Ford Phoenix Friday Advance (Bayne, AJ, Gilliland)

FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES    Subway Fresh Fit 400 Advance, Page 1    February 25, 2011    Phoenix International Raceway       

FORD FAST FACTS:

•    Ford has won 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at PIR, including November’s event by Carl Edwards.

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•    Matt Kenseth and Edwards are the only current Ford drivers with NSCS wins at PIR.

•    Car owner Jack Roush has six NSCS wins at PIR.

•    Ford has won the last three NSCS races dating back to 2010.  Edwards won at Phoenix and Homestead before Trevor Bayne won Sunday’s Daytona 500.

•    The last time Ford won four straight NSCS races was 2001.  Dale Jarrett (Darlington, 3-18-01), Elliott Sadler (Bristol, 3-25-01), Dale Jarrett (Texas, 4-1-01), and Dale Jarrett (Martinsville, 4-8-01).

Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion, has had a whirlwind week after winning Sunday’s Daytona 500.  Bayne, who is running the NASCAR Nationwide Series race as well as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, held a Q&A session Friday morning to talk about the last few days.

TREVOR BAYNE – No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion – HAVE YOU HIT THE GROUND YET?  “It’s definitely been way more than I expected.  I was just telling them over here that I knew myself and everybody in our community thought the 500 was a really big deal.  We all look forward to it every year, but I just didn’t realize the support we were gonna get from outside our community.  The rest of the United States is just really fired up about everything for the Wood Brothers and the history and then the youth part of it.  It’s just been a really, really cool week and a humbling experience.” 

HAVE YOU HAD ANY MARRIAGE PROPOSALS OR STUFF LIKE THAT?  “I did, but I think the craziest thing that kind of kicked it off was when I got that private call.  I didn’t know who it was and I ignored it the first time.  They called back and I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna answer it.’  It was the night of the 500 and I answered it and it was the White House.  They said that the president would like to talk to us and I was like, ‘Well, this is kind of cool.’  But then I think it was two days ago, this was probably the craziest series of events.  Before I went on the Ellen Show I got a call from Vice President Joe Biden, so I’m talking to him on the phone.  Then I run in to do the Ellen Show.  I meet her.  I come out and I’m on the phone with Tim Tebow talking to him about our faith and everything.  Then I hang up from him and as soon as I do that Pamela Anderson comes in the room to meet me.  Then I get done with that and I go over to film the George Lopez Show and while I’m in the waiting room Bobby Valentino, the singer, asks me for my phone number in case he wants to come to a race or something.  I’m like, ‘What is going on? What is this?’  That whole series I was like, ‘This is kind of a big deal.’  It’s cool.  There have been so many cool things that have happened and just getting to go around and tour around the country for a week.  That was a cool experience in itself.” 

WHAT DID THE VICE PRESIDENT SAY AND WHAT WERE YOUR INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF PAMELA ANDERSON?  “Joe Biden,  I guess he’s a big car guy.  He used to drag race and he was really excited.  He’s like, ‘We’re proud of you.  You represent everything good.’  So it was very complimentary, which was awesome to get that kind of credibility from the vice president.  He was pumped up about watching the Wood Brothers.  He said he used to watch them a long time ago, so he talked about both ends of the spectrum – the oldest and the youngest.  And then he said, ‘Hey, you want to come and check out the White House?  Bring whoever you want.’ He said he would take us and give us a tour and President Obama would be really happy to meet us, so I thought that was pretty neat.  And then Pamela Anderson, the first thing she said was, ‘You remind me of my son,’ because I guess she has a son my age.  She’s getting a little older now.  I wasn’t born when Baywatch was on, so it was cool just to meet her.  I remember watching Borat when he puts her in the bag and runs off to marry her.  That was pretty cool to meet her.”      

HAVE YOU HAD ANY OVERSEAS CONGRATULATIONS? “I actually did.  The girl that I was dating before she went into the mission fields, she’s in India and has been there for three months, and I’ve got a picture on my phone with a lot of the kids that are around in the slums.  They’ve been working in the schools there and she had a picture with them.  She’s wearing the Indian outfits and all that, and she’s sitting there and all the kids have a banner that says ‘Good Job, Trevor.  We’re proud.’  I thought that was just neat to get a text with a picture from kids in India.  That was probably one of the coolest experiences, too.” 

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET READY FOR THIS WEEKEND?  “I just can’t wait to get back in the race car. That’s where I feel the most comfortable and I can just zone in on something.  I’ve not been scatterbrained, but just pulled in a lot of places and just kind of looking around and saying, “thanks, appreciate it’ with everybody.  So I can’t wait to just get back in the car and be able to focus on one thing – the track in front of me, worry about what the car is doing and communicating with the crew chief.  That’s where I feel the most comfortable, so I think as soon as I get in there I’ll be in the zone.  Plus, I tried all week not to ever get out of that zone.  I tried not to ever get distracted by everything going on or get wrapped up in it.  The whole time I’ve been in communication with the teams and just trying to focus on, ‘OK, how do we keep this going?’  We’ve got to perform.  On the Nationwide side, I do feel like we need to be performing, but on the Cup side, we’re gonna have learning curves.  We were never expected to do this our first race, even though the Wood Brothers and Donnie Wingo and everybody involved are capable, it just doesn’t normally happen this way.  This weekend is our third race ever in Cup and we need to remember that.  If we finish 15th or 20th, we’ve got to be excited about that because that’s a pretty good day for us in our third race, so we just have to keep expectations in perspective.  I think on the Nationwide side with Roush Fenway, we’ve got a great team there, too.  Chris Andrews, and I think we’ll have a good shot at it this weekend.  Our cars are fast here.  I like this kind of race track, so I’m pumped about getting in that thing, too.” 

DO YOU KNOW THE WOOD BROTHERS HISTORY OR HAS THIS WEEK BEEN A LEARNING EXPERIENCE?  “The whole Wood Brothers experience, ever since I signed with them has been the biggest lesson in history I’ve ever gotten.  I went through and looked at their pit stops, even from the Indy 500 that they did when they won that race with that fueling system.  They took me through and showed me all the convertibles and how you could look at his head in the car and tell what kind of car it was because it would either be in the front window or the back window depending on where they moved the seat and moved the dash to try and set up the cars that way.  They’ve been taking me through the Tiny Lund story and David Pearson.  They took me through all the drivers.  They’ve got pictures up in the shop.  I haven’t been to Virginia yet to see the museum, but they’ve done a really, really good job of filling me in on everything.  For Donnie Wingo, when he told me it was 31 years in the making, that was really, really, really cool to hear that from him.  To see his excitement, he didn’t seem that surprised in victory lane.  I was like, ‘Man, did you think we could do this?’  He’s like, ‘I knew we could.’  That’s what took me back the most.  I figured Donnie would be all surprised by it, but he had the confidence in everybody and that’s what it took.”  

DO YOU ANTICIPATE YOUR COMPETITORS DRIVING YOU ANY HARDER NOW OR WITH MORE RESPECT?  “I don’t know.  I think on the Nationwide it’s probably gonna be some tough racing.  Those guys want to be the next thing too, so I know they’re all gonna race hard. Maybe they won’t lay as many fenders on us because they know everybody is kind of watching, but I’m sure they’re gonna be racing hard.  They want to be the best.  I’m not saying I’m the best, but we won the last race and they want to beat that person that just won last weekend.  I think we’re all competitive either way.  I think they’re gonna race really hard, but through the garage and just seeing the crew guys coming up.  I talked to Logano a minute ago and all the drivers have just been really, really supportive.  It kind of shocked me.  I expected them to have a little bit of resentment because it was our first one and we came in and won, but they’ve actually showed a whole lot of support, more than I could have asked for, so I can’t thank them enough for that.” 

WHAT ABOUT THE RING ON YOUR FINGER?  “I’ve been trying to talk to Simpson about some special gloves so I can keep it on.  I left it on most of the time, just to get in the shower is the only time I took it off because the first couple of nights I was scared I’d wake up and it would be a dream, so I wanted to keep it on so I could wake up and look down and make sure it’s still there.  It is a lot of bling and normally not something I would wear, but maybe here in a couple of weeks when it finally sets in I can take it off and know that it was still reality, but it is a really, really, really cool ring.  Jostens did a great job with it and I just can’t believe I’m wearing it.” 

DOES YOUR SCHEDULE INCLUDE THE REMAINING PLATE RACES AND IS THAT YOUR NEXT BEST CHANCE TO WIN?  “Not at this time it doesn’t.  I don’t think the first Talladega is on there.  I don’t know about the second one, but we have talked about moving the races around a little bit.  Maybe in these first seven races we can get some momentum and some companies will want to come on board.  Our goal would be to run the full season.  That would be awesome if we could do that with the Wood Brothers and for Roush Fenway.  You’ll see this weekend, our car is solid white and that’s not because we think it looks cool. We need some people to come on board and I’d love to run Talladega.  I think we learned a lot at Daytona.  Obviously, we’ve got fast restrictor plate cars, so if we could go, I would love to.” 

HOW MUCH DIFFERENT DO YOU EXPECT THIS WEEK TO BE FROM LAST WEEK?  “I’d like to have the same success, that would be nice, so hopefully that won’t be different, but this is totally different.  Daytona requires the crew chief to find speed in the car.  This requires the driver and crew chief to communicate.  The communication is a totally different deal here, I think.  You’ve got a little bit of feel at Daytona, but it’s mainly mental and knowing what to do with the car and where to put it.  Here it’s going by feel.  What’s the car doing.  It’s physically draining and a totally different kind of race.  Obviously, you’ve got to drive totally different.  You’re not working with people, you’re racing against everybody.  I would agree to that to some extent (about the season really starting this weekend), but this is like the first team/communication/driver kind of track where you’re going off that short track kind of instinct.  Hopefully we can be good here.  This is one of my favorite tracks even though I haven’t had a ton of success here yet, but Carl Edwards was really fast here last time.  I know we’re bringing something similar to that and hopefully we can be successful again.” 

HOW DO YOU STAY GROUNDED THROUGH ALL OF THIS?  “I didn’t do this on my own.  I’ve had a lot of help from a ton of people growing up since I was five years old – my family, Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Michael Waltrip and Gary Bechtel at Diamond Waltrip Racing, and now Roush Fenway and the Wood Brothers and all my crew chiefs along the way.  If I thought I did this on my own, then I probably would be floating away, but that would be a complete lie.  To see what God has done here, positioning me even through the tough times, he knew this was gonna happen.  This isn’t for me.  It’s not anything I did by myself and I can’t ever think that way.  That in itself should be enough to keep us humble because in racing you have your ups, but you definitely have more downs so we’ve got to keep that in perspective and not get too much on the mountaintop here.”    

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IN VEGAS NEXT WEEK? “Sleep.  I didn’t get to do a lot of that this week, but I’ll be doing some sleeping in Vegas.  Obviously, I can’t go to a casino and I don’t even know I would if I could, but they’ve got rollercoasters there in some of the hotels and water shows.  I think they might have a mall with a toy store in it.  I’m sure my team will pick on me about that, but, I don’t know.  I’ll probably do what we do in every other city – kind of soak it in and walk around a little bit.  That’s a cool place, but I’ve never been a Vegas, flashy kind of guy anyways.  I’m pumped to go there.  I love the track.  We finished sixth there, I think, last year in Nationwide and it’s a really fun track, so I’m looking forward to that most of all.” 

HOW ARE YOUR PARENTS KEEPING YOU GROUNDED WITH ALL THIS ATTENTION?  THE GIRLS MUST BE ALL AROUND YOU RIGHT NOW.  “It’s been pretty wild.  I didn’t have a valentine this year, and I don’t think it will be that way next year (laughter). It’s been different.  I got my first police escort in San Francisco. I’m like, ‘What is going on?’  We’ve got two black trucks here, cops going everywhere guiding us and we get out on the red carpet and girls have, ‘Marry me’ signs and I’m like, ‘What is going on?’  One of the reporters said, ‘Would you be asking him this if he finished third?’ And they were like, ‘Oh yeah, yeah.’  Of course they were gonna say that, but it’s been cool to see the whole support of the United States outside of our community.  I get Twitters and Facebook that say, ‘I’m a fan of NASCAR now because of what you and the Wood Brothers have done this weekend.’  It’s just the storyline, but to see the support from the young crowds.  Being on the Ellen show and the Lopez show and just getting out there, I think it’s cool to make the young people see that our sport is cool because I think a lot of people have lost that. Even my friends, they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s NASCAR.’  And then they come to a race it’s like, ‘Wow, this is something.  I never thought it would be like this.’  So we’ve got to show them that this is an awesome sport.  It’s something that I love and I think they all would if they just get that little bit of insight, so maybe this story will get them involved in it again.” 

WERE YOU NERVOUS GOING ON THOSE SHOWS?  “I was actually more nervous for this kind of stuff because you know what I’m saying, you know what I’m talking about.  I can say anything on their show and they’re like, ‘Oh, great.’  When I go to do that it’s kind of fun because they don’t know much about racing and we can kind of take it wherever and just talk and that was cool.  But the first two days were kind of tough.  There were a lot of interviews and a lot of tough questions.  It’s kind of backed off the last couple of days and just been more fun stuff.  I was a little bit star struck backstage on a couple of them.  Bobby Valentino, Pam Anderson and even meeting Ellen and George Lopez.  It was different, but I enjoyed it.”

WHAT SHOWS UP ON YOUR SCREEN WHEN THE WHITE HOUSE CALLS YOU?  “It was just a private number, just like if someone was prank calling you, and that’s what I thought it was.  Actually, my hometown radio station called and said that Obama was supposed to be calling, so I get a private number and I answer, it’s like six in the morning here and eight at home.  I’m sleeping and I answer and they’re like, ‘Hello, Trevor.  This is President Obama.’  I’m like, ‘Hey, what’s going on.’ And they’re like, ‘Hey, we got you.  It’s Andy and Allison.’  So everybody is having fun with it, but the phone just says ‘private.’

HAS ANYONE FROM NASCAR TALKED TO YOU ABOUT TRYING TO BRING IN YOUNGER FANS, AND DO YOU FEEL ANY RESPONSIBILITY TO TRY AND HELP WITH THAT? “I think what is going to involve the youth is just people being real – not having cookie-cutter drivers and just being yourself.  They’ve taken to it.  That’s why they love the Travis Pastranas, and the Ryan Shecklers and Justin Biebers or whatever because they’re real and that’s what we have to be here, and I think we’re starting to see that more and more in our sport with Carl Edwards, Dale, Jr., Jimmie Johnson.  They’re just themselves.  It just so happens that I’m 20, so I get a little bit more of an outreach to that community.  They haven’t pushed that, but, definitely, that’s something we were focusing on going into the year and this is kind of a natural fit for that, so it’s just been a really fortunate situation.”    

HAVE YOU GONE BACK AND WATCHED THE RACE?  “I haven’t watched the whole thing.  I catch clips.  Like when we were up doing ESPN and stuff, they have the reels running and NASCAR Now and the Hub.  They’d have clips and I’d watch that, but I haven’t seen the whole thing yet.” 

HAVE YOU REPLAYED IT IN YOUR HEAD?  “There was such deep thought when it was going on.  I had a lot of it planned, but I didn’t plan it that way.  I figured I’d be the pusher and make the last-lap pass, but as it happened I knew what I had to do.  But now that I try to look back at it, it’s like a blur.  Everything was just happening so fast and I just remember driving to the start-finish line and it was like slow motion.  It was like, ‘What is going on?  There is now way that this is happening.’  When I watch the race and watch things that happen, it was like from about five laps to go to the beginning of the race I can remember everything that happened and the last five laps is like a complete blur.  It’s like I was just driving and I can’t tell you everything that happened at that point.” 

YOU’VE GOT A BIG DAY PLANNED IN KNOXVILLE, RIGHT?  “Yeah.  Monday, I actually think they’re doing a rally in Market Square and doing a key to the city and all kinds of cool stuff, so, hopefully, we get good weather here and we can make it back.   

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

AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT LAST WEEK AND THIS WEEK?  “It was crazy last week.  I didn’t really know what to expect.  We were fast early on.  Mark and I got hooked up and we led a few laps early in the race, and then we got caught up in that big wreck a little bit and got some damage to the nose, and then after that it seemed like every wreck that happened I was around it, so it was strange, definitely.  I think at the end of the race, for what we went through, we had fenders folded in on the tires – the car looked like you got done racing at Martinsville than Daytona, but to come out 11th – I wanted to come out with a solid top-15 finish, compared to last year when we started bad, so I was decently happy with it.  I felt like we could have been a little bit better, but to come out 10th in points, there’s no disappointment there.  I look forward to this race track.  Last year, we probably had the best car for qualifying at both races, but in the race we were just a little bit off.  I felt like we were on the edge of a top-10 car both races. Things that we’ve had to work on, Mike Shiplett and I, we’ve tested a little bit.  I felt like the things we struggled with here last year we kind of worked on, so I’m looking forward to getting on the race track.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Gilliland, driver of the No. 34 Taco Bell Ford Fusion, had the best finish in Front Row Motorsports history last week when he finished third in the Daytona 500.  Gilliland spoke to reporters about that accomplishment and his hopes for this weekend in the PIR infield media center before Friday’s practice.

DAVID GILLILAND – No. 34 Taco Bell Ford Fusion – WHAT DOES A FINISH LIKE DAYTONA DO FOR YOU AND THE TEAM?  “It was a huge day for myself and Front Row Motorsports – confidence for me, confidence for our team, the guys.  Walking in the garage Jeff Gordon came up to me and said, ‘Hey, great job,’ and other drivers and stuff, so it’s something that at Front Row Motorsports last year, we weren’t nearly as competitive as we’d like to be, but we feel like we’ve taken some big steps over the winter to be more competitive and I think that was a great first stop.  Now, we’ve got to back it up this week and continue to build.  Momentum is a big thing in this sport and our guys, everybody’s attitude in the shop, I went in there everyday this week and everybody is kind of high-stepping and excited.  They’ve got the fire in their eyes and ready to go again.  I’m excited about it.  I’m excited to come back here to Phoenix.  This is a track where I’ve had a lot of success in other series, and we’ve got much better race cars than we had last year, so I’m looking forward to trying to carry the momentum.” 

HOW DO YOU EVALUATE YOUR CAREER AS A WHOLE?  DO YOU STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE?  “It’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride. Coming into the series with Robert Yates Racing, we had a great opportunity there, but when I went over there Elliott Sadler was leaving and Dale Jarrett was leaving and the place was kind of on a downhill swing.  We tried our best to try and get it going back up, but just couldn’t do it.  I feel like I’m ready.  I feel like I’m the best driver I’ve ever been right now and feel like we’re ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes our way.  We’re gonna make the most of everything we’ve got at Front Row Motorsports.  Bob Jenkins, we’re definitely not the highest funded team out here, probably one of the lower funded teams, but we’ve got great equipment and great motors this year and we’re gonna make the most of it.  My goal is to win in the Cup Series.  I’ve won in every other series I’ve raced in and finished second in the Cup Series, so we’ve been close, but just got a little bit to go.  I want to win and, hopefully, if not this year, hopefully, we can create some other opportunities to get into a situation where we can win, but I feel good about our chances.” 

IS THIS THE REAL START TO THE SEASON?  “They give points for last week, but it’s just a different kind of racing.  There are four of those races in our season and it’s a different kind of racing.  It was different this year than it’s ever been, but, yeah, I think so.  I think this is the start.  Next week at Vegas, those are the most type of tracks that we race on, the mile-and-a-half stuff. I feel like those are where we really need to concentrate on, but definitely this is just a different kind of racing.  I kind of have mixed feelings about it, but as far as the way your cars are gonna drive here is gonna transfer onto more races throughout the season than last week for sure.”   

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE COMMUNICATION WITH THE TWO-CAR DRAFT LAST WEEK?  “I tell everybody how weird it was because in that race you had to rely on somebody else.  It’s kind of weird to rely on one of your competitors that you’re trying to beat, and you have to.  It’s not like, ‘Yeah, we’ll do this.’  You have to do it in order to get to the front, so that was kind of weird.  The communication, we’ve got some work to do on our radios where we can talk to other people, so it’s definitely a different kind of racing, but it wasn’t too bad.  I think definitely at every speedway race from here on out you’re gonna see that.  I think you would have seen it before if people knew how to do it better, but, now, learning how to back up and get connected and go, and how much faster it is, that’s just the type of racing you’re gonna see.  But I think the race on Sunday was definitely more exciting than I thought it was gonna be. In the past at like Talladega, if you remember when they first repaved it, it was just a single-file line for 60-70-80 laps and everybody was kind of bored with that, and it wasn’t that way this year.  For as bad as I thought it was gonna be, the race ended up, from people that I talked to that watched it, very exciting.” 

IS YOUR SON STILL IN RACING?  “Yeah, he’s racing quarter midgets.  He enjoys it.  It’s what he wants to do.  I’m trying to encourage him to try other stuff and make sure it’s really what he wants to do, but it’s just so hard with our schedule to be able to do it and have him race the way I’d like him to, but he does.  He races, not as much as I’d like to or he’d like to, but he does a good job.  He just needs to race more often. I’m kind of up in the air right now.  He’s gonna be 11 this year and I’m kind of up in the air of whether to keep him in quarter midgets or try and move him on to something else.  That is still what he wants to do.” 

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE SEASON NOW?  “I said my goal as a realistic goal is to try and be in the top 20 in points.  I feel like with the cars that we have, the motors we have, and what we have to work with at Front Row Motorsports, that’s a realistic goal. Obviously, we’d like to set our goals higher, but with what we have to work with, I think that’s the parameters we’re working in.” 

WHAT WAS THE ORIGIN OF THE CAR YOU RAN LAST WEEK? “It was one of the RPM cars. I don’t know the exact history, but I know it was one of Kasey Kahne’s cars that he drove last year and really liked, so that’s what I’m saying.  We’ve got some great cars.  They’re not new cars.  We’re not building new cars every week like Hendrick, Gibbs and Roush, but the step that we’ve taken by getting those cars, compared to what we had last year, we’re light years ahead of where we were, so we’re still maybe not on the exact same platform, but we’re definitely many steps closer.” 

ARE YOU RUNNING THE FR9?  “Yeah, we’re running the new FR9 engines all year, so that’s another thing different from last year. Bob has stepped up our engine program this year with Roush Yates and I think that’s gonna help us more than anything.” 

HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT TO RACE WITH YOUR SON?  “The quarter midget racing is actually pretty expensive.  For me, to do it and have him race a full season, I have a full-time guy that works for me.  I have a race shop that he’s got to work out of and you’ve got to have a trailer and a truck to go.  It’s expensive, and the cars.  We just bought a new quarter midget last year and I think it was  something like $12,000 and that’s with a three-horsepower Honda engine, but it’s got a carbon fiber body, titanium axles.  Speed costs money and how fast do you want to go. It’s the same thing we’re up against here.  It’s an expensive deal.”

Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion, was involved in a single-car practice accident and will be forced to a back-up car for Sunday’s race.  He spoke about the incident afterwards.

TREVOR BAYNE – No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion — “On pit road I told them the brakes felt like they weren’t working right.  I paced myself getting into the corner and the brakes just never worked.  It was either just one of them working and it locked them up.  Even down the backstretch I was playing with the bias trying to get them to dial, but then I went off in the corner and they just never worked and it never slowed down.  When I went into the corner as soon as I let off the gas I said, ‘I’m crashing,’ because I knew it wasn’t gonna slow down and it happened.  There was not much I could do there.  I don’t know what happened there.  I don’t know why.  It’s the first back-up car I’m gonna have to go to, but I don’t know what happened to the car and why the brakes weren’t right there.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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