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Allmendinger, No. 43 team ready to race amid turmoil
AJ Allmendinger gathered his team together in the No. 43 Best Buy hauler Friday morning to assuage any concerns his men had going forward.
With the recent uncertainty at George Gillett’s Richard Petty Racing, Allmendinger himself isn’t sure of what the future holds for the team.
However, the morning meeting allowed the driver the opportunity to show support to the men that stand by him each week.
“I don’t have a lot of answers right now,“ Allmedinger said. “I’m kind of along for the ride like everyone else. What truly concerns me are my crew guys – the guys that I was just talking to and the ones back at the shop. They are the ones that truly bust their ass. To work this hard and be told whatever they were told in the meeting, ’We don’t know if we’re going to need you after Martinsville’ or whatever they were told – I wasn’t there – but I feel bad for them. They’re the ones that work so hard and honestly don’t get paid a lot of money for what they do.
“Honestly, a lot of them live paycheck to paycheck just because they love it. I can’t imagine all the effort they put into this. This is their lives. This is my life too, but they don’t get a lot of time off. They don’t get to see their families a lot. They’re working hard. They’re building great race cars. The cars they’re putting out now are better every week. They’re lighter. So, they’re doing a great job – and that’s all I can ask for.”
While his teammates Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard announced they were leaving earlier this year, Allmendinger, 28, re-signed with RPM the first week of August with the intention of piloting the No. 43 for the next three seasons. That weekend he qualified fourth at Watkins Glen International and finished in the same position.
Prior to last weekend, Allmendinger had an average finish of 11.8 over the last five races. Four races prior to that, he led a race-high 143 laps at Dover – more circuits than he had led in his entire NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. With five races remaining, Allmendinger, who is currently 20th in points, knows if the team maintains composure they can still improve their position before the season ends.
“I’m not just trying to get them on my side, I truly care about the guys. I live a nice life. If this was worst case scenario and for whatever reason didn’t work out – which I hope it does (work out) and still feel like it will – but if it didn’t, I feel like I can figure something out. It’s those guys – especially in this economy right now with race teams letting more people go – it’s hard for them to find something. I just wanted to check up on them, bring ‘em together and focus on our jobs.
“I wish there was something I could do or say or wave a magic wand and fix but I can‘t. I can just do what I know best, show that I care about them and try to stick together as a group. I know (management) is trying hard to fix it. I don‘t think it‘s all doom and gloom. I feel that it will get resolved. But in this sport you always have to have a back-up plan. But I feel it will get fixed if we stay together. We just have to put our heads down here at Martinsville and keep working together the way we have over the last few months.”
Allmendinger confirmed that his team had received its cars and engines for Talladega next weekend.
“After that? I’m not sure,” Allmendinger admitted. “It’s a week-to-week thing.”
As one of the most promising young drivers in the NASCAR garage, Allmendinger doesn’t have the details to his back-up plan – should he need one. Allmendinger was courted by several teams prior to extending his contract with RPM and feels he’s built solid relationships with owner and sponsors during his time in the sport.
“I have to worry about what I’m doing in the car this weekend,” Alllmendinger said. “I have a good race car here. We need to go out here and run up front. That’s all I can do. The rest will take care of itself. If it goes to disarray, (Business manager) Tara (Ragan) has a plan she’s working on. For right now, I’m focused on the race car.
“This is a tough situation on everyone. It’s not fun. Nobody likes this. They’re working hard on getting it fixed. There were a lot of meeting yesterday to get this resolved. And the sponsors are behind us. They see the potential we have. We’re getting closer. There’s still a long way to go before we’re a championship winning team but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and we have the opportunity to get there.”
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