There's no 'I' in team
AJ Allmendinger discusses the teamwork aspect of modern-day racing
By A.J. Allmendinger, Special to NASCAR.COM
May 17, 2012 4:28 PM, EDT
Hello everyone! Thanks for joining me again on my blog. This time I thought I'd write about an issue that probably all of the teams are spending time thinking about. I know the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge team and I have been thinking a lot about it.
Never before has Sprint Cup racing been such a total team sport. ... you have to be ready from the time you unload at the race track. The work by the pit crews on pit road has never been more important than now.
-- AJ ALLMENDINGER
The way the season has sort of unfolded has given us a lot more long green-flag runs. For example, at the Texas Motor Speedway race in April we went green for 230 laps straight before first the first caution. At Darlington last week, we ran 175 laps before first yellow came out. The Richmond and Kansas races also had long green-flag runs.
Never before has Sprint Cup racing been such a total team sport. Everyone has to be on top of their game, and you have to be ready from the time you unload at the race track. The work by the pit crews on pit road has never been more important than now.
These long green runs have really made the car setup that much more critical because you don't have those caution periods to make adjustments and improve you race car. This is more important from the drop of the first green flag all the way through the race.
If you are off at the beginning of the race -- and it doesn't even have to be a lot off -- you go down a lap to the leader really quickly. And then the long green runs also make it more challenging to make back up that lap, as well as improve your car. Take Darlington for example: Jimmie Johnson lapped the field all the way up to the 14th position before a yellow came out.
This has created a race within the race. It's always been an interesting aspect to watch how the lucky dog position unfolds. At Darlington, we were in a position to get the lucky dog on three different occasions and never had the caution come out when we needed it. At one time during the race, there were seven cars racing to get up into the lucky dog spot. We never got the lucky dog and had to take the wave-around, running on 20-lap tires, in order to get back on the lead lap before we had the run-in at the end.
This has also made the pit crew more important as well. They are going to need to train harder and better (and they already DO train hard!) because they have to do more green-flag pit stops. My guys have been awesome on pit road, especially during the last few races. We've gained spots on just about every stop. When we didn't gain spots, we at least held our own.
Put all of these factors together, and it changes not only some of the decisions you may make about car setup to start a race, but it really makes us change our plan for the overall weekend. How you divide up your practice session time and that plan are things we are all re-evaluating.
I think it's pretty interesting some of these shifts in dynamics and some of the challenges it has laid out for us. So, that is what I've been thinking about lately -- how I can contribute the best in my role as driver. Like I said, I don't think there's ever been a time where Cup Series racing has been more of a total team sport.
Now, back in with those Penske engineers and Todd...
Behind the Wheel with AJ Allmendinger runs once a month on NASCAR.COM as he shares his experiences throughout the season, both at and away from the track. The opinions expressed are solely those of Allmendinger.