NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 22, 2014
AJ ALLMENDINGER, NO. 47 BUSH’S BEANS CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media and discussed his thoughts on being locked into this season’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, what the win at Watkins Glen has meant to him and many other topics. Full Transcript:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS COMING INTO THIS RACE THIS WEEKEND AND GETTING READY FOR RICHMOND:
“I think it’s a matter of each week for us just trying to get better. Last week I thought was actually almost as satisfying as winning at Watkins Glen just the mere fact that the first race in Michigan we struggled so bad and to go out there, we ran top 10 all day. Finished 13th, but thought we were a lot better than that all day. It’s just kind of the same idea of going out there, trying to get better each week whether it’s here at Bristol or next week at a 1.5-mile which is important in the Chase. Just as a team right now each week trying to step up our game so when we get to Chicago we feel like we are at least competitive and have a shot to go into the Chase and make some noise. That is just our focus. We don’t really change anything different each week now. It’s the same plan nothing has changed since Watkins Glen. I think it’s been pretty cool because with the win and the added little bit of money we can go out there and possibly test, add a couple of resources that we need to get better in the Chase. Things like that are really good, but just come here and try to enjoy it, but stay on the plan and keep working to get better.”
IS THERE A CERTAIN POSITION IN THE STANDINGS OR RESULTS OR PACE THAT YOU NEED TO SEE OUT OF YOUR TEAM BY THE TIME YOU GET FINISHED WITH RICHMOND FOR YOU TO FEEL LIKE YOU ARE READY FOR THE CHASE?
“I don’t like putting a certain result because the way these races play out you can’t always judge by that. Last week like I said we finished 13th, but we ran no worse than ninth or 10th all day, just had a bad restart at the end. I think it’s just going out there at each race track and just being competitive, being in the mix. Michigan we were inside the top-15, top-10 every practice session. I felt like our speed was good. So it’s really just the same thing. You want to get the best finish possible if there is an opportunity to win you are going to try to win it. But in general just feeling like when we leave the race track at the end of the weekend saying you know what we were competitive and we learned some stuff. That to me is what is important going into the Chase. We know when it comes Chase time when you put the championship contenders and label each team we are probably at the bottom of the list, but I feel like if we do the right things, as I said, we are going to have a few more resources than we have had the last couple of months. We might be able to use our last test at a 1.5-mile race track, so things like that are all positive. Just going out there and feeling like each weekend we are getting better and getting closer to the front of the grid.”
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT IF THERE WERE TIMES THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS WHEN YOU EVEN THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE BACK IN SPRINT CUP AND TALK ABOUT YOUR ROAD BACK TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW:
“I’ve documented it a lot. There were times I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’ve learned in life really you just take every day as it comes. I’ve always been a guy that has tried to plan ahead and look forward, what is happening next instead of what is in the moment. To me that is what it’s about just enjoying the ride now and having fun. I love this race team. Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) they have made me feel so much like family, like one of their own. Brad Daugherty to have him on my side to where he is a former athlete so the times of questioning whether it’s my ability or just the things that go around just having a constant passion when it comes to racing. The same with him for basketball and for racing the things that I can talk to him about have really helped me out.
“I just really enjoy the team and enjoy the surroundings that I have right now. That was stuff in the past that I probably struggled with a lot. Now just looking forward and enjoying the moment. I’ve tried to enjoy the whole process of how we got here. As I said a million times I’m way better for it over the last couple of years. Just now looking towards the future and knowing that this race team it’s my race team. I feel like I’m one of the leaders of the team and I can walk in the shop. We have the winning banner and it makes me feel special that we did that together. A lot of the guys in the shop it was either their first Sprint Cup win or they have had wins in the past and they said that this one meant the most to them because of how hard we have all worked as a group and as a family. That to me is what I enjoy the most. Just trying to constantly get better every day and figure out what I need to do outside and inside the car whether it’s just life or it’s racing to keep getting better.”
HOW GLAD ARE YOU THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO HIT A HAIL MARY PASS WITH THREE RACES TO GO? HOW HAPPY ARE YOU THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRY TO HIT ONE HERE AT BRISTOL?
“It’s funny because each weekend I never really thought about oh this is a Hail Mary we have to win. I started this year, and it’s the same thing I’m saying now really about going into the Chase. It was just about trying to get better. Now Watkins Glen a place like Sonoma and Watkins Glen just with my background we knew those were going to be probably better chances to win a race than say maybe going to Michigan and winning a race to make the Chase. But I never looked at we HAVE to win to make the Chase. I just wanted to keep getting better. Wherever that put us at the end of the year then that is what I wanted. I guess I never really put that pressure to say ‘oh we have to win to make the Chase’. I knew at Watkins Glen waking up Sunday morning if we do the right things we are going to have a shot at winning this race. But for me it was never about making the Chase.
“I just wanted to achieve my dream, what I have worked hard for the last seven or eight years and win a Sprint Cup race. For Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) especially for what they started in a barn 20 years ago, to get to this point now and have them as Sprint Cup team owner winners that is what is most satisfying for me. The Chase is a bonus really. As we say now at this race team that we don’t want to just be in the Chase to be excited about it. We want to go in there and make some noise. That is what we are working hard the next few weeks to just try to get better.”
WITH ALL THE GUYS WHO HAVEN’T QUALIFIED YET COULD THIS RACE BE AN OLD BRISTOL GET ROUGH AS PEOPLE TRY TO MAKE THE CHASE?
“I believe so, but it works both ways. The guys that are working hard knowing that they have to win a race to get in and then there is – as we saw Kurt (Busch) last weekend going for the win. In our position to a certain degree we don’t care. For me I think it’s still about trying to get better each weekend and having a good result helps us as a race team. For everybody really if you have a chance to win you are going to take it. To me I think it’s going to be a fun Saturday night and there is going to be a lot of excitement. There is going to be some desperation. To me that is what makes racing the most fun.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK GUYS JUST IN GENERAL ONCE THEY GET IN THE CHASE HOW ARE PEOPLE GOING TO APPROACH IT?
“I think you, especially the first two races, if there is an opportunity to win and automatically get in that is what you are going to do just because. It’s real easy to go to the first three races and you blow up one of the races and all of a sudden now you are in a hole trying to make it out. I think if there is an opportunity to go win and automatically qualify for the next round you are going to do everything you can. That is what makes that rule so cool is that you could easily go to points racing back to those three races just to try to get to Homestead, but with a win and automatically in you could be the guy that thinks you are sitting good for a couple of races then you have a guy that is maybe 15th or 16th going into that last race win and knock you out. If there is an opportunity to win I think guys are still going to try to take it. They are not going to have a second thought about it.”
SPECIFICALLY WHAT AREAS DO YOU THINK YOU NEED TO TRIM UP IF YOU WANT TO MAKE SOME NOISE IN THE CHASE WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?
“With the schedule 1.5-miles are critical. I think they are five out of 10 races that is where we have struggled, just the bigger race tracks in general. To me those are the race tracks those resources are going to help when it comes to aerodynamics and downforce and things like that. Just the little things you do to your race car that make such a big difference around those places. That to me is where our struggles have been. The short tracks we have been pretty good at. The superspeedway racing that is kind of luck of the draw, but I feel like with the ECR horsepower we have been fast at those places.
“We finished fifth and had a shot to win at Talladega. So it’s really just been the 1.5-miles and the 2.0-mile race tracks. That is why last weekend was so satisfying I felt like because we had been so bad the first race there. Our guys back at the shop just kind of tuning on the bodies just the little things to try to make the car better. We showed up to Michigan the first lap on the race track was a huge difference. If we are able to go test whether it is Chicago or Charlotte just to get some laps, work on some things. Qualifying right now it kind of where we struggle we can have good speed in the first group, but we can’t back it up the second group to make it into the final qualifying session. Starting grid no matter what race you are at is critical. Just little things like that to keep getting better.
“As I said resources we can take a few things like with our RCR alliance that they have done to get better that maybe we are a little bit behind on. Not because they haven’t allowed us to have it we are just, when it comes to cost and resources we can’t get it. So, little things that we might be able to get now for our Chicago car or Loudon car that we hadn’t been able to get before so just little things like that; it’s still going to be a lot of work and I don’t expect with the added resources that we have all of a sudden we are going to go okay now we are a race winning car right away. It’s stuff that is definitely going to help us learn and to go to Chicago hopefully and just say alright instead of where we have been running kind of 18th – 25th if we can show up and go okay we are a 8th – 16th place car we have improved a lot and we can race from there.”
SO WHAT DO YOU TAKE AWAY FROM THIS WEEKEND?
“A place like this it’s a lot of fun and obviously you can’t take something away from here and go okay at Chicago it’s going to help us. It’s just about getting better. Every weekend is about getting better. As I said yeah you want to have a good result, but I just want to leave the weekend and say you know what we had a competitive car, we were in the mix and we left here feeling good about what we did all weekend. That is what I take away every weekend. Especially at a place like this that doesn’t carry over to many race tracks. That is what it’s all about just trying to get better, me inside the car, our feedback, everything in general just being more competitive.”
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE TEAM MEMBERS NOW THAT PRIOR TO WATKINS GLEN YOU DIDN’T SEE?
“I think for all of us really it’s a little bit more being relaxed, a lot more confidence. Everybody, for me leading it as well, we put our heart and soul into it. You see it in Tad and Jodi’s face and Brad’s face everybody puts so much effort into it because we have to. We are a small race team so we have to put that extra effort in. Those guys have to work that extra hour or two each day to make sure that our stuff is ready to go. I think it’s that being satisfied feeling some sort of accomplishment. For me that is a special feeling now to walk in those doors and feel like I truly brought something to this team.
“I feel the same emotion from everybody else. There are a lot of guys that showed up to this team this year that were new that took a chance on our race team that had been on the big teams. They said you know what no we want to come here and you talk to every one of them and ask them about Tad and Jodi and Brad and what kind of team owners they are. Every one of them say something like oh they come up and ask me how my newborn is or they come up and ask me how my mom is doing, something like that. It’s just that family atmosphere. Together it’s just feeling like we accomplished something big because we did. Such a small team to go win a race and the way we won it to be that competitive and have a shot to win all day and come through. We know we still have a lot of work ahead. We don’t want to just sit back and say oh we won a race now our team is complete and it doesn’t matter what happens. We want to keep growing together, but it’s definitely a good atmosphere when we walk into that shop together and when we come to the race track together and just how we act together. It’s a big family and everybody is thrilled to be in the Chase, but now that we are in the Chase we won’t to make some noise.”
WHAT ARE THE SPECIAL MOMENTS THAT STAND OUT FROM YOUR WIN:
“I think the first thing is watching the highlights of ESPN of Brad trying to do his job, but jumping up and down and basically trying to break Rusty (Wallace) back by jumping on him. That was pretty funny to see. I think that the Victory Lane celebration was cool. It was fun to share that with everybody, but more than anything stepping away from it and just being in the bus lot after everything had died down and just taking a moment to say what happened here? What just happened? Did this really just happen?
“And seeing really Tad and Jodi’s face, just knowing from what I’ve learned from them already just a little bit. Everything that they’ve gone through and the struggles they have had to see just kind of their body language and on their face what it meant to them. That to me was the most satisfying thing because when they signed me here and they gave me an opportunity and took a chance on me to a certain degree. Just to be able to repay them back like that and just see what it meant to them just in their language. It was almost surreal it was happiness but it was kind of like taken back because they didn’t really believe that it had happened and Brad TP’d my bus which I felt was kind of wrong. I walked up and my bus had toilet paper all over the top of it, Scott Toilet Paper by the way. So just things like that just the joy of what it truly meant to get our first altogether. I think that was the most satisfying thing to me was just to see that emotion on their face and their body language and their true outright joy and happiness was something I will always remember.”