MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
DAYTONA 500 MEDIA DAY
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 22, 2017
AJ ALLMENDINGER, NO. 47 KROGER CLICK LIST CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at the annual Daytona 500 media day at Daytona International Speedway. Full Transcript:
WHAT IS IN YOUR HAIR?
“It’s Got to Be Glue.”
WHO ARE YOU WEARING?
“I’m wearing Sparco. Connie and Kelly from Sparco have really hooked me up on a new firesuit, as you can see full of Kroger, Kroger.com, Click List. You know you can actually win this firesuit online after I’m done. I’m going to sweat. We are not going to wash it after, so you get the full sweat of me in this. You can win this go to Kroger.com and all the JTG media outlets.”
WHY DO YOU RACE?
“I race because of the competition, honestly. It’s not just the competition of the other drivers it’s the competition within myself. It’s what pushes me. It’s no different than if I’m golfing out by myself. It’s that competition within myself of trying to be better, trying to go out there and be at my best and trying to do what, in my mind, is a perfect job. Which, you never achieve, but that is why I do it. I love the competition within myself and that is how I push myself and it’s all I know.”
WHAT IS THE DIFFICULTY FACTOR IN COMING FROM INDYCAR TO NASCAR?
“I think really you look at dirt racing and any type of dirt racing you are sliding around a lot and to me that is what a stock car feels like in general is the fact that you are always kind of on top of the race track, you are always sliding around. Especially, now-a-days with the lower downforce packages you are really sliding around and I think sprint car racing kind of gives you that feel. An IndyCar or Champ Car where I came from it’s all about downforce. It’s about late braking, it’s about as late as you can be on the brakes. On the ovals, it’s about very small movements of the car. It’s a challenge to get used to because it’s such a difference between what you are feeling… it’s almost like trying to walk again. It’s the difference of what you feel compared to like almost starting over. I think it’s a challenge for a lot of people to kind of get used to.”
DO YOU WATCH SOMEONE LIKE DANICA PATRICK AND SAY TO YOURSELF ‘MAN I KNOW WHAT SHE IS GOING THROUGH’ THE DIFFICULTLY OF IT ALL?
“I will be honest, I don’t really watch anybody. I just focus on myself. I’m just trying out there to be at my best. I know I’m racing against 39 of the best drivers in the world. Everyday my goal is to find some way to get better because I want to be at my best. I want to keep taking our team to a new level. Last year was a better year, it wasn’t everything that we wanted, but I thought we made a lot of gains. Hopefully, going into this year with our team growing into two cars with Chris Buescher and just all the changes that we made over the off-season we are going to be better, but we don’t really know until we get through the first quarter of the season and find out where we stand.”
IT SEEMS TO ME THAT THERE ARE TWO TURNS ON MOST OF THE TRACKS, YET THEY CALL THEM FOUR TURNS. WHY IS IT TURN 1, 2, 3 AND 4 AND NOT TURN 1 AND 2?
“I don’t know. I was confused with that when I got here in NASCAR. I think it’s maybe just to make it sound like we are working more (laughs). I could see, obviously, Indy has four corners in it, that is four different corners. Short tracks, I don’t know how we make two turns out of a place like Martinsville. Two separate corners in one corner. I think it’s just an easier way… you know what I don’t have a good answer for you. I think it’s two corners most of the time. I don’t know on some of these race tracks the way you are swatting flies inside the car trying to hang on to it, it does feel like four corners. That is a very good question. I don’t have a great answer for you, because to me sometimes it’s just two corners.”
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TEAMS THAT WIN A LOT OF RACES AND THE TEAMS THAT ARE TRYING TO GET TO THAT POINT?
“Yeah, I mean you are looking at hundredths of seconds. When you get… and this is kind of where we are trying to fight right now is the fact that you get inside the top 15, then those gains are so much smaller and all the little things make a difference. Pit stops – you look at the Gibbs crew, we talked about it all last year, they were the best out there. You get in a pit stop and you are running third and you come out leading the race that makes a huge difference. You go in and you are running top five and you come out ninth that is hard to get back. I think it’s all the little details. I will say from our team’s sake every time NASCAR changes a rule package it hurts us a little bit. Because the bigger teams can figure it out quicker going to the Wind Tunnel figuring out where they need to get the downforce maximized, how they do that. I think that is what is tough for us is every time NASCAR makes these changes I think people look at it as an opposite. Like ‘oh everybody is starting over it’s going to make all the teams more even’. Well, no, it separates us a lot more. It takes us a while to kind of start. It shows it every year. I feel like last year was a perfect example. We start the year pretty good, you get to the mid-summer where the teams have figured out the package we fall a little bit behind. By the end of the year we got back to where we were running pretty good again and then you start over and you change the rules package again. That is what makes it a challenge really to me is every time they change the rules the smaller teams have to start over and have to figure it out and we get a little bit further behind and have to work again to have to catch back up.”
WHAT IS THE SIZE OF THE ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT AT JTG?
“We are getting better. Last year it was only about two-three engineers total on my car, whether it was at the race track and at the shop. I would have to say now, between the two cars we probably have gotten up to about at least eight – 10 engineers total between the two teams. It’s getting there. That is something with Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) they put everything they have into this team, but they don’t have another business. It’s not like they can go over budget and go ‘oh we will figure it out from another business’. So, we have to stay in certain guidelines and I respect that and that is where last year we got better. We found some problem areas and that is what we went to work on in the off-season and hopefully that is where we make the gains. Tad from the start said this is a process. It’s a five-year process, we are in year four now. I feel like every year we have gotten a little bit better. I thought last year was our biggest step forward. Now we’ve got to make that next step this year.”
ARE THE ROAD COURSES STILL THE PLACES WHERE YOU GUYS CAN BUST THROUGH AND GET A WIN?
“Well, I think, yeah that is the easy spot to go to and say those two race tracks because I feel like I can make more of a difference there for sure. But, Martinsville is a place we’ve been strong, Bristol, although the results didn’t quite show it, we had some good cars at Bristol. Our 1.5-mile program at the end of the year, there were certain race tracks, Charlotte, the October race, we were a top-three car. We qualified inside the top 10. I was running third. We had a front suspension piece start to break as the race went on, so we started to fade and then it finally broke. So, it’s easy to pick out the road courses and say those are the places, but I feel like if we are on our game and we nail everything and that is me being great on that day, the pit stops being great, us having a great race car, we can win anywhere. But, it’s just trying to get more consistent at those places and give ourselves more chances to win.”
ON HIS FIRESUIT GIVE-A-WAY:
“I plan on not washing it. Now, the team may have a different idea, but I feel like for letting the fans be completely involved in this no wash should be a part of the deal. No, you can do to Kroger.com or you can go to all the JTG media outlets, you enter to win and after we get done with this thing we are going to pick a winner. I have to say, I have seen some unique pictures so far, because all you have to do is take a picture with a Kroger logo, no matter how you do it. There was a guy that was just in a tie and holding a Kroger sign over the front of him, which was pretty unique. The one that I got yesterday from my lovely PR girl, Jenn, was a … this one might have won, because it goes for the sentimental value, it was a little girl holding a sign that read please if we win the firesuit, my Dad says we can get a puppy and I’m going to name it Kroger. I was like ‘whew’ how does that not win automatically? But, can’t be biased… but yes, we are giving this suit away. I’m going to try not to wash it, we will see what they do.”
ARE YOU PICKING THE WINNER?
“I don’t know if it’s a random draw or how they are doing it. It’s a random draw, although the puppy is winning on my list. I like puppies.”
WOULD YOU LIKE TO RUN UNDER THE LIGHTS AT MARTINSVILLE?
“As long as it’s warm. There are some cold races at Martinsville during the day, let alone doing it a night. It would be cool. I think it would be something new for Martinsville and just seeing all the pictures on Twitter of the lights and the way they have done it, it looks really cool. I think you get a night race there it would be fun. I don’t want to make them both night races because I think you lose the prestige of what it is, but a night race there would be pretty cool. We just need it a little warmer, non-rain or snow.”
DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT CONCUSSIONS AND THE LONG-TERM AFFECTS THEY MIGHT HAVE?
“Oh yea, it definitely enters your mind. You have some wrecks and you’ve got to be a little bit more cautious. I think in the past it was something that you just kind of glazed over and said ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ But the more that we learn about concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and just everything that the NFL has kind of started and the rest of sports are kind of taking with, you definitely have to look at it. You’ve just got to know how your body feels. I think it was big for our sport for Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., the biggest name in our sport, to step back and say ‘you know what I don’t feel right and I’m going to step up and say I don’t feel right and that is okay.’ I feel like we have seen younger driver’s kind of even in the lower ranks, they get in an accident and say ‘you know what I love racing’… you are always scared that if you get out of the race car somebody is going to get in it and you are not going to get back into it because that has always kind of been the rule. But, life is more important than just going out there and racing on Saturday’s and Sunday’s. You’ve got to look at your future. It’s big. I think about it, but at the same point I know how my body feels and know the good and bad with it.”
ARE YOU CONFIDENT THAT IF YOU GOT BANGED UP AND DINGED UP YOU WOULD BE WILLING AND ABLE TO STEP AWAY IF YOU NEEDED TO?
“Yeah, safety’s first. You’ve got to know what the extreme of that is. I will say if I was 25 and not 35 that might be a little tougher to think about because when you’re younger you feel almost invincible and as you get older your bones start to hurt and everything else hurts. You just have to do what’s right and I think more importantly NASCAR is looking … the way they are going to go about concussion protocol and the tests and make us all a little bit better of knowing what is a concussion and what is not. Yeah, you have to look at health first and know that is the most important thing.”
MORE ON CONCUSSIONS:
“We’ve all got to work together as a sport to just all be smarter about what that is involved and what we have to do to be better about it.”
“I love sports. I love the debate about who is the best in every sport, whether it’s is Tom Brady the best ever in football right now? You can go down the line, but at the same point it is a fun debate, but it’s such different eras. I think the problem is the era that you live in you think that is the best era ever. But you can’t go back. I respect it all. What Jimmie (Johnson) has done in this day and age with whether changing how the championship worked, the level of competition. I remember getting out of the car at Homestead and kind of looking up and watching him do doughnuts on the front straight and go ‘man we are in the presence of real history here.’ That is something no matter what I can talk about as I get older, yeah, I raced against Jimmie Johnson. He is badass. I’m not going to say he is better than Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt, Sr. it’s just different eras. I just respect them all and what they have done. All of them have changed our sport for the good and we are here because of that. That is how I look at it.”
“I honestly think he doesn’t get enough credit. Because he is so good and he is so quiet and nice about it. It almost kind of pisses you off a little bit. You want him to be like a mean guy, but he is as nice as can be. If I’ve got a question about something I’m going to go to Jimmie Johnson and ask him. He is going to tell me the truth. He is that type of guy, but you know when you get on the race track he is a pit bull and he is going to do whatever it takes to win. You know that team around him, Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and just that No. 48 team with what they started, I think gets a little lost because they just go ‘just the whole team is good too.’ I think he loses a little bit of credit for how good he really is. I don’t think he cares either. I think he is happy with what he is doing.”
THOUGHTS ON RUNNING THE INFIELD ROAD COURSE AT DAYTONA:
“I mean, I like change. I like the opportunities and obviously, I’m going to be biased towards it, but I will say the infield getting into Turn 1 it’s pretty tight. Now Charlotte it was pretty tight as well. I think you could make it work, but I think it’s more… obviously, you are not going to do it for the Daytona 500. And the Fourth of July race still has a lot of history behind it. So, I don’t know if fans would kind of take it as well just because of the history behind the Fourth of July race. But you know what it comes down to if they are looking at change and that is a change then great. Whatever it takes to build more excitement into some of these races. Especially, during the summer stretch or like NASCAR talked about if it was for the Chase at Charlotte, just to change something up to bring some more excitement to it. I look at probably the best road course to try it on would be the Indy road course. Being able to drive that race track before when I was in the Rolex cars. I think that would be a fun course to try it on, but if they want to keep adding road courses I’m okay with it.”