After being busy the past three days with seat fittings and testing, AJ ALLMENDINGER, the latest open wheel racer to move to NASCAR, held a teleconference for those media not at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for the big NASCAR weekend.
Allmendinger said he was disappointed in being taken out of the Forsythe Championship Racing car for last race of the Champ Car season in Mexico City. He wanted to end the season on a high note, especially after Australia. (In that race he crashed out.) As it stands now, Allmendinger is second in the points, behind SEBASTIAN BOURDAIS/Newman Haas Racing, who just clinched the 2006 title, and ahead of his former RuSPORT team-mate and friend, JUSTIN WILSON of England.
AJ didn't see his replacement in Mexico City, BUDDY RICE of Phoenix AZ coming from Indy Racing League, as any signal that the two rival open wheel series - Champ Car World Series and IRL - are getting closer to reconciliation. There hasn't been much in the way of visible efforts lately in that direction.
But missing Mexico City will give Allmendinger more chance to race and test. At this point he doesn't know if he'll be racing NASCAR in Phoenix or not. His next race is Texas and nothing was scheduled after that.
The Toronto Connection was pointed out to AJ by a Canadian journo. Allmendinger, who had been living in Denver to be near RuSPORT, is engaged to a Canadian chiropractor from Toronto, Team Red Bull's manager is from Toronto, and one of the five races AJ won this year was the Toronto Champ Car street race.
Allmendinger didn't think he would have a difficult time making the transition from Champ Car to NASCAR. "It comes down to my beliefs in my talent. Otherwise I wouldn't have taken this big chance and moved over to NASCAR." Nor would he have a problem with the so called language barrier. "What I found difficult was not going back to Champ Car and using the NASCAR lingo." He joked "I watched Talladega Nights so I know it all"
Toyota has a rich history in all forms of motor racing. I've seen what they've been able to do in the Truck Series in the past three years. They'll have even more focus in the Cup
Allmendinger didn't invite a comparison with JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, who is also making the jump from a high level open wheel series - Formula One - straight to Nextel Cup. "We have the same experience level in NASCAR." JPM is making his NASCAR debut this weekend in the Busch Series running at Memphis Motor Park. Among those he will race against include three Nextel Cup Chase drivers, 2006 Busch Series Champion, Kevin Harvick, DENNY HAMLIN, and KASEY KAHNE. KYLE BUSCH is sitting this one out. Other Cup drivers with whom Montoya will race against next year include CLINT BOWYER, CARL EDWARDS, REED SORENSON, and JJ YELEY. All seven will have substitute drivers standing in for them at Atlanta on Saturday.
Allmendinger said not all media reports this week have been accurate, especially about his contract situation. He doesn't make a point of discussing details. But, AJ point out that yes, he will be making more money in NASCAR, but he will also be running many more races and have more media obligations.
The Atlanta weather was not looking too good during the teleconference - it was raining pretty hard at the time. Allmendinger had hopes that it would clear up for Cup Qualifying late Friday afternoon for Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 race. Truck Qualifying is 1:15 pm ET Saturday for the EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 race at 4:30 pm ET Saturday afternoon. He will be busy all weekend.
AMS is 1.54-miles long, a superspeedway in the eyes of NASCAR, and requires permission to race as a Rookie.
Allmendinger won't be running into JPM this weekend, but he could see SeBass, as Bourdais is known. Bourdais is racing in the season's finale IROC race Saturday afternoon, just before the Truck race.