Thursday, April 28, 2011

Richmond Race Preview

No. 43 NAUTICA Ford Fusion
• Allmendinger has made eight starts at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway
• Allmendinger enters the race in 15th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings
• Allmendinger’s best finish (eighth) at Richmond came in last year’s fall race

Allmendinger on Richmond International Raceway: “Richmond is completely opposite from racing at Talladega two weeks ago. We go from one of the largest tracks back to short-track racing. I had a strong car at Talladega, was able to avoid the big wrecks, and came home with a decent finish. After having an off-weekend last week I’m ready to get back to the race track this weekend at Richmond.

“Racing under the lights is always exciting and the fans are going to see the sparks fly this Saturday night. Richmond is such a cool place to race at and we have a new sponsor on board this weekend with NAUTICA, so I’m really looking forward to putting on a good show for them and the fans.”

Crew Chief Mike Shiplett’s Keys to Getting Around Richmond: “There will be a lot of action on Saturday night in Richmond. We will have to work on forward bite all night and try to keep the No. 43 NAUTICA Ford Fusion turning in the center of the corner. This is one of the hardest tracks on the brakes because you carry so much speed into the corners. It’s hard to keep the front end low to make the turn and there is little time for the brakes to cool down.”

Shiplett on Pit Stops at Richmond: “Pit road at Richmond is tough. The pit stalls are really small and it’s easy to get into trouble on pit road. We need to qualify up front to get a pit box in Turn 1 and we need to have solid pit stops all night.”

Chassis History: The No. 43 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 736 for this weekend’s event at Richmond International Raceway. This NAUTICA Ford has been run previously this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Notes: Allmendinger has eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Richmond International Raceway. Allmendinger’s best starting position (third) and finishing position (eighth) came in last year’s fall event at the .75-mile track. He has completed 2,990 of 3,210 laps attempted at the oval, leading one of them.

Allmendinger’s car will have a different look this weekend as NAUTICA, a part of VF Corporation and a leader in branded quality apparel, will serve as primary sponsor of Richard Petty Motorsports’ famed No. 43 Ford Fusion for Saturday evening’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

Can't get enough of the Dinger? AJ will visit the Ford Display on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. for a 15 minute Q-and-A session.

Allmendinger will make an appearance at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond, Va., Thursday from 2-4 p.m. in conjunction with the Paralyzed Veterans of America. While at the medical center, Allmendinger will visit with veterans in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit, as well as participate in an autograph and photo session.

Did you vote today? Vote your favorite RPM driver into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 21, via the Sprint Fan Vote. Cast your vote at or on your Sprint phone. Voting ends at 5 p.m. ET on May 21. Voting is limited to once per hour.

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ford Racing Interview with AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger is off his best start as a Sprint Cup driver, currently residing 15th in the latest points standings heading into Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway. Allmendinger took a few moments to talk about his season to date, what the 43 team still needs to improve on and look ahead to what he thinks of Richmond and the characteristics of the driver that will win Saturday night.

AJ ALLMENDINGER, driver No. 43 Ford Fusion

“We have been fortunate enough to not make any huge mistakes to take ourselves out of races. We have just kind of been there. It is a little up and down. I feel like certain places we struggled at last year we have gotten better and other places we haven’t gotten better. Ultimately if we want to be a real Chase contending team we need to get better in certain areas. The mile-and-a-half tracks are our weakness right now. We have been fast at times in those races, like Vegas and Texas, but we faded.

"That is the kind of stuff that happened last year at those places. The good thing is that a lot of Ford cars are fast there and have won those races. We have things we can look at to improve on. We as a race team with the 43 have to get better there. That is between Mike Shiplett and me. I feel like we can and have the potential to be better there. That is the thing that sticks out in my mind because we have to be better on those tracks because they make up the majority of the schedule.

"To be an elite team and contend for the Chase we have to be strong on those. At the same point we have been strong on the short tracks. I am looking forward to Richmond this weekend. The Dover tire test went really well so I am really looking forward to Dover as well. We just have to keep getting better. If we do that then we can be there. We are just on the cusp right now. We are right on the outside. We are a 12th to 15th place team that needs to improve in certain areas. If we do that and keep the strengths we have then we have the potential to be a good team throughout the year.”

“I look at the Roush guys but more than anything I look at Marcos (Ambrose). Although we are in the same Ford family when it comes to everything you still have to look at your own race team personally. Marcos has finished like fourth and sixth or seventh at those places. He has been really fast. It is not like we haven’t been fast at those race tracks, we have been. We have qualified up front and ran up front but we faded as the race went on and the track changed. We can get there. Everybody looks at the Chase and that is the ultimate goal and winning races, but for me it is still baby steps. We are not quite there yet. Would I love to say that we are there and we are going to be a top-ten team or we are? Yeah, I would love to say that.

"We are just not quite there yet at certain race tracks. To me, other race tracks we are. We have some tracks coming up where I think we can be. Teams that are like that are good every weekend and we are good at times and then we are average. We are never really bad which is something that is good because even on our worst days when I think we are terrible we are inside the top-20 which is hard to do in this series. We just have to be good all the time and that is something we are working on.”

“I enjoy it there. We have had our ups and down there for sure. Last year in the second race there we were really good. It is a really tough place because it gets really slick and you tend to start to get some long runs in there and if you are just a little bit off with these cars lately you can get one or two guys that get dialed in and they can lap the field real quick. You really have to have a good qualifying run and then you really have to be good from the start. From there on it is just the track getting slick and when you get in the long runs you have to conserve your rear tires. It is a tough race track.

"It is one of those places where we have been good and faded and last year we were pretty good all race. We finished eighth and we were even better than that. It is a tough place but a fun place to drive for sure. I am looking forward to it because I feel like our short track program has really improved and we have a chance to be really good there. It is definitely a tough race, especially when it is hot out. As the sun goes down it makes for a cool Saturday night short track race. I am really looking forward to it.”

“I think for me I go in a couple of stages. My first goal was to get to Charlotte and the All-Star break. We have three races before that, two tracks I think we can be good at and one that is a question mark in Darlington. I look at that as the beginning of the season and say that we need to get to Charlotte and see where we are legitimately. If we can have three good weeks we might be able to get inside the top-10 in points or right on the cusp and have a legitimate chance at it. Then after that there is a tough stretch with tough tracks for us that can make or break our season. There is a big stretch there that starts with the 600 and then goes to Kansas and Michigan where we have never really been great at. We should be okay at Pocono and Sonoma, but that stretch before the Daytona July race is tough. Once you get to mid July that is when you make your stretch run at the Chase. I go in stages though and it starts with these next three races to get to that first stage.”

“Because they are patient all night and probably have the best forward drive off the corners because that is what it comes down to. You have to get your car to turn through the center and have great forward drive off to not burn the tires up. The guy that does that and is patient all night will probably be the winner.”

Credit - Ford Racing

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Calling All AJ Fans

I want YOUR stories about the man called Dinger for my website. Whether it's getting an autograph from AJ, meeting him for the first time, how you became a fan of his, or just something memorable that he has done that stands out in your mind, I want to hear about them and I want others to hear about them as well. Even if he's not your first favorite driver - if you have an interesting story please share it with everyone.

We are all influenced to liking or not liking NASCAR drivers based on their personality off the track as well as how they drive on the track. Some drivers make bigger impressions on us than others based on our own personalities and what we want to see in them. So I want to hear how AJ has influenced you. Is it his perseverance through adversity, a great pass he made on the track, an interview where his personality grabbed you, or possibly you were just waiting for an autograph from another driver and AJ happened to stop and sign also.

These are your stories and can be told however you want. If you're lucky enough to have multiple stories about AJ then feel free to send them all to me. Many people have gotten pictures from autograph sessions or appearances with him, and if you want those included then send them along with the stories. Email them to me at and please include at least your first name and where you are from. If you prefer not to give that information out then just let me know.

These stories will also be sent to Best Buy so that they know exactly the kind of person that AJ is and how his fan base perceives him. And I can't promise that the stories will be read by AJ himself, but there is a possibility that he will take a glance at them also. It will be good for him to hear the positive experiences that fans have had and why they like him as a driver.

So this is your time to tell your story. I will start posting them in a few weeks on an intermittent basis depending on how many submissions I get. DingerWorld was created so that Dinger fans could find out all kinds of information about their driver. What better way to do that than to hear each other's stories?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Talladega's New Look - Race Recap

AJ started off the weekend at Talladega by running 5th fastest in Friday’s second practice and then qualifying 16th on Saturday morning, which was a good starting spot in comparison to the other Ford drivers. Qualifying results don’t really matter at restrictor plate tracks though, but the biggest advantage to AJ’s starting position was that he was lined up behind David Reutimann.

AJ and David get along well off the track and have a lot of respect for each other’s abilities. The two had worked together in practice on Friday, so it was fortunate that the lineup worked out to put them nose to tail for the start of Sunday’s race. Once everyone got rolling after the green flag, AJ switched over to David’s radio channel and the two worked in tandem for two thirds of the race. They communicated well and were both racing smart and cautiously, not trying to make holes where there weren’t any and just riding around in anticipation of the final quarter of the race when they were planning on going to the front.

Unfortunately, AJ’s car was collected in a spin on Lap 140 brought about by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. There was minimal left rear fender damage, but AJ had to limp slowly around to pit road because his tires were flat and he didn’t want to do any more sheet metal damage if the tires came apart. The Best Buy crew quickly changed tires and sent the #43 back out ahead of the leaders and then brought him back in for repairs to the fender. AJ was able to stay on the lead lap but had to start at the rear of the field due to pitting before pit road was open.

Reutimann meanwhile had avoided damage and pitted for tires, but was restarting further up in the field. Reutimann managed to find his MWR teammate Truex, which left AJ without his partner for the first time in the race. The current driver of the #43 car teamed up with one of the former drivers of the #43 when he hooked up with Bobby Labonte. The two drivers were not able to communicate on the same radio channel however, so on the next caution both tried to find someone else to pair up with.

Luckily for AJ, the Childress cars weren’t as close to each other on the final restart as they needed to be to get hooked together and he managed to pair up with the #27 of Paul Menard. The two former teammates had worked together at Daytona, and with the strong ECR Chevy engine combined with the Yates horsepower in AJ’s Ford, the duo quickly made their way towards the front. Eventually they got blocked behind slower cars and lost momentum which left them finishing just outside the top 10, but it was still a strong result after a very long race.

AJ’s 11th place result was his best ever finish at Talladega, and was much better than last fall’s race which saw him flying upside down on the final lap. He made smart, cautious moves all race long so that he could be there at the end. The team made good pit stops and made quick repair work on pit road when needed. Overall it was a very solid effort by the Best Buy team, and despite losing a spot or two in the standings, AJ has maintained close contact with the top 10 in points.

This tandem style of racing takes some getting used to, and after seeing it in both Talladega races last year and again at Daytona in February, I still can’t decide if I like it or not. Personally, I have always hated restrictor plate tracks anyway. The style that we’re used to seeing at Talladega where they run three or four wide in a huge pack is exciting, but it is also very dangerous and there is little a driver can do to take charge of their own fate.

To me, I see the tandem style of drafting as a safer version of plate track racing. We saw several single car spins or wrecks that only collected three or four cars instead of the huge 20-car pileups that have happened historically. There’s more room to maneuver, and if you need to back off you can. Yes, the person in back is basically driving blind, but that was the case when they were in one large pack as well. At least with a two car draft there is an option for communication with the lead driver that helps in moving around on the racetrack.

Some say that the pairs drafting takes the competitive edge out of the race because you have to have a buddy in order to go anywhere, but that has always been the case at restrictor plate tracks. If you were in a line of cars and wanted to make a move, someone behind you had to go with you. In the past, if you tried to pull out on your own without help, you would just go backwards. So restrictor plate tracks have always been like this. I find the tandem racing more interesting to watch, and the excitement generated throughout the race isn’t just waiting for the big wreck to happen – it’s actual passes and fighting for position.

I think the most fascinating thing is that we get to watch a new racing style develop. From the first time that we saw two cars hook up and fly past the rest of the field last spring to yesterday’s race, drivers and teams have gone forward in leaps and bounds. Drivers are developing new sets of skills, engineers are building racecars that are more adaptive to this style, and spotters are learning how to communicate in different ways.

I loved listening to the radios for two different teams and hearing the dynamics of what was going on. The front driver was calling out which lane he was choosing, one spotter was working as if the two cars were one to clear them and let them know where other cars were on the track, and in AJ and David’s case anyway, the other spotter was helping out also by letting them know if cars were closing or if a tandem in front of them were switching so they would know to watch for slower cars ahead. I’d like to have listened to some of the other teams out there, but couldn’t tear my ears away from the #43 radio.

In my opinion, yesterday showed teamwork at it’s finest. It just wasn’t necessarily teamwork within your own team. The down side to it is that drivers almost have to be political all year long just for these four restrictor plate races. Aggressive drivers who go out and race other drivers hard week in and week out are going to have a more difficult time finding a partner than someone who is more laidback on the track and willing to let cars go by them if they’re faster. The cooperation has to go deeper than just one race.

So in short, I’m not a huge fan of the tandem racing. There are a lot of disadvantages to it. But I like the tandem racing better than the traditional restrictor plate races because the drivers have more control. It’s not the ideal type of racing that I would like to watch, but it’s still racing. My driver is in it, for better or worse, and I’m going to watch every second that he’s on the track no matter what track it is. Not watching isn’t an option.

Talladega Race Recap

No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
■AJ Allmendinger started in the 24th position at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala. on Sunday.
■ Allmendinger wheeled his way to an 11th-place finishing position
■ Unofficially, Allmendinger sits in 15th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings

Race Summary: Starting the Aaron’s 499 from the 24th position, Allmendinger quickly found a drafting partner in David Reutimann and ran as high as 14th in the early laps of the 188-lap event.

A yellow flag on Lap 28 enabled Allmendinger to head down pit road for fresh right side tires and fuel. Taking the green flag in 12th place, Allmendinger once again found drafting partner Reutimann and the two drove into the top 10 by Lap 48. Allmendinger remained within sight of the leaders, and at Lap 115, held down the 10th spot. After a quick caution flag with 50 laps to go, Allmendinger lined up for the Lap 133 restart in fifth place.

In typical Talladega fashion, things took a turn for the worse quickly. Allmendinger was one of several cars involved in an incident on the backstretch on Lap 140. The accident resulted in flat left side tires and left rear damage to the No. 43 Best Buy Ford. Crew Chief Mike Shiplett called his driver into the pits to access the damage. Allmendinger made several pit stops during the caution period to allow the RPM crew to make repairs to the car, which they were able to do without losing a lap to the leaders.

Allmendinger lined up for the Lap 145 restart in the 16th position and, with the help of his drafting partner, had worked his way to eighth place with 40 laps remaining in the race. With just over 20 laps remaining, a quick stop for a splash of gas during a caution period and Allmendinger was in good shape for the final 20 laps of the race.

Allmendinger found a new drafting partner in Paul Menard and the two remained within sight of the leaders. Holding down 23rd with seven laps to go, Allmendinger steadily moved up through the field in the closing laps and took the checkered flag in 11th place.

Despite the 11th place finish, the No. 43 team fell two positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, but still remains only 19 points outside of 10th position.

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Talladega Qualifying Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
Qualified 16th
"It was smooth. That was as fast as I could make the car go. You're kind of just out there hanging out, so we'll see where we start. The Best Buy Ford will be good and now we just have to go and start texting some people in the driver bus lot and get some friends."

HOW MUCH STEERING INPUT DO YOU USE TO STAY SMOOTH HERE? "As little as you can. You're just trying to take everything away that will scrub speed off. There's not a lot of stuff the driver can do to help it, but there's a lot of stuff he can do to hurt it, so it is what it is."


MARCOS AMBROSE - No. 9 DeWalt Ford Fusion
Qualified 24th
"We were a little disappointed in qualifying trim and we thought we could have been a little better, but it doesn't make a whole lot of difference around this place. It's a quiet day for the drivers. There's not much you can do out there to make any difference, so I'm looking forward to Sunday's race. I've had good runs here in the past and some pretty bad ones too, so we'll just see what it gives us and not get greedy."

Credit - Ford Racing

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Talladega Race Preview

No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
• Allmendinger has made five starts at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
• Allmendinger enters the race in 13th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings
• Allmendinger’s best start (fourth) came in his first Sprint Cup Series event at the track in 2008

Allmendinger on Talladega Superspeedway: “I was in a pretty big wreck at Talladega last year, so that’s always in the back of my mind. It’s definitely not one of my favorite places to race. We’ve never really had good results there. We always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a race that I really want to win, but ultimately, it’s about survival. If I can miss all the wrecks and finish inside the top 15 I’ll be happy.

“This is only my fifth start at Talladega and I haven’t had very good luck in the past. We ran well at Daytona and my Best Buy Ford Fusion was fast there, so I’m hoping some of that translates over to this weekend’s race. My Richard Petty Motorsports race team and I need a good finish to gain back some momentum and I’m hoping this weekend will help.”

Crew Chief Mike Shiplett’s Keys to Getting Around Talladega: “In the past there has been big packs of cars that draft together, but what happened in Talladega last fall and Daytona this year is that we have gone to two car drafting. With NASCAR making the restrictor plate size smaller this weekend, it will be interesting to see if we can still do two mcar drafting. We aren’t sure what to expect, and it could be a game changer.”

Shiplett on Pit Stops at Talladega Superspeedway: “Pit stops are important and we need to make sure we don’t lose the draft under green. AJ will have to bring the Best Buy Ford down pit road with a group of cars if it’s the old style of large pack racing. If it is the new style of two car drafting, AJ and his partner need to plan to come down pit road together and take the same number of tires, so they both come off of pit road at the same time.”

Chassis History: The No. 43 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 722 for this weekend’s event at Talladega Superspeedway. This Best Buy Ford has been run previously this season at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

Notes: Allmendinger has five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Talladega Superspeedway. Allmendinger’s best starting position (fourth) came in 2008 at the 2.66-mile track. He has completed 927 of 955 laps attempted at the quad-oval, leading 6 of them. Allmendinger enters Talladega in 13th spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings.

Allmendinger’s car will have a different look this weekend as Best Buy will return as the primary partner of the No. 43 Ford Fusion. Did you vote today? Vote your favorite RPM driver into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 21, via the Sprint Fan Vote.Cast your vote at or on your Sprint phone. Voting ends at 5 p.m. ET on May 21. Voting is limited to once per hour.

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Monday, April 11, 2011

Texas Race Recap

No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion
• AJ Allmendinger started the 500-mile event at Texas Motor Speedway from the 15th position
• Allmendinger finished the Samsung Mobile 500 in the 19th position
• Unofficially, the No. 43 sits in 13th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings

Race Summary: Starting the race at Texas Motor Speedway in the 15th position, AJ Allmendinger quickly worked his way up to the ninth spot in just five laps. Though the Valvoline machine was gaining positions quickly, Allmendinger informed crew chief Mike Shiplett he was fighting a loose race car.

After making two pit stops under yellow flag conditions in the early laps of the event to correct the loose condition, Allmendinger informed Shiplett the No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion was turning better in the middle of the corners and was smoother on entry into the turns. Working his way to the fifth position on Lap 108, Allmendinger again let the crew know that the No. 43 Ford was getting very loose.

As the laps wore on, Allmendinger began to fight more and more with the handling of the Valvoline machine and Shiplett instructed the Richard Petty Motorsports crew to make trackbar and wedge adjustments during the next several pit stops. A pit stop under green flag conditions coupled with handling issues caused Allmendinger to fall a lap down by the midway point of the 500-mile event.

On Lap 214 of the 334-lap race, Allmendinger held down the 22nd position and relayed to the crew that the car was loose in and out of the corners and tight in the middle of the turns. Shiplett called for chassis adjustments on the Valvoline car during the remaining three pit stops of the race and when the checkered flag flew, Allmendinger crossed the finish line in 19th position.

Unofficially, Allmendinger picked up one spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings and now sits in 13th spot heading to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend.

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Texas Qualifying Quotes

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 DeWalt Ford
Qualified 7th
“It was good. We have been gaining on it every day and I fell really good about that you know. That is the best qualifying lap we have done all weekend through the practices and stuff. We have to keep trying to improve on it though.”


AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Valvoline Ford
Qualified 15th
“Hopefully that will put us in the top 15 or 20. Going out early hurt us and the track is getting shady real quick here. I am proud of the gains we made today though.” “You just have to take where the race car was and make small steps on it. I think we have the car close enough so we can make small gains on it. You never really know until you drop the green though.”

Credit - Ford Racing

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Texas Race Preview

No. 43 Valvoline Ford Fusion
• Allmendinger has made six starts at Texas Motor Speedway
• Allmendinger enters the race in 14th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings
• Allmendinger’s best finish (10th) at the track came in 2009

Allmendinger on Texas Motor Speedway: “Texas is a fast 1.5-mile track. I’ve run six races there and I feel like I’ve been able to improve every time we’ve raced there. We had a good run going last weekend at Martinsville before we got caught on pit road and went a lap down. I feel like we’ve got some momentum going into Texas. We had a decent finish (13th) there last spring, so I’m hopeful for good things this weekend in the Valvoline Ford.”

Crew Chief Mike Shiplett’s Keys to Getting Around Texas Motor Speedway: “It’s a big downforce track. It has a lot of speed and it doesn’t have a lot of grip so you usually fight a little loose off the corners and not turning in the middle of the corners. We’ll concentrate on those things this weekend and see what we can do with the Valvoline Ford.

“The biggest trouble with Texas is that there are some big bumps in the track in the middle of Turns 1 and 2 that really upset the car. The Valvoline Ford will have to be very loose to run fast. The bumps make the back of the car step out and will make the car loose off the corners. The car carries so much entry speed into the corners that the right front tire takes a lot of the load causing the tires to wear out fast. When the tires get a lot of laps on them the car begins to push in the middle of the corner. We will focus a lot on bump stop load in the right front corner of the car this weekend.”

Chassis History: The No. 43 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 752 for this weekend’s event at Texas Motor Speedway. This Valvoline Ford is a new car and has never been tested.

Notes: Allmendinger has six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway and three top-15 finishes at the 1.5-mile track. Allmendinger’s best finish (10th) came at the fall race at Texas in 2009. He has completed a total of 1,811 laps at the track and has an average starting position of 18.2.

Allmendinger’s car will have a different look this weekend as Valvoline will make its second appearance of the year as the primary partner of the No. 43 Ford Fusion.

Allmendinger will be participating in the U.S. Air Force’s Dipped In Blue program Tuesday and Wednesday in San Antonio, Texas prior to going to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. During the two-day event Allmendinger will visit Randolph Air Force Base and Lackland Air Force Base to tour the facility and meet with trainees. As part of the program, he will also visit Randolph High School and talk with students about the Air Force program.

Can’t get enough of AJ? The Dinger will be appearing at the Best Buy Mobile store in Fort Worth, Texas (4800 S. Hulen Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76132). The appearance is scheduled for Thursday, April 7, from 7:30-9 p.m. CT and is open to the public.

Allmendinger will also be signing autographs at the Richard Petty Motorsports merchandise hauler Saturday, April 9 at 3:20 p.m. The first 80 guests in line at the merchandise hauler when it opens will receive a ticket that will allow them to take part in the autograph session.

Credit- Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Monday, April 4, 2011

Martinsville Race Recap - My Version

Martinsville weekend started decent for AJ Allmendinger and his #43 Best Buy Racing team. During the two practices on Friday the team made some gains in trying to find grip, which everyone was struggling with after Goodyear brought a different tire compound that did not seem to be putting rubber in the racetrack. The Richard Petty Motorsports team was in the top half of practice times for both sessions and then AJ set down an outstanding qualifying lap on Saturday morning that landed him a 6th place starting spot for Sunday’s race.

With AJ starting in the top 10 for the first time ever at Martinsville, and also carrying a decal for Hall of Fame inductee Lee Petty on the rear deck lid, expectations were high at the drop of the green flag on Sunday. After starting on the outside row, spotter Tony Hirschman did a great job getting AJ down to the bottom of the track without losing any positions. Then AJ circled the track nose to tail, trying to stay as tight to the bottom as he could to protect his position.

About 20 laps into the race, AJ radioed in that he had already lost grip in the right rear of the car and just couldn’t get off the corner like he needed to. The cars behind him were able to get a bumper inside him on the straightaways and take away the inside line going into the corner, and AJ began falling backwards. By lap 50 the #43 Ford was in danger of dropping out of the top 15 when a caution finally fell and AJ was able to bring the car in to crew chief Mike Shiplett for adjustments.

The team made some major changes and AJ got blocked in by the #20 car of Joey Logano, but he still managed to come out of the pits in 19th place. From then on AJ worked on getting back inside the top 15 with a car that was better, but still not quite what he needed. The team kept working hard though, and the track started taking on a little bit of rubber that changed the handling some also. By lap 100 AJ was inside the top 15 and another positive change on the following pit stop allowed him to race into the top 10 by lap 135.

AJ remained inside the top 10, climbing as high as 7th, during the remainder of the first half of the 500 lap race. Then pit strategy to come in for 4 tires when some cars stayed out and a bunch more only took 2 landed AJ outside the top 20 for the first time in the race. It looked to be an un-wise pit call for awhile as AJ narrowly avoided two wrecks that commonly occur mid-pack. But with good luck and Tony’s skill on top of the spotter’s stand, AJ managed to stay out of trouble and with fresher tires than most of the field he raced back inside the top 10 by lap 300.

As green flag stops cycled through, AJ led some laps before pitting and then came out in 6th position. A caution shortly thereafter put everyone back on the same pit cycle and left AJ battling for a top 5 during the following 100 laps with drivers named Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch. Not too bad for a kid who cut his teeth racing go-karts and is one of the few open-wheel drivers who has had success transitioning to stock cars.

The lone bad break of the #43 team’s day was also one of the hardest to swallow, because it happened too late in the race to recover from it. As another round of green flag stops cycled through with about 35 to go, AJ was caught on pit road when the caution came out for the #78 car of Regan Smith. Mike Shiplett made a split second decision for AJ to continue through the pits without stopping to try and come out ahead of the race leader, but unfortunately AJ was trapped a lap down. And since the #43 hadn’t pitted yet, they couldn’t take the wave around to get back on the lead lap like the other cars who had already made their stops did.

AJ vented his frustration at having such bad luck, but fought hard to get in the lucky dog position for the inevitable caution that would happen. But the caution never came, although AJ maintained pace with the leaders and did pick up a few more positions as other cars fell a lap down. After having a car that was capable of a top 5 finish, it was a disappointment to see it take the checkers in 14th place.

As a very vocal AJ supporter and someone who regularly visits all the posting boards to see what people are saying in post-race chatter, I was very surprised to encounter so much backlash this week against AJ’s crew chief. I’m not sure the cause for it, other than it was very frustrating to see a good finish evaporate into thin air and maybe people just needed somewhere to place that anger.

I'm not immune to that same anger and frustration, and I’ll admit that I’ve called for Mike’s head on a platter a time or two myself when I felt like he had failed my driver. But in my opinion this wasn’t one of those times, so this week I'm defending him. Granted, I'm no crew chief - I'm just a fan who is no expert in anything other than listening to radio scanner every weekend. This is just my take on what happened in the last pit sequence, including possible alternate outcomes.

There are a few different scenarios that could have happened in the final 125 laps of Sunday’s race that might have changed the outcome. For instance, there might have been no caution and green flag stops could have cycled through. But in that case, there were half a dozen cars who were on a different pit cycle and could go the distance on fuel. So AJ probably would have finished around 10th.

Another option would have been for Mike to go ahead and pit the car when the yellow flag came out and then AJ could have taken the wave around like Denny Hamlin. But the wave around cars really had little advantage in those final 30 laps because they had to start at the tail end of the field behind the lap down cars and all of the damaged cars who were still out there making laps. Denny Hamlin finished 12th, just two spots ahead of AJ. So there really was no disadvantage to Mike trying to get AJ off pit road in front of the leader and a whole lot of advantage if he did manage it.

A few people have pointed out that the bad pit call was made clear back on lap 372, which is when Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kevin Harvick hit pit road, and which ultimately put them up front while everyone else made green flag pit stops. But that option was discussed at the time, and Mike Shiplett very clearly said on the radio that the #43 team would not be in their pit window for making it to the end of the race should it go green. And anyone who knows AJ’s history should understand that a gamble on fuel has never worked out in his favor. Without knowing for certain that a caution would come out, Mike’s decision not to pit at lap 372 was a good one, in my opinion.

The only possible scenario that would have allowed AJ to contend for a top 5 spot was if the caution had happened before he pitted. But as Mike explained on the radio after the incident, they only had two laps before they HAD to pit. And without being psychic and knowing that a caution was eminent, there was no reason to risk having AJ run out of gas and possibly end up outside the top 20. Not to mention that during the prior cycle of green flag stops when AJ led for some bonus points, they lost a lot of time to the cars he was racing around by staying out on older tires for too long.

So I understand the frustration that other AJ and Petty fans are experiencing after being handed such a low blow at the end of the race, but in my opinion it really was just a bad break. I’ve always been a proponent of the fact that you make your own luck, but sometimes stuff just happens and it’s no one’s fault. That’s my take on what happened in Sunday’s race at Martinsville. Yes, it was disappointing, but it was by no means devastating. The entire #43 group should hold their head high and be proud of how they ran Sunday. It was a great team effort.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Martinsville Post-Race Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
Finished 14th
“My guys did a great job all day with the car. The good thing is we were so loose to start the race on that first run. I thought we were in trouble and they fixed it to where we were a top five or top seven car all day. At times, I thought we could win, but this sport just kind of kicks you in the gut every now and then. I don’t know. If we would have stayed out one more lap and then the yellow comes out, we probably finish fifth or sixth. I’m disappointed with the finish. I hate saying it and having to look at how we ran and take good knowledge that we were there, but it was an OK day.”

ARE YOU ENCOURAGED OR DISCOURAGED BY TODAY? “You look at the finish and, unfortunately, that’s what pays the points and pays the money and you walk away discouraged. In our heart, we know we were really bad to start the race and we were able to fix it and make it good, so we can do it. I ran with some of the best ever here at Martinsville between Denny, Jimmie and Jeff. I was there, so at least I’ll have confidence with that. We just need some good luck.”


MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 DeWalt Ford Fusion
Finished 29th
“I was a victim. I don’t know what McDowell was thinking. I got stuck on the outside and lost 20 positions just trying to get to the bottom and he just jacked me up and put me in the fence around lap 100. We weren’t even a fifth of the way through and it was uncalled for and unfortunate for us. It made for a very long day.”

Credit - Ford Racing

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Martinsville Qualifying Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER -- No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
Qualified 6th
"We'll take it. Hopefully, that will be inside the top 10 or top 12. This place is so tough and lap times are so close. I feel like everybody is struggling to get rear grip in their car. I just felt like the car is turning really good, it's the best that this thing has ever turned. Mike Shiplett and everybody on the team has worked hard together to focus on our weak spots the last time we were here. We've done that and now we have to work on rear grip. I was a little hesitant off the corners and was a little bit loose, but as long as that keeps us inside the top 10 or top 12 I'll be happy, and then we'll just pray for a good race tomorrow."


MARCOS AMBROSE -- No. 9 DeWalt Ford Fusion
Qualified 19th
"I'm disappointed. We had a great car and I got a little greedy out there trying to get more than I should, but I'll take it."

Credit - Ford Racing