Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Beyond The Cockpit : Frontstretch Driver Q & A · Tony Lumbis · Wednesday June 20, 2007
A.J. Allmendinger honed his racing skills in the cockpit of open wheel cars, winning Championships in both the Barber Dodge Pro Series and the Toyota Atlantic Series before joining the Champ Car World Series in 2004. After three seasons, the former Champ Car Rookie of the Year decided it was time to try out a car with a roof and fenders, inking a multi-year deal to drive the Team Red Bull No. 84 Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
That decision has led to Allmendinger having his share of ups and downs in 2007, but he seems to have found his niche racing the Car of Tomorrow. After missing seven of the first nine races this season, Allmendinger is on a roll, qualifying for the last six consecutive Nextel Cup events. Fifteen races into the season, Allmendinger is fifth in the Rookie of The Year standings, trailing the leading rookie, Juan Pablo Montoya, by 87 points as they battle for top rookie honors.
Our Tony Lumbis sat down with Allmendinger before the Pocono race this June and talked with him about leaving the open wheel ranks to race in NASCAR, the Memorial Day Double, his golf game, and plenty of other topics in this week’s edition of Beyond The Cockpit.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: Your background came in open wheel racing, driving cars in the Formula Dodge National Championship and the Toyota Atlantic Series. You even had a chance to compete Red Bull's F1 driver search. Last year, all your efforts appeared to have paid off, winning five races in CART. You would've been a favorite to win the championship this year, yet, not only do you decide to leave for NASCAR, but you sign with an unproven team and manufacturer. What factors contributed to such a career-altering decision?
A.J. Allmendinger: Honestly, probably just the opportunity in NASCAR and, obviously, the split in the series between IRL and Champ Car – there's a lot of doubt and uncertainty (there). When I did the Truck races last year, I really enjoyed them. Obviously, it's a completely different type of racing, but it's just as exciting and it's competitive. With my relationship with Red Bull throughout the years, I thought it was a great chance to make a move and to be able to join them as a team. Toyota has obviously been successful in a lot of realms of racing, and their Trucks have been dominant over the last couple of years. So, I knew it was going to take time in the beginning, but I look at it as one of the opportunities that if I didn't take it now, I would probably regret it, whether I won races or not in Champ Car. I just had to jump at it… and I'm happy.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: Has it been what you expected so far?
A.J. Allmendinger: It's been difficult – a lot more difficult than I expected. I didn't expect to be running in the Top 10 right away or win races, but I think (the way things have gone) – it’s just been a shock to everybody. You have (established) guys like Scott Riggs and Dave Blaney, they're trying to fight (their way) in and they're not getting in (the races) every weekend. So, just trying to get in the races and the way the races play out, it's been a lot more difficult than I expected. The toughest challenge has probably been just trying to learn how to drive the car. I felt like I took to the Trucks pretty quickly, (although) they're a different type of driving style than the Cup cars. They're another beast.
Honestly, probably the first three or four races of the season, I
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: You mentioned the last month or two that you've been more comfortable. Coming into Pocono, you've qualified for the past four consecutive races, while the No. 83 has qualified for the past three. Do you feel like the team is starting to turn the corner and gain some momentum? How would you assess the entire season so far?
A.J. Allmendinger: We're definitely getting better. I think we really made a lot of progress right before Richmond. We went to Iowa and tested to figure out some of the things about the CoT. The regular car, we ran a lot of that in the beginning of the season when I really wasn't feeling that comfortable in the car. That goes back to my last point, not feeling comfortable and not having a lot of laps is kind of the reason why we weren't making those races. Brian was quick when he made the races earlier in the year.
We're getting better, (although) it's still going to be tough as can be every weekend to make the races. From here on out, if we make the rest of the races, (that's) fantastic; (but) if we miss a few, it won't surprise me, either, because it's tough for everybody. I'd like to run a little better when we get in the races, but that just comes with time. You make more races, you run more laps, and you're just going to get better.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: You spoke about Brian Vickers when assessing the season. How has the communication been between the two of you as teammates?
A.J. Allmendinger: It's been good. I think we'd both probably like more, but these weekends get so hectic (limiting our time). We don't get as much time as we'd probably like to talk to each other. But he's the type of guy that you can go up to and ask him (something) when you find the chance, and he'll answer you straightforward.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: When you don't get a chance to speak to Brian, and there have actually been some races where you have qualified and he hasn't, are there been other drivers that you have felt comfortable reaching out to?
A.J. Allmendinger: That's probably been one of the biggest things (about Nextel Cup); the whole paddock is nice, which is different from open wheel racing. It's so cutthroat over there with the state of where it is. There are not many rides that are paying their drivers to go drive in the open wheel series. It’s cutthroat, and you'll lie through your teeth to your teammate and everybody else around you to make them look as bad as they can and to make yourself look better, just because that's the nature of it. There's not a lot of rides. Here (in NASCAR), I think you're always still worried about your ride, but it's a little more secure. The bigger names that know they're established – that know they're going to have a ride – reach out. You know, they'll be the first ones to wreck you when you get in their way on the first lap on the racetrack, but they'll still tell you (what you need to know). I mean, I was walking back from the rookie meeting (today) and Ryan Newman came up to me and talked to me about the track. Kyle Petty has been a great guy.
You can find help wherever you want to, basically. They'll teach you about being a rookie, and you'll have to live through it…but pretty much everybody has got to live through that.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: A few weeks ago, race fans were treated to one of the biggest motorsports days of the year, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. You have already competed in one part of the day's tripleheader, the Coca-Cola 600. As someone with an open wheel background, do you have the desire to someday compete in one of the day's other two events: The Indianapolis 500 or The Grand Prix of Monte Carlo?
A.J. Allmendinger: The 500, not so much. Open wheel race cars running on ovals scare the living daylights out of me. The couple we did in Champ car were good enough for me. (But) I love road racing, and Monaco to me would be pretty sweet to be able to go run, especially in a good car to go run up front. If you gave me my choice, I'd probably go and attempt Monaco.
(But) it's a cool thing, being a part of the 600 and all of the prestige that (surrounds) it. That was pretty cool to be a part of, and is something that hopefully I'll get to experience more of.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: Hopefully, next time you won't have Jeff Gordon landing on your hood.
A.J. Allmendinger: Yeah, that was scary! We could've done without that. Ya know, hopefully we're getting all the bad luck out of the way and I'm learning all this now. That's part of racing, and it wasn't Jeff Gordon's fault and it wasn't Tony Raines's fault, it was a tough racetrack with tough circumstances.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: After RuSPORT let you go, you signed with the Forsythe Championship Race team and won your first race out. What do you think attributed to the immediate success with the new team? Did it have anything to do with being newly engaged and knowing you would have a wife to support?
A.J. Allmendinger: Yeah, exactly.
A.J.'s wife Lynne chimes in from the background: He wasn't supporting me anymore.
A.J. Allmendinger: Yeah, that's true, I was jobless.
(Seriously), what came out of that is that I finally had a good car to drive. It was a struggle at RuSport, just the whole situation over there was a struggle. I always said, you give me the right car and I'm going to be able to go out there and do it. And as soon as I get one, I'm going to get a lot (of wins) and that's just what happened. I got in with Forsythe, (where) the team atmosphere was a ton better than at RuSport. My crew guys at RuSport were great, but above that, it wasn't right. It wasn't working well. When I got in there (Forsythe), the guys were loose — they were happy to have me. Michael Cannon was more my type of engineer – laid back. Everything clicked. We had a good car and (we) gained momentum. Confidence as a race car driver, you live and die by it. When you have all the confidence in the world and you're winning, there is nothing that's going to stop you. You sit in that car and it just feels like magic. You can do it with your eyes closed and it just comes easy. Same thing when you're struggling – it’s like the world is crashing down on you. Once (the) confidence was there, we just rolled.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: You've never driven with your eyes closed, right?
A.J. Allmendinger: No, I do that a lot. Its scary out there, ya know. I wouldn't want to do that with my eyes open for God's sake. Most of my qualifying laps are usually eyes closed; Bristol, for sure.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: You were a part of Red Bull's F1 driver search that ultimately chose Scott Speed. Do you ever speak to Scott about his experiences in F1 so far?
A.J. Allmendinger: No, the funniest thing was that we were probably the biggest CART rivals you could ever imagine. I mean, we hated each other. We weren't the best friends off the race track, but I do respect what he has been able to do. I think he is doing a good job and probably took too much heat last year for his first year and a rookie team like that. It was great to see, I was happy to see that it worked because I dropped out right away because I had signed the Toyota Atlantic deal with RuSport at that time. I had felt like I had made a good name for myself in the States, and ultimately, I had always said that if I do the job in Champ Car and F1 was my aspiration, ya know, the champion usually always has the opportunity to go to F1 and at least test it. So I thought I wasn't shutting the door on F1 at that point. To finally go through and (see) the program work and (watch) Scott make it, I think it was good for him, good for the U.S., and it was really good for Red Bull to show that it wasn't another one of those fly-by-night programs where it's a lot of hype, you get some recognition for it and then all of a sudden, it closes down.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: In addition to being a part of Red Bull's competitive program, I heard you get to go to a lot of cool events as well.
A.J. Allmendinger: Yeah, on my weekend off in July, they're making me go to the Motor G.P. race in Laguna (Seca). I'm really mad about it, disappointed (smiles). No, its cool. It's just cool to be a part of it. That was one of the bigger reasons for coming to NASCAR and being a part of Red Bull, because I knew what they were all about and it wasn't just going to be your typical race team. There was going to be a lot of cool stuff to get to go do. A lot of their media obligations are more fun then you'd ever have. It's fun to be a part of it throughout racing and as a Red Bull athlete.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: You were one of the most successful Americans in Champ Car in recent history. What do you think needs to be done, or is being done, by Team Red Bull to generate the same American success in F1?
A.J. Allmendinger: Well, anywhere you go, (it comes down to) good equipment. The best driver can't take bad equipment and go win with it. The best drivers are the ones who can take a 30th place car and finish 20th with it. The F1 program is just the same as our NASCAR programs – the more experience, the better the equipment, the more you learn. It’s just going to be better and better, and that's (true) with anything. It's nothing different that they're doing, it's just experience and getting the notes. Guys like Scott, guys like me, (it all comes down to) the more you drive, the more you learn, the better you get.
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: One of your favorite hobbies is mini golf, where you pretty much said that you would take on the competition at any course at any time, so you must be really good. I've been out golfing a few times this year and my putting game is absolutely killing me. What advice would you give a guy in my position who couldn't putt to save his life?
A.J. Allmendinger: It's the same as race car driving, close your eyes. Just close your eyes and swing. I need to practice though, I haven't played since January when I got my butt whipped by my crew chief. He put it on me pretty good. So it was embarrassing. Yeah, I love mini golf, anything I can be competitive in.
I suck at real golf. I stopped trying to take that up and just focused (more) on mini golf instead. I was getting too many clubs stuck in the trees when I'd throw them. By the end, I just threw the bag in the lake after that. So with mini golf, I stay a little more calm. I find when you throw the club, the next hole is really close, so you can go find it and grab it and pick it right up. That clown's mouth is a pain in the butt, it’s just laughing (at you).
Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com: Last month you were asked if racing at Darlington can compare to anything you have done in your career. Your response was "jumping off a cliff". Did you actually jump off a cliff at some point in your lifetime?
A.J. Allmendinger: That's me feeling like I want to jump off cliffs. I've watched many races at Darlington, so it wasn't all new to me. They told me that it was slippery and how close you run to the wall; what they didn't tell me was how bumpy it was. Literally, by the time that race ended — and (for) that whole next week – my jaw hurt. I couldn't chew anything. It (was) just so bumpy. I won't lie, (I'm a) road racing guy, and not running many ovals, I used to think, ‘It’s an oval. They're all the same. How hard can it be?’ (However, the) NASCAR tracks we go to, they're harder than most road courses I've been to. Like (Pocono), I'm just wondering what the heck I'm doing around it.
There's just so many nuisances; it’s not easy to get these things around a race track as it is, but some of the ones that they get on, it’s just madness. That's what it is…it’s craziness.
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That was a great interview! I’ve been very excited about A.J.‘s move to NASCAR and to see what he can do, especially with a brand new team and brand new manufacturer in the series.
I think a lot of people – especially those who aren’t familiar with Champ Car and haven’t seen A.J. drive – wrote A.J. off way too soon. At least, that’s the perception I got from the media. As the team matures and A.J. becomes more comfortable in the cars, I think he will be a force to be reckoned with. We might get a chance to see a preview of what’s to come this weekend at Sonoma.
Thanks for the terrific interview. I think the lack of exposure given to CART and open wheel in general has people wandering around with AJ totally off their radar screens. For those who enjoy fantasy racing, that could prove to be a terrible mistake, as Allmendinger could make some serious noise at Infineon, provided he qualifies the car. Having seen him race many times in the past, I have no doubts about his talent.
Good one, Tony. AJ’s comments about how bumpy Darlington was were very interesting. Sometimes, these guys make it look so easy, I don’t think we fans really appreciate how hard it is to run at high speeds on a slippery, bumpy track with 42 of your closest friends.