ on a restart for the two to get hooked up again. They worked their way back up into top 10 contention and looked to have a strong pairing to go for the lead in the final laps. While pitting for fuel on lap 160 though, AJ got hit on pit road by the #32 car of Terry Labonte and had to come back in for repairs. Then under a subsequent caution, AJ felt like he had run over some debris and pitted for a possible flat tire.

With AJ in the back and Mark up front, AJ had to rely on other drivers to work his way forward. Paul Menard, who was blessed with one of those powerhouse ECR engines under the hood of his Childress car, was a good choice and Paul latched onto AJ’s back bumper for the final run towards the front. They managed to get up into the top 10, but without taking it 3 or 4 wide on the other two-car tandems, they just didn’t have anywhere to go and couldn’t make any forward progress.

AJ ended up taking the checkered flag in 11th position, which was a great finish considering the damage he got in the Big One and the later damage on pit road. He was able to stay clear of major disaster for the entire race and gained some valuable experience on how to work the two-car drafting that I believe we will see again at both Talladega races and possibly at Daytona in July. He is also tied with Mark Martin for 9th/10th position in the points and has some positive momentum heading to Phoenix, where he sat on the pole last year. All in all it was a very good day for the #43 Best Buy Ford.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Daytona Post-Race Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
Finished 11th
"That's way better than last year. I said if we had a top 15, I'd be happy to leave here, especially with that race because I should have been in that first wreck. Honestly, I don't know how I wasn't in it. The seas kind of parted and we came out of it with just minor damage, so what I should have been in compared to where we finished was not too bad. It's cool for Ford to get their 600th win at the Daytona 500. I wish I could have done it. You see somebody celebrate their first victory and it makes you kind of sad because you know what you want to do, but I have no complaints. We have a good car for Phoenix and we'll be ready."


MARCOS AMBROSE - No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion
Finished 37th
WHAT DID YOU SEE FROM YOUR SEAT? "Not a lot. I saw the 00 spun out and I just checked out. I was going pretty straight and they all started running over the top of me. I thought I had it saved and then I got spun down on the bottom, and then Jeff Gordon finished me off. We're gonna get back out with the Stanley Ford Fusion. We're excited to be at Daytona, it's just a shame it ended this way."

IS THIS AN ISSUE NASCAR WILL HAVE TO ADDRESS BEFORE TALLADEGA? "I don't know. I'm just driving the race car. Whatever the rules are and whatever we're doing I'm gonna be part of it, but it's ruined our day. It's been unfortunate for Stanley. It's my first race for this team and it's just a terrible way to do it."

HOW WAS THE RACING OUT THERE? "It's really close. Everybody is trying to find partners to work with and pull away. I think everyone is just trying to work out how to do it. Today, I was just trying to make sure I didn't drop off the back without finding a good partner and got caught up in a mess, too. I was trying to play it safe and it didn't work out too well for me."

Credit - Ford Racing

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Daytona Duel #1 Race Recap

AJ Allmendinger was set to start Duel #1 in the 12th position, but with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson both going to the back at the start of the race, he found himself starting in 10th place, right behind teammate Marcos Ambrose. At the green flag the two teammates hooked up with AJ pushing, but they got shuffled to the high side of the track and fell backwards before a quick caution came out on lap 2.
Restarting at almost the tail end of the field but in opposite lines, AJ and Marcos had to scramble to find other partners as the racing got back underway. With Jimmie Johnson having started in the back due to an engine change, he hooked up with the powerhouse RPM Ford of AJ and the two started making their way to the front.

From that time on there was a long stretch of green flag racing that lasted almost the entire remainder of the race. Chad Knaus made a visit to the #43 team pit box to discuss the two-car tandem’s pit strategy with AJ’s crew chief Mike Shiplett. They decided on a fuel only stop, but for some reason AJ got off pit road well ahead of the #48 car of Johnson and had to wait for his dancing partner to catch up to him.

With quite a gap between them and the leaders of the race, AJ and Jimmie worked together and closed the difference. By the time the caution flag came out with only 4 laps to go, they were mixing it up at the front of the field. With the interesting dynamic of the two car groups though, AJ and Jimmie found themselves side by side on the restart, instead of nose to tail. So when the race restarted, AJ had to decide who to go with and ended up with a great push from his former teammate Paul Menard, who had one of those powerful ECR engines under his hood.

With his new dancing partner giving him a shove, AJ made a surge towards the front but the duo lost momentum and ended up finishing 7th and 9th respectively. The solid race not only gave AJ a 15th place starting spot for the Daytona 500, but provided valuable learning experience on how these new two-car pairings work. Before they got separated, AJ and Jimmie had nearly perfected the switch that is required to keep the car in back from overheating. All in all, it was a respectable finish while gathering some info that AJ can hopefully use in Sunday’s big race.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Daytona Duel #1 Post-Race Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
Finished 7th
"That was nuts. It is very interesting. I wouldn't say I like it, it is tough. It is all strategy. You get someone that you hook up with and that is cool. I got to hook up with 5-time and made him a friend of mine. We were working good together. Everybody is trying to learn out there together. I felt like you have to be pin point with everything. We ran up on a groove and it separated us. We got broken away from the lead group and then those guys were able to draft with each other and be quicker. The car was fast though. I felt like our cooling is really good in these Ford's. The guys in the engine shop have done a great job with that. We learned some things, and we will go back out there Sunday and try it again."

"I think you just have to find the guy that you work well with. I had planned to work with Mark Martin, but that never worked out because he got up in the front drafting with Tony and me and Jimmie got hooked up. I think you just have to find somebody. If you can find one guy that you are really good with, you are better off. On the restart, everybody went with the same group of guys. That is what it is all about."
MARCOS AMBROSE - No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion
Finished 21st
"We had a bad day. It was very frustrating. We didn't have any friends. We got stuck in some tough positions. We kept getting stuck and it made for a rough Duel. We will get back at it come Sunday though."

Credit - Ford Racing

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Ramble - Positive Thinking in NASCAR

Positive Thinking in NASCAR
Imagine you are a NASCAR driver. You’ve been racing since before you could walk, your hand-eye coordination is amazing, your focus has been honed razor sharp, your body is in amazing physical condition, and you have your Sports Psychologist’s number on speed dial. Wait a minute – you aren’t utilizing the help of a Sports Psychologist? Well you better find one in a hurry.

We all know that getting to the top of the racing heap takes a ton of talent and a whole lot of luck in being at the right place at the right time to get noticed. Only forty-three drivers get to take the green flag in Sprint Cup action every week – they are the elite. And out of those elite, you have the super teams: Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing. They have the best drivers, the best engineers, the best fabricators, and the best pit crews.

It’s not easy to be the best, though. It takes money and resources. Those teams have to have a pit crew coach to condition the over-the-wall guys, the machinery for the fabricators to work with, and the computer simulations for the engineers. They also need to keep their drivers at optimal performance levels. The drivers have personal trainers to help them condition for the physical aspect of their sport, but the top level teams also recognize the need to have someone on hand to condition them for the mental aspect of competition also.

Sports psychology has been around for several decades in team sports such as football and basketball. It wasn’t as pervasive in motorsports, but has been gaining popularity in recent years. Team owners are looking for every edge that they can possibly find to beat the competition, and learning the benefits of realistic goal setting and positive imagery, as well as learning stress management tools, can definitely give a driver an edge.

Obviously NASCAR drivers have mastered some of the mental aspects of what they do. The level of focus and concentration that they can achieve for such lengths of time is amazing when you think about it. And whether they realize it or not, they use mental imagery all the time. How often do you hear a driver talk about going over a qualifying lap in their head before they ever get in the car? All the time. This is also why racing simulator games can go a long ways in preparing a driver for a race. They aren’t being put through the same physical rigors of being in an actual car – they are going through the mental aspect of it.

So mental imagery is common among drivers. The question is whether they are keeping that imagery positive, or if they are letting negative thinking get in the way of their goals. It is much easier to think negatively than it is to have a positive outlook. So changing your perception of the situation to put a positive spin on it actually requires more work. This is where the help of a sports psychologist can be invaluable.

Athletes all too often fall into common mental ruts that produce negativity. Demanding perfection – “If you’re not first, you’re last.” Let’s face it, not every driver can win every race. It’s an unrealistic expectation that will lead to frustration and negativity. Striving towards perfection, doing all they can to improve themselves, are good goals. But demanding a perfect performance every time will set them up for failure.

Another common pitfall is focusing on past performance. Thinking about a mistake they made twenty laps ago, a race ago, or the last time they were at that track not only erodes their confidence, but takes focus away from the only thing that they can control – the present. It doesn’t matter if they screwed up a corner in the last lap and lost a position. It doesn’t matter if they had a bad pit stop. What matters is what is in front of them.

Dwelling on the uncontrollable is also a big mental mistake that is hard to overcome for athletes, drivers especially. They can’t control the car handling, they can’t control the track conditions, they can’t control what the pit crew does, and most of all they can’t control the other forty-two drivers on the track. Racing is a total team effort and it also involves an element of luck. A driver needs to focus only on what is in his control.

So how do drivers that contended for the Championship last year, like Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, etc. keep that element of focus and positive mental attitude from week to week? Well, I don’t know for certain. Maybe they are robots who are unable to feel emotion. Or quite possibly their team has a Sports Psychologist to help them through the mental rigors required of them.

NASCAR racing has achieved such parity among the competitors that races are sometimes won or lost by mere inches – either on the track, in the pits, or when missing the wreck in front of them. Every tiny advantage that you can gain on the other drivers is a step towards attaining the ultimate goal – winning. So if the top teams are utilizing Sports Psychology to give their drivers an edge, end even if they’re not, other drivers need to step up and give it a try.

It is not a weakness to ask the help of someone in order to achieve a certain state of mind any more than it is a weakness to ask a physical trainer to help them condition their bodies. Coaches the world over have always preached that any game is 10% physical and 90% mental. NASCAR racing is no different. It isn’t just one driver versus forty-two other drivers. It’s also one driver versus themselves and the track they are racing on, and sometimes that is pretty tough competition.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Daytona - Qualifying Quotes

MARCOS AMBROSE - No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion
Qualified 13th
"It's the first time with my crew and I'm really excited to drive this number 9 car for Stanley and Richard Petty Motorsports. It's just a real thrill for me and it's just good to get one in the books. We picked up from yesterday and when you can do that, you've got to be happy."


AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
Qualified 19th
"Unless you get on the front row it doesn't really matter, but it's more of a moral victory for the crew chief. We've been pretty slow and we all have competition about where we're gonna qualify, so it was cool to see. For me, I didn't do anything, but for as much speed as we picked up, we picked up about a half-second from where we were in practice, which is really tough to do. In the end, it doesn't change the 500 at all, but it's more of a moral victory. We're having fun."

Credit - Ford Racing

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Daytona Media Day Interview

AJ ALLMENDINGER, No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion

"Well, I kind of had to because everyone else left. Everybody else on the team, driver-wise, was going their separate way. It was a tough time for everybody. More than anything, I felt that I had to step up, not for the heads of the race team, not for the Robbie Loomis and guys like that, but for my crew guys. They were the ones busting their butts everyday and it was so difficult for them because they weren't getting told any information and I was getting told very limited information. They are the ones that worked the hardest and make the least amount of money. They needed to know what they needed to do. The group of guys I had on the 43 specifically, I loved them to death and I wanted them to stay around. It was both things, trying to take care of them and keep them here so that we could start this year out strong. It was a tough time, but we got through it. In the end, I think it will only make us stronger. I was proud of my guys that whole time for how they kept fighting. I think potentially now, we have better race cars. Doug Yates, Ford, everybody that puts the engine behind us, they are going to have more horsepower and the potential is there. We just have to live up to it now."

"The Sprint Cup Series is so tough now that you have to start off strong. I knew we had a great race car last year and we didn't finish the deal. I felt like that was my fault. Whether it was the pothole or not, I was the one that was controlling the steering wheel. It was a tough deal. The first 10 races last year we had 25th or worse finishes and you can't have that. I look at this year and you have to get through Daytona. Of course you want to win it, and I think that we have a great car to go here and win it, but you have to go out there and finish strong and get a good result. You go to Phoenix from there and you have to keep that momentum going. I am excited because it is my second year working with Mike Shiplett and it is the same core group of guys that we worked with last year. Like I said, the word I hear and use a lot is potential. We are going to be better, we just have to live up to where we belong. I think that is right there, contending for wins, getting wins and contending for the Chase."

"There is no doubt, we just have to learn how to do it. We have to learn how to seal the deal. The only way you learn that is to run up front more consistently. You saw that at the end of last year, that we could do that, we just never finished the deal. It was our own fault at times and at other times, like at Dover, we had a 10-cent washer get in the tire and make it flat and went two laps down. Things like that are things that we just have to learn how to work with and deal with better. I am the first guy that needs to step up and do that. We are going to have the stuff to go out and win, no doubt in my mind. Mike Shiplett as a crew chief is one of the best out there. We have a great relationship. The tools are there, we can go out there and win, we just have to learn to do it and do it consistently."

"I think the biggest thing for us last year was that most of the races, even the ones we finished well, there was a time in that race where we had a dip. For whatever reason, we would lose the handling. I just felt like the car was on a knife's edge the whole time to making it good or making it bad. These cars are difficult; don't get me wrong, everybody is on a knife's edge. We have to round that a little bit more, get a consistent car and make an adjustment and know it isn't going to turn the car to crap. That is what happened last year at times where we would be running fifth and then make an adjustment and be running 25th. Then you are back in the pack, struggling with air, and trying to get back to the front. There were times we got back and times that we didn't. If we can make the car consistent, we are going to have a good package, and that is what we need."

"It gives me a lot of confidence, but the race track is so different now. The way this race is going to be ran is a lot different now. Last year doesn't really mean anything; it is going to be that different out there. At the same time, we have faster race cars and faster motors now. We had a car to beat last year, and I know we will have one of the cars here to beat this year. It is all about who you hook up with at the end of this race. Which two cars are going to get locked together bumper-to-bumper and can push each other and break away. More than anything, it is about making friends. I was trying to do that at the test, talking to Jeff (Gordon) and Kyle (Busch) and trying to sweet talk them. That is what it is going to be about, finding the right guy at the right time and staying out of the mess to do that."

"You go step by step. With the way the rules package is, there is not a lot you can do to the car. We had three days here to test, and there is not a lot we are going to do to the car. Mike is going to get it on the race track and go through the inspection and there are some small little things we are going to try. Doug Yates and the engine shop brought a lot of stuff to the track for the test that we tried and I think we have a pretty good idea what the best engine package is. There is not much we can do from that aspect. It is more going step-by-step, getting through qualifying. If we have a chance at the pole, then great, if not then it doesn't really mean anything. Going in Wednesday and getting in a big group of cars, which is something I haven't done on this race track yet, because I was only here at the second test when we basically only had two-car drafting. That will be my first real attack mode chance where I can learn how to draft in a big pack on this track. Then we will go through the duals and I want to go out and win the thing. I want to be in victory lane for Best Buy and Ford and everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports. If not, I want to get out of there unscathed and keep building the week up. It is such a long time here that you can't just come in here full bore. You have to keep ramping up and ramping up, learning each thing that happens. You have to get into Sunday and try to make the right decisions then."

"No. If I am the so-called leader then great, I am plenty happy to be the leader. I have the ability to lead this team and I feel like at the end of last year I led this team and helped keep it together, but there are a lot of great people on this race team to help keep that glue together. You have Robbie Loomis, our new CEO Lisa Brown who has been amazing. She has come in and helped steer the team in a new direction. There are a lot of people on down than can help keep this team together. Not one guy can keep a team together, that is not what it is all about. We have a great leader in The King. It is everybody working well together. That is what happened at the end of last year. Everybody wanted to be here. All the crew guys wanted to keep working hard and win races. That is what it takes. I feel like we have a great group of guys on both race teams. Guys back at the shop. For me, it is a whole total package."

"Well, it is the start of it definitely. It is not like the Medallion Group came along and all those guys came in and we thought we were saved and everything is great now. It is a stepping stone. You have to keep building. Going to the shop now, it is a small group of guys, it seemed like we had so many people from so many different race teams, whether it was just Ford in general or Roush Fenway or Yates, it seemed like you saw a new guy all the time before. Now you look at it and it is a small core group of guys that are working on two cars. Everybody seems to just be a lot calmer, and the shop has a different attitude around it. I feel good about it going into this year. We aren't out of the woods. Everything isn't rainbows and blue skies. You see the light at the end of the tunnel and I joke that the light used to be a train coming to hit us. Now it is a real light at the end of the tunnel and everyone seems to be happy about it. We have been through so much. Now it is time to get on the race track and see where we belong at the beginning of this year and going forward. We have new cars in the shop and a lot more tools than we had at the end of last year. The way I look at it, at the end of last year we came to the track with an attitude that we wanted to win, but even more we wanted to just survive. Now we just want to win."

Credit - Ford Racing

AJ Allmendinger - Daytona Preview

No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
* AJ Allmendinger has made five starts on the 2.5-mile Daytona Beach, Fla. track.
* Allmendinger’s highest finish (third) at the track came in an RPM car in the 2009 Daytona 500
* Allmendinger led 11 laps in last year’s season opening event at Daytona International Speedway

AJ Allmendinger on Daytona International Speedway: “It is definitely smoother. It has little choppy bumps in it and is not glass smooth like Talladega feels like, but it definitely has a ton of grip. I think the 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 struggled with at the test 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.”

Fueler Derick Jennings on the Fueling Changes for 2011: “It’ll make my job harder. It’s a closed-loop system and you don’t have a catch can man, so I’ll be doing all the work. It’s a two-part system. The part that plugs into the car, one part sends fuel and the other part exhausts the air to the outer ring of it. Fuel goes on the inside of it and the air goes on the outside and then it comes up the handle of the can. When you fill it up with the second can it starts coming back up the hose and you will be able to tell when it is full. The good part of that is that the only place that can spill fuel is where it plugs into the car. The closed loop system has several advantages—it gets one guy off pit road and it’s a vapor recovery system.

“It will be a little slower to fuel the car than we are used to. Also, with the old system, it never slowed down the flow of the can when you were plugged in, but it’s a different kind of system. Another thing that will slow the stops down is that you have to go back to the wall and grab the other can and the can will be completely unplugged. The catch can man used to be able to hold that first can while you did that. You will lose two and a half to three seconds in between cans when the car isn’t being fueled at all.”

Chassis History: The No. 43 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 722 for this weekend’s event at Daytona International Speedway. This is a brand new Best Buy Ford and is not the car the team tested at the track in January.

Notes: Allmendinger has competed in five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races on the 2.5-mile oval and has scored one top-five finish—a third-place effort in the 2009 Daytona 500 while driving the No. 44 Richard Petty Motorsports machine. The Daytona 500 will mark Allmendinger’s 117th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Dale Inman will be inducted into the Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame in Daytona Beach, Fla. on Monday, February 14th. Inman was Richard Petty’s crew chief for all seven of Petty’s championships and has set the record for most wins by a crew chief.

Can’t get enough AJ? The Dinger will be a regular guest on Todd Wright Tonight on Sporting News Radio on Wednesday evenings. Allmendinger can also be heard speaking with host Dave Moody on Fridays in the 3 -7 p.m. ET time slot on Sirius NASCAR Radio. Allmendinger will also participate in a weekly driver video blog on

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday Ramble: Pre-Season Edition

New Year, New Hope
Richard Petty Motorsports very nearly ceased to exist at the end of the 2010 NASCAR season. Fans heard about how dire the situation was from journalists covering the story, but I don’t think many realized just how close that team came to not making it from race to race after George Gillett threw up his hands and said, “I give up.” Thankfully Richard Petty countered by saying, “I never give up.” The Hall of Fame legend scrambled and scratched his way to the top of the organization that bears his name and took the dangling reins in his capable hands. He found funding to get the four teams to the end of the season and gathered some investors who were willing to take a chance in auto racing’s elite division.

Now going into 2011, Richard Petty Motorsports has pared down from four teams to two. It might seem like a step backwards to some people, but having two fully funded cars and the concentrated resources to work on those cars is huge. Quality can overcome quantity, especially when you align yourself with a manufacturer like Ford and form an alliance with a top caliber team like Roush Fenway Racing. Yes, Richard Petty Motorsports has trimmed down, but that just means they are leaner, meaner, and hungrier than ever.

Richard Petty went to Victory Lane with Kasey Kahne in 2009, but he was largely just a figurehead in the organization at that time. I’m sure that his desire to go back to the winner’s circle is stronger than ever now. And there are no two people more eager to take him there than a duo of very talented drivers like AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose, both of whom are looking to score their first Sprint Cup win and prove that they belong in the sport.

Not only is there a strong desire to take their boss, Richard Petty, to Victory Lane – but those drivers would desperately like to take their sponsors there also. If you glanced through my transcript from RPM’s Media Day event, and have read my prior articles about AJ’s relationship with Best Buy, you know how important it is to that young man to do right by his sponsor. He wants to win for himself, for his family and friends, for his fans, and for his boss. But he especially wants to win for the company that put their trust in his ability – Best Buy.

I know AJ can do it, but then I’ve always known that he will be a winner someday. There isn’t a single morning before a race where I don’t believe that he could win that day. That’s what being a fan of a driver is all about. I’m happy when he gets a top 10 finish and ecstatic with a top 5. Heck, there are some races where I’m happy with a top 20 just because they have successfully battled through adversity to get there. But the reason I’m happy with those things is because I know that they are just a progression towards the bigger picture. Top 10’s, top 5’s, poles – those baby steps are leading to a final goal, one that I know is attainable.

I have high standards for what I want to happen in 2011. I know AJ is capable of contending for a spot in this season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. But I also have high hopes this year. AJ will win a race at some point in his career, with hopefully many more to follow, and 2011 might just be the year he does it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

RPM Media Tour Notes & Quotes

Richard Petty Motorsports hosted the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway media tour last Wednesday to discuss the changes that have been made to the organization since the end of last season and what the expectations are for 2011. Below is a transcript of the formal stage remarks from team personnel.

RICHARD PETTY, Co-Owner - Richard Petty Motorsports
"First of all, I want to say welcome to the new Richard Petty Motorsports. I guess through all these years I want to go back and thank the fans that are here for coming. Without them, none of us would be here. I guess when we look back at last year, especially the end of the year, everybody hung together. Our sponsors stayed with us all the way through the winter and came back this spring and we're getting ready for the new season. It was really good to have all of those people say, 'OK, guys. Stay in there and keep digging and we're gonna be ready for the next year.' That gave us a lot of incentive to go ahead and finish up last year. You've got to give our crew a lot of credit the last five or six races because they didn't know if they were gonna have a job when they came in the next week or not, but they stepped it up - the drivers stepped it up and the whole crew stepped it up and we ended up with a pretty good season.

"As everybody knows, we had four cars last year and we're gonna have two cars this year with AJ and Marcos driving the cars. We're gonna have Stanley back with the No. 9 car as a major sponsor and Best Buy is gonna be the major sponsor, even though we've got a lot of other sponsors that you'll hear from later on. These guys just stayed with us and made it work.

"I guess, most of all, being the press, I want to thank you all for the way you helped handle our situation last year. You didn't put us in that much of a crack and we were able to overcome the deal and give us some partners to come on and make things work for this coming year. We're looking forward to this year.

"I was looking around following you guys and you've been around to all these Taj Mahal's and see all the race cars, so we wanted to bring you to a place where it all happens, which is at the race track, so that's the reason we're here today. I want to thank you all for everything you've done all these years for NASCAR, the Petty organization and just everything to bring racing out.

"For the last three or four months it's been football, football, football, so now that football is almost over, we've got you all out here to carry the ball forward into next season. I think everybody here and everybody I've talked to is really looking forward to a new season. It's been a couple of months since we've raced and racers want to race all the time, so with your help to get the spectators and the fans and help us please those people, all of our sponsors that have helped us all this time, you do your job and we'll try to do our job and work together and make all of this a lot bigger operation.

"Again, I want to thank you all for all the years that I've been here and all the years you've treated the Petty crowd pretty good, so, again, thank you and welcome to a new year."

ANDY MURSTEIN, Co-Owner - Richard Petty Motorsports
"First, let me say how excited and truly honored I am to be a part of the RPM family. Our history as Medallion Financial, we traded on the NASDAQ under the symbol TAXI and the company was actually started by my grandfather back in 1937, so, like RPM and Ford, we have a very long and successful automotive history.

"Back in 1937 the city of New York sold 11,787 taxi medallions for $10 each. My grandfather started by driving a cab and through the years bought up several hundred at $10 each and the city never issued anymore since then, so today they sell for $800,000 each and we stuck with it. That's the way I view all investments is this is something that, like the taxi medallions, I hope 70 years from now my children are involved like Richard's family is involved. It's truly a family goal that we have.

"We went public about 15 years ago and since then we've raised several billion dollars and invested it in companies and all of our companies really fit the same model as what we have here - a great tradition and great integrity. The board of directors of my company, in addition to myself, is Governor Mario Cuomo, whose son is now governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, Governor and Senator Lowell Wycker, and another king of his sport, Hank Aaron, is on our board. To me, Hank and Richard are very similar men - very humble, yet legendary people who have transformed their sport. So, again, I'm proud to be a part of that.

"One of the many companies that we invested in over the years was we do taxi top advertising on top of cabs. I started that in 1995 and by 2005 we had about 10,000 taxis throughout the U.S. and they all sold out. We did so well that the tops were all sold, so we had no place left to put them, so I remember calling the mayor of New York and I said, 'Mr. Mayor, I'd like to come see you. We're doing very well. We want to bring more money into the economy in New York. Can we start advertising on the doors of the taxis, on the hoods, on the trunks.' I remember the mayor looked at me with a puzzled look and said, 'Heck no. What do you think this is, NASCAR?' So that's what got us thinking that this is a sport where not only can we bring strong financial resources to, but also new sponsors.

"We've got terrific sponsors today, but my goal long-term is to grow from two cars to four cars and bring additional sponsors to the table. So we looked at many sports opportunities over the years. We looked at actually buying at one point the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Cubs, but we picked this and it's really for one main reason, and it's for the people that you see on the stage today and the rest of the RPM team like Lisa Brown and Robbie Loomis in the audience. They stand for everything that Medallion does, which is excellence, tradition and integrity. So I promise the media and the fans that we're gonna do everything that we can to get this great man and this great company back where they belong - in the winner's circle. And we promise you the best is yet to come at RPM."

JAMIE ALLISON, Ford Racing, Director, North America Motorsports
"We at Ford really believe in the new RPM. Richard Petty Motorsports is very important to us at Ford Motor Co. We have a long and illustrious tradition here in the sport. We have a great team between Roush Fenway, RPM and the Wood Brothers and we stick with our teams, so, Richard, through the difficulties of last year when you and Brian reached out to us, there was not a moment of consideration.

"Our chairman, Edsel Ford, the chairman of Ford Racing, absolutely felt in his heart that it was the right thing to do and to make sure that the legacy of Richard Petty continued, so we are very happy and very blessed that we are here today to kick off the Daytona 500 in the presence of the King. He is called the King for a reason. His connection with the fans is unparalleled. The way he's been a part of the sport is something we at Ford cherish very much and that's why we're involved with the sport - because of men like Richard Petty.

"This business is really about people and it's about leadership. You saw it on the slide. Leaders make a difference and Richard is a leader in his own right, but we also have new leaders coming into the team. You heard a little bit from Andy. I met with Andy down in Florida and I can assure you that Andy is in it for the long haul. It's in the heart and there's a family approach to it, so the leadership of Andy, coupled with Lisa, who is the new CEO and she will have a really great impact on this. This opportunity to really change and bring in some great skills from outside the sport to transform what we do here is really vital, so Lisa will have an impact. Everybody knows who Robbie Loomis is and it's his steady hands that will guide this team. He's very tenured and very accomplished and we look forward to having you take us where you've been, which is in championship runs. But who is gonna pilot these cars to get there?

"AJ Allmendinger is returning for the second year with his team and we are thrilled to have that, and Marcos Ambrose - a Ford champion down in Australia - is making his own claims here in NASCAR. So we are energized and excited and, obviously, with the support of the sponsors like Best Buy and Stanley, we believe we have a really, really great team. So I'd like to leave you with the last piece.

"We have milestones at Ford. A couple of milestones you'll be reading out and hearing about. The first milestone is this is Henry Ford's 110th anniversary of starting racing. If you didn't know, Henry Ford raced once and won the only race he entered. It was that race he won that garnered the attention of investors, who allowed him to start Ford Motor Co. 18 months later, so Ford Motor Co. started by Henry Ford actually racing. So this is our 110-year anniversary.

"Second, we have 599 Cup wins and the King is responsible for nine out of those 599, so we're obviously going for the 600 club very, very soon. We want 600 and we want it bad and we want it at Daytona, so all I can say is destiny is on our side, legends are on our side and the future is on our side, so go Ford, go RPM and let's take it all the way to victory lane."

PAUL ZINDRICK, Senior Manager, Event Marketing, Best Buy
"On behalf of all of Best Buy employees, I am very excited to be here today. I mean, look at that car! We've got Best Buy blue, Petty Blue and of course the big yellow Best Buy tag back on the hood. We think it's going to look great on the track!

"Each year Best Buy evaluates it's sponsorships to ensure that they align with the companies goals. This past year was no different. Our NASCAR program delivered great results against the goals of brand awareness (remember Insignia? Don't forget we're giving away an Insignia 46" TV today!), B2B initiatives, local growth and employee engagement.

"This off season certainly had it's moments and our first choice was always AJ and Richard Petty Motorsports. If Best Buy was going to be back in the sport of NASCAR, we wanted to associate our brand with another iconic brand, Richard Petty.

"I'd like to thank the fans, Best Buy employees (some of which are in the audience today), partners, and of course everyone at RPM for their support, loyalty and partnership this last year and ongoing.

"With that said, I'm proud to introduce the driver of the #43 Best Buy Ford Fusion, AJ Allmendinger!"

AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
"First of all, obviously, it was a tough year. Paul is a little modest. He's a huge fan of this sport, just an amazing guy and, honestly, the reason that this car has Best Buy on it right now is because of him, so, Paul, I thank you for all of your hard work. People see on the outside how tough it was with what we were going through, but on the inside how much tougher it was. Paul fought as hard as he could to keep this sponsor on the race car, so, from me, Paul, I really consider you a close friend of mine, but I thank you so much just for the effort that you went through just to get this back on the race car. It means so much to this race team. You're one of the best guys around, so I thank you for the effort and everything that you did.

"Andy, it's pretty amazing to have a group like yours come in and support this race team, support myself, support Marcos, support everybody at RPM. It's a great company. You don't even know what to say about Richard - a legend, that's an understatement. Richard had been through a lot of tough times lately, so to see a group like yours come in and give us the opportunity to go out and show what we can do means a lot, so I thank you and your group for all of the effort that you put into this.

"Jamie, all the support that Ford has given this race team in the past, in the future, but especially in the tough times last year, it was pretty amazing to see. I felt really important -- that you guys wanted to support myself and you felt so confident in this race team that you did what you had to do to keep this thing going, so I thank you for that.

"For me, I'm excited. It's not just about Best Buy, obviously, although they're the key sponsor on the team, we've got Valvoline and Air Force, so that's good see. We've got Wix Filters, the PVA, Super 8, Reynolds, so a team that didn't look like it would be around, we've got a lot of sponsors on this race team. I'm excited about this year. I think this team has a ton of potential.

"Mike Shiplett, my crew chief is sitting here in the front, although I think you should be working right now, I'm glad to see that you're here. I promise you guys that Mike is gonna be one of the best crew chiefs in this sport that you've ever heard of and I get to see that on a daily basis. He's an amazing guy. The work ethic that he puts into it just kind of trickles down through the whole rest of the race team. Mike, I know you're gonna be one of the best out there, you already are, I've just got to take you to that next standard. That's my job and everybody at RPM, there are a few here but everybody back at the shop who can't here this, I'm glad they can't because they really should be working too. We've got a Daytona car to get ready, so everything that we went through last year was tough, but I feel like everything that we had to fight to keep going is only gonna make us stronger on the other side. I think it showed us internally what the team was all about and how strong we really wanted to be because we very easily could have fallen apart. Everybody could have gone and looked for other jobs and started fighting, but we got stronger. We got to the race track and, as always, the cars were prepared to the top. The cars were fast, so I feel like the stuff we went through is gonna make us stronger on the other side. I'm excited to be a part of that. We've got a ton of potential, but we know potential doesn't mean anything if we don't live up to it, so that's our job. We're gonna go out there and do everything that we can. We'll get this thing in victory lane.

"Marcos, I'm excited to have you on this race team, although you're over there giggling right now. I don't know what's going on - telling jokes - but I'm happy to have you be a part of this race team and I'm looking forward to being your teammate. Hopefully, you won't run into me as much now that we're teammates (laughter), but, let's be honest, we all saw how much I liked to mess with the 9 on the race track, so I don't know if that will change. I'm excited about it. I'm excited about this race team. The way I look at it, heck, it can't get any worse than it was last year, so we can only get better from that, so thank you. Thanks to all the fans for coming out and let's have a good time this year."

MARCOS AMBROSE - No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion
"To AJ, if I was running into you, it means you were going too slow (laughter). Likewise, I'm looking forward to working with AJ. Teammates are always great to have. I get along well with him off the track. I know I play better golf than you, so it should be a good challenge. It's a real honor to be here today considering the adversity we went through at the end of 2010. To drive for Richard Petty and the RPM team is a real thrill. I never thought in Australia that I'd ever get a chance to drive for the King, but here I am.

"I've got to be honest with you, I'm very optimistic and very enthusiastic about our chances in 2011. I signed on with RPM before the turmoil at the end of 2010 and I must say that the way the company came out of the ashes so strong with such commitment to win is quite outstanding. Without guys like the King to have the leadership to drive it all forward, it was quite an incredible story. I'm still not too sure how it all came back together again because I wasn't privy to the inside meetings, but it's the most amazing thing I've ever seen - the loyalty, the support behind Richard and this team has really spurred me on to really refocus my energies in NASCAR, to get out there on the race track in 2011 and deliver for Richard, for RPM, for Stanley and for DeWalt and for every employee at RPM. It's been an incredible story and I can't wait to turn it into a great new story come the Daytona 500 hopefully and through the rest of the year.

"Looking at the highlights package, there was way too much road course racing for my liking, so I'm looking to really prove myself on the ovals. I feel like this is the best chance in my career ever to get the job done and I just can't wait to get started. With the help of Todd Parrott, a champion crew chief and a Daytona ring holder, I couldn't ask for anyone better. I hope I can deliver on the race track. I know that you've got my back and I'm proud to be associated with you and hopefully get our team to victory lane as quick as we can.

"I've actually passed my sinus infection on to him, so I apologize in advance. You're gonna be going through the next four days in a bit of misery, but thank you for everybody who turned out today. Thank you for the fans who came out and let's get started. Let's get cranking on 2011 and hopefully we'll contend for the chase and see you in victory lane."

RICHARD PETTY - "Again, I just want to thank everybody for all their support. I may have said this before, but I don't know that we could put a better crowd together to start the season with. I'm real confident in our drivers, our crew chiefs and the deals we have working with Ford and working with Roush. All of that stuff is really coming together. We were lucky to get through last year, but we feel like we've got a really, really good team with all of our sponsors and partners that came back and are working with us. All the crew people that we have, again, we can concentrate on two cars now instead of four.

"We're really looking forward to next year. Again, we just want to tell you that we appreciate all you've done over a period of years to get us to this point and we're gonna try to keep pushing. I've been up. I've been down. I've been in-between, so we feel like this is our best chance in the last five or six years to really go forward with Richard Petty Motorsports.

"Again, we want to thank all of our people and all of our new partners that came in and helped us out. As some of you know, the last couple of years I've sort of been sitting on the sidelines without having much say-so in the business deal and now they've put the pressure back on me. They've put me out front and I've got a little bit of say-so on what's going on, so I feel better about that.

"I feel good about the team that I have around -- the guys that stuck with me all these years. We've got Dale Inman here that has been with me all the years we won championships and all the races. He's sort of my in-between man. I've got him out checking and seeing what's going on. Robbie has been with us a long time. He went off and wandered around a little while, but then he came back (laughter). We've got Brian Moffitt, who takes care of looking after sponsors and looking after me and family, so we've got those people who have been with me all these years. Now we've got new people coming in from the standpoint that Lisa Brown is coming in to try to help look after the financing part of it.

"I've always been a racer and never was much on financing. You all can see that. We've got the Medallion crowd coming in and we've got another partner in California that we're trying to keep in California (laughter). Again, it's gonna be a very different year for us. I think it's gonna be a different year for everybody because they've changed some of the rules around and we're gonna have to work within those parameters. We've got our own parameters that we have to work in, but, again to the fans, the press and our sponsors, I just want to say a real Petty thank you for staying with us all these years and we're looking forward to the future just like you are."

Credit - Ford Racing & Best Buy Racing