Richard Petty Motorsports has a team that is starting to gel, the team of Sammy Johns and A.J. Almendinger and the 44 car. The 44 car has been having some good runs as of late and the combo of these two is one of the reasons. Sammy recently sat down for a Q&A session an here are some of his thoughts.
Q: What are the keys to success at Texas Motor Speedway?
A: You’re going to have to have a good handling car for sure. The cars always want to be loose in the corners there and tight off as the banking flattens out. Having your car get into the corner real comfortable for the driver and then turn well getting off the corner is going to be real important come Sunday.
Q: What’s it been like for you to be back in the crew chief’s role?
A: It’s been fun. It’s been fun because we’ve been meeting our goals and we’re doing well right now. For the first five races, we wanted to make sure that we made the races and establish ourselves well in the points. So we’re getting that done. It’s been a bit of a homecoming. I’m getting used to being back on the road and being a crew chief again. So far, it’s been fun.
Q: Is the 44 team really just racing week-to-week versus trying something that may help you down the road because of the uncertainty of your sponsorship status?
A: Right now, the last that I heard was we’re going to the Coca-Cola 600 unless we can pick up some sponsorship. Our feeling right now is that if we can keep doing what we’re doing on the race track, someone is going to come along and want to sponsor us and keep us going to at least the Chase, if not the whole season.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your driver AJ Allmendinger and what makes him successful?
A: AJ is just a great communicator. He’s a really fun guy to be around outside of the race car, but once he gets in the race car, he’s all business. From the time that he came on board with us last year, I think that everyone in our organization saw the talent that AJ has and recognized it. So we’ve been trying to keep piecing that along. He’s a really neat guy to be around. He’s very playful when he’s outside the race car, but when he’s in it, he’s all business.
Q: What makes AJ a good driver?
A: He’s got a great feel for the race car. What he tells you, you can adjust something and he goes out and goes faster with it. I feel like his feel for the car and what the four tires are doing is real good and that’s key to the crew chief getting that proper information back and not have to second guess (the driver). When he tells you what he needs, you can give it to him and he’ll go out there and go faster with it.
Q: What might race fans not understand about the job of a crew chief?
A: I guess the stress involved. As a crew chief, you’re responsible for everything that happens with the race car, race team. One mistake made by a guy (team member) and you’re ultimately responsible for the performance of the car. When you’re outside the top 35 in points like we were the first five races, it doesn’t get any more stressful showing up and having to make the races; standing out there on pit road on Friday just hoping that you get that one good lap in. I guess just the stress level of it.
Q: Do crew chiefs have a different skill that makes them better off for the position?
A: I don’t think that you have any more skill than the next guy. Everybody in the garage area at this level is there for a reason… they’re all good and they all belong there. It’s the people that you surround yourself with, the team that you build around you, and the communication that goes along, that is what’s important. It’s not a one-man show by any means. Without my engineer, Mike Wolf, and my car chief Brian (Dantinne) and all the guys under them, I’m nobody. I’m just the guy who’s managing the chaos. You have to have a strong team around you. Everyone got to this level for a reason.
I think these 2 will be a force in the coming months, based on the chemistry that they have now and that they are building on. It is not something that everyone has and not all can achieve but these two have been working on this for a while and they will be there in the end.
Now lets see what they do at Texas!
See you at the races…..