Allmendinger Sixth in PhoenixNovember 13, 2011
After starting the race from the front row once again, AJ Allmendinger drove to a sixth place finish on Sunday in the No. 43 Wix Filters Ford Fusion at Phoenix International Raceway.
Allmendinger ran in the top ten for nearly the entire race distance in the Kobalt 500, falling down the order in the late stages but rallying to come back to take sixth at the checkered flag.
“Man the Wix filters 43 Ford was fast today,” said Allmendinger. “We had a set of tires on that last run that weren’t that good. So, we had to fight our way back up there and just ran out of laps. I definitely feel we had a car to win this...and I really wanted it.”
Racing drivers always have to deal with constant change, from track conditions to who you are racing against to what the pit window seems to be in races that feature fuel mileage as a primary factor.
Sunday’s race saw Allmendinger dealing with an unusual new set of variables as crew members from the No. 6 UPS Roush Ford were called in to service the No. 43 Wix machine after the middle stages of the race. Despite a new cast of actors greeting him over the wall on the late stops, Allmendinger just kept his focus on what he needed to do.
“I didn’t know it was happening,” said AJ of the crew swap. “Greg said ‘don’t be alarmed by the color change with the firesuits.’ Pit stops are an area that we know we have to improve if we want to win races, but thats for Greg and Robbie Loomis to work on. I know i need to keep working on improving as a driver and we need to improve as a team. A big thanks to the 6 UPS guys for stepping in and giving us 2 solid stops at the end there and Tony Hirschman and greg for just keeping us there and out of trouble.”
The track also provided its own set of variables, as it was the first Cup race run on the new surface and had been rained on overnight, resetting the surface to make for very slippery running early in the 312 lap event.
“I didn’t know what to expect today and add the rain factor into that. It’s fast and it still was really slick, but for the most part everybody ran smart and it thankfully wasn’t as crazy as the Nationwide race! I wouldn’t change anything, I like it. I think we need to figure out how to address the dog leg. We cant have guys going down in there three wide, but you cant narrow it up too much either. Other than that, its a great track.”
Allmendinger will target another strong finish to the season with a big run in the Ford Champions event at Homststead to close out the 2011 season.