Ford Las Vegas Friday Advance (AJ Allmendinger)

AJ Allmendinger is off to the best start of his NSCS career, currently standing fourth in points after two races and is just 11 points away from first. Allmendinger put together an 11th place finish at Daytona and ninth place ending at Phoenix on his way to being the top Ford in the point standings to start the year.

AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion – OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT YOUR START, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE REJUVENATION OF THE RACE TEAM AND THE START TO YOUR YEAR?  “I vote we just start the Chase right now. It is still really early, just two races in, but I feel like between Daytona and Phoenix we have had a good race car. We got through all the wrecks and have been a little bit lucky there. This is definitely a lot better start than where we were last year at this point, but it is only two races in. We have to stay calm about that and can’t get too excited. I am happy with where our race team has started and if we can stay focused on getting through this weekend, which is a big one for us because we have really struggled here in Vegas, if we can get through this weekend we will have something to really build on.”

WITH AN OFF WEEKEND COMING UP, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND TO CARRY MOMENTUM THROUGH THE OFF WEEK?  “I think that every weekend, whether there is an off weekend coming or not is a really big deal. For me, the biggest thing is that this has been an Achilles heel track for me. We have always struggled here. I missed the first two races in 2007 & 2008 and we have struggled the last two years. I don’t think the off weekend has anything to do with that, but we need to get through this weekend and be strong. That will give us more confidence than anything. This is one of the tracks that I circled on the calendar at the beginning of the year that we had to run well at. I really feel like we are a lot better than when we came here last year, but at the same point we just have to have a good run. The off weekend is what it is and it gives everyone a chance to settle down and figure out where we are after a few races. I think that this racetrack is bigger than anything for me.”
American Muscle

WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WILL HAVE TO DO TO MAKE YOUR MARK HERE GIVEN WHAT WE HAVE SEEN THE FIRST TWO WEEKENDS?  “I think it is just the times in racing right now. The Sprint Cup series is tougher than it has been in a long time. Everyone is fighting for the sponsors and for their jobs. You see that on the race track. Everybody has to be aggressive to be fast. There is a certain level of aggressiveness that you have to have, but at the same point, something I have learned in the last year or so is when to be aggressive and when not to be. For us, we were just biding our time and that wreck happened and we were in the middle of it but were fortunate to get out of it with minimal damage and a clean race car. I think that right now we are in a good position, although it is only race two, that we don’t have to press really hard. We are up there in points and can try to run every lap and be smart and have good finishes. There are guys out there right now that with this points system the way it is are already looking at being over a race behind. Those guys need to push a little more, but we just have to be smart out there. It is tough to say because it is a mile-and-a-half track. Racing could be a little more cautious, but it might not be. We will see when we get out there.”

WHY DO YOU STRUGGLE AT VEGAS SO MUCH?  “We only come here once. The first two years I was just trying to make the show and get into the race. In 2009 we were just at that point trying to survive and run every lap without damaging the race car. We didn’t have any more money to race and couldn’t afford wrecking the race car.  We came here and had two bad races and we didn’t really have our program set at that point. We hadn’t figure out our cars and we had just switched to Ford and we were trying to learn things. There has always been something here going wrong for some reason and haven’t been really on it. It is just an experience thing I think. I am a lot more confident this time in the race car and know what I want. Even though I haven’t felt that here, I know as a whole what I really want on a mile-and-a-half track. I really believe we will be better than we have ever been here which obviously isn’t that tough to do. I think there has been a combination of factors here, but the biggest thing I think is that we come here early in the year and only race here once. That has always been tough for me.”

I UNDERSTAND YOU VISITED THE GRAND CANYON THIS WEEK. HOW DID THAT GO AND HOW DID YOU LIKE IT?  “I told my wife that it is a big hole in the ground. No, it was fun. For us to get away and not really fly home, but stay here on the west coast and do that was good. I am not a big sightseeing person. I always have to be doing something. Walking around and just looking at things is tough for me to do. The last time I was there I was really young, so it was cool to do that and lay back. It is good to do that after a good week of racing. I think she put more pressure on my crew and Shiplett than anybody because she knew if we had a bad weekend I would be a complete ass at the Grand Canyon. It was a really nice place to hang out at and was fun to relax for a couple of days.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BRISTOL AND CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO RACE FANS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO RACE THERE?  “It is a crazy place. I remember the first time I went there in 2007 when there was a test there, I was walking out to the edge of the race track and I asked where the race track was and they pointed down under my feet. I was like, ‘No, that isn’t a race track, that is a big bull ring’. Going there for the first time was really cool. I remember that it was insane just trying to get onto the race track and get up to speed. It is a fun place and a place that in the last few races we haven’t ran well at, but it is always one of my favorite places to go to. I always look forward to going there and they pack the place with so many fans. It is a cool race in general. The night race is more of my favorite because it is a Saturday night, short track with packed grandstands. It is a cool, fun place to go to and a tough place to set your car up for now, especially since they changed it. One and two are different than three and four and it is a tough place to get set up for. All in all, it is just a fun race track to go to. That is a place we can take the off week and you really need a week to prepare for that place and get in the mindset for it. Hopefully we have a good run here, have fun in the off week and get set for Bristol.”

DAYTONA RIGHT SIDES HERE? WHAT DO YOU THINK?  “I don’t know. We will have to wait and see. It is always hard to tell. The tough thing with these race tracks sitting out here in the desert and only racing once, the place sits for basically a year. They do a truck race and things like that, but the track is always a little more bumpy. It looks like the Nationwide guys were here yesterday and already today so the track has a little rubber on it. Usually when we come here the thing is dusty. They have already cleaned it off and it looks like it already has grooves just looking at it on TV and where the Nationwide cars are running. That will be good. It will be closer to what the race conditions will be like. You never know until you get out there. For me, running it at the beginning of the year and not coming back here a second time, I always take the first five or six laps to just get used to it again before I try to figure out what the car is doing. We will find out here in about an hour.”

YOU SEEM LIKE A GUY THAT COULD HAVE SOME TIGER BLOOD IN YOU. I DON’T KNOW IF YOU HAVE FOLLOWED THE CHARLIE SHEEN STUFF. HAVE YOU AT ALL?  “I think we have all followed it a little bit. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t. I am still trying to figure out the whole tiger blood thing though.”

I WAS WONDERING IF YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE BECAUSE YOU SEEM LIKE THE KIND OF GUY THAT WOULD BE INTO THAT.  “You know, I laughed. We are in the day in age now where we all get sucked into that stuff. I wouldn’t say that I have a favorite quote, but I do get sucked into that stuff. I try to flip through it and get back to Sports Center or something, but it is like a bad car wreck. You don’t want to look but you have to. It is good times, but I was pretty impressed. He almost had as much Twitter followers when he first joined. He passed me recently. He got to the 1-million mark. I am almost there though. I am at 4,000. We will get 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


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