A.J. Allmendinger scored his fifth top ten result of the season at Texas, and his first in a Ford as the former open-wheel driver's no.44 Richard Petty Motorsports team made the move to the manufacturer ahead of running the Fusion model for the entire 2010 season.
“We want to learn,” he said, before going on to explain elements of the change that may surprise fans in an era of NASCAR which has seen greater standardisation of cars and equipment than any other.
“It's not as easy as just pulling the sticker off the car from a Dodge and putting it on as a Ford and just putting a new motor in the car. You've got to change the front of the car and change the rear of the car a little bit to match what the Ford template is…The team built a brand-new car for Texas and we've got a car ready for Phoenix as well, but there is a learning curve.”
2009 has been a roller coaster season for the 27-year-old, who saw a full season ride disappear after Elliott Sadler fought off being fired from Gillett-Evernham Motorsports. Instead Allmendinger found himself a part-time race seat, only expecting to contest five to eight races. However, better than expected results saw more sponsorship and the California driver's schedule expanded to the full 36 race season.
Still, he believes the year could have gone better. “We're 26th, but, at the same time, I know we could have been better. There's just a lot of little stuff like getting caught up in wrecks and little things that have happened that have cost us maybe being in the top 20 in points. I really feel like that's where we should be for a full season.”
“ I've run the full season and, like I said, I look at these last few races that whether we move up in points or move back in points,” he continued. “If we can just have strong races and learn a lot going into next year.”
“Obviously, we want to run well, but we just want to build a notebook going into next year and that's really what it's all about.”
“We'll have had about 10 races and that will be important, but, no matter what, I'd still like to go out there and average in the top 15 these last three races and hopefully get a couple of top-10s and have something to be excited about in the off season.”
Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, Autostock for Ford