Monday, June 29, 2009

Loudon Race Recap

I don’t have much to report in this week’s race recap. The audio on my Trackpass was so bad that I couldn’t really tell what was going on with AJ. I pretty much just saw what everyone else did – yet another crappy race for the Dinger.

The 44 crew had a rough start to the weekend after qualifying was rained out on Friday. They started in 30th position based on Owner’s points, and were planning a strategy for track position when the competition caution came out. Unfortunately, by that time AJ had pitted because the car was too tight on throttle, then pitted again because of a tire vibration, and then pitted again after a spin.

That put AJ in the back end of the field, and of course that is where the accidents tend to happen. After contact between Elliott Sadler, Scott Speed, and Michael Waltrip, AJ got caught up in the accordion affect and slammed the right front of his car into the back of someone else. The fender damage could have been repairable, but AJ called in and reported that the steering was all messed up. So Sammy Johns and the Berlin City Auto Group crew brought the #44 car behind the wall for repairs.

AJ rejoined the race in 38th position and 34 laps down. The group’s efforts in the garage paid off though, as a couple more incidents took cars out of the competition. By the time the race ended early under rainy skies, AJ had moved up to 32nd place. He maintains the 29th position in driver’s points, and the 44 car is still 30th in owner’s points.

It was a disappointing day to be sure, and a frustrating weekend after coming off of the team’s top ten finish in Sonoma. I can’t imagine the emotions that AJ is going through after such a rough year, but he is being generous enough to give us a little insight into it. AJ now has a featured column at where he talks about his struggles. His first column is aptly titled Keeping the Faith, as that is just what all of us Dinger fans are doing. We’re keeping the faith, AJ – never doubt it. We believe in you!

Loudon: Post-Race Quotes

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Finished 10th

"The Budweiser Dodge ran great today and we were working our way back toward the front when the rain came. There were a lot of cars that got lucky at the end when the rain came in. The guys gave me another great car and something to build on for the upcoming weeks."


KENNY FRANCIS, (Crew Chief, No. Budweiser Dodge Charger)
"We had a great race car. The Budweiser Dodge was really, really strong today. Loudon's a tough place to call a race and I made a bad call in the middle of the race and got us messed up on track position. I took four (tires) when I should have taken two. The crew guys did a great job and Kasey (Kahne) did a really good job driving. I think that there was a couple of stretches during the race that he was the fastest car and you can't ask for more than that. We'll just keep after it and try to get them at Daytona."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOUR TEAM TO HAVE ANOTHER GOOD PERFORMANCE ON A SHORT-TRACK LIKE LOUDON? "It's just real important to be gaining on our problem tracks. Loudon is probably one of our worse tracks and of course Sonoma was our old nemesis and we won there. We felt like our car could have won this race. It's just nice to know that we can gain on it and feel like we're a lot more consistent week to week and that's what we're shooting for."


REED SORENSON (No. 43 McDonald's McCafe Dodge Charger)
Finished 17th

"That was a heck-of-a-lot of hard work for 17th. We ran pretty well today. There were guys up in front of us that I passed a couple of times today that are going to finish better than us. That's frustrating. We ran well today, that's the key and we can take this on to Daytona.


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger)
Finished 26th

"We just missed it a little bit from the start. We were dragging the front splitter pretty bad and had to make some adjustments, but got better about half-way through the race. Our team is working to get every point we can each week. This Best Buy Dodge team never gives up. I'm proud of my guys and excited to get back to Daytona and take care of some unfinished business."


AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Berlin City Auto Group Dodge Charger)
Finished 32nd

"It was a tough day for the Berlin City Auto Group Dodge. With rain canceling qualifying, we had to start in the back of the field and it's so hard to gain track position that it made it tough right from the start. We we're starting to work our way up the field when there was a multi-car spin in front of me. I had a lane to squeeze through the wreck, but then a car slid up, nipped my front-right quarter and caused enough damage to send us to the garage. We lost a ton of laps and it ended our day."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Friday, June 26, 2009

Loudon: Practice 1 Results

Richard Petty Motorsports Practice Details
Reed Sorenson
Laps Run – 28
Fast Lap – 129.900
Average Speed – 126.194

Kasey Kahne
Laps Run – 30
Fast Lap – 128.780
Average Speed – 125.593

AJ Allmendinger
Laps Run – 36
Fast Lap – 128.719
Average Speed – 125.442

Elliott Sadler
Laps Run – 40
Fast Lap – 127.534
Average Speed – 125.441

Practice 1 Results
1. Kurt Busch
2. David Reutimann
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Reed Sorenson
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Martin Truex, Jr.
8. Kyle Busch
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Joey Logano
11. Marcos Ambrose
12. Kevin Harvick
13. Sam Hornish, Jr.
14. Ryan Newman
15. Carl Edwards
16. Jamie McMurray
17. Jeff Gordon
18. David Stremme
19. Casey Mears
20. Jeff Burton
21. Scott Speed
22. Paul Menard
23. Brian Vickers
24. Robby Gordon
25. Kasey Kahne
26. AJ Allmendinger
27. David Gilliland
28. Regan Smith
29. Brad Keselowski
30. Michael Waltrip
31. Mike Wallace
32. David Ragan
33. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
34. Bobby Labonte
35. Matt Kenseth
36. Tony Raines
37. Elliott Sadler
38. Greg Biffle
39. Joe Nemechek
40. Dave Blaney
41. Tony Stewart
42. Patrick Carpentier
43. Mark Martin
44. John Andretti
45. Dexter Bean
46. Ted Christopher

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Loudon Statistics

AJ’s statistics at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway don’t look too great. His average start is 28th, and his average finish is a dismal 38th. But as always, the numbers don’t necessarily tell how strong his cars have been. In the June 2008 race, AJ earned a top 10 starting spot and ran as high as 6th position before losing an oil clamp and erupting into a ball of fire.

In September of 2008, the starting grid was set by owner’s points because of rain. AJ worked his way from a 34th place starting spot up to 20th position. But contact with Michael McDowell sent the #84 Red Bull car into the wall and dropped him to a final finishing spot of 38th.

Despite the numbers, spirits are high for the #44 Richard Petty Motorsports team. Coming off of a strong run at Infineon Raceway, the Berlin City Auto Group crew looks to bring home another top 10 finish this weekend. They are bringing a re-vamped race car to the Magic Mile in Loudon, a flat paperclip shaped track. Oh, and the last time they were at a flat paperclip shaped track (Martinsville) AJ finished 9th.

Loudon Statistics
June 2007
Did Not Qualify

September 2007
Started 39th, Finished 33rd

June 2008
Started 10th, Finished 43rd

September 2008
Started 34th, Finished 38th

Loudon Preview

AJ Allmendinger drives the No. 44 Berlin City Auto Group Dodge this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The 27-year-old Californian comes to New England after a seventh-place finish at Infineon Raceway last week. It marked Allmendinger’s third top-10 finish of the season. Richard Petty Motorsports placed three cars in the top 10 including race winner Kasey Kahne and 10th-place finisher Elliott Sadler.

INFINEON— “Obviously, whenever you run well you feel better and I think all of us at Richard Petty Motorsports are pretty happy this week. Not only did we win the race with Kasey, but Elliott and I got top 10 finishes after being a lap down during the race. That’s incredible, especially on a road course. Our people in this organization are warriors. They fight like heck whenever challenged and we have had our share of challenges this season. I hope we can get some more good runs like we had Sunday.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE— “The double file restarts are making all of the restarts pretty exciting this season. Wait ‘til it gets late in the race on Sunday. They were fun Sunday at Infineon and I think they will be even crazier this weekend.”

PAINT SCHEME THIS WEEKEND— “Our owner George Gillett also owns the Berlin City Auto group and they tell me Dave Dion used to be sponsored by Berlin City Auto Group with an orange paint scheme that you could spot anywhere on the track. We are running a version of that paint scheme this weekend. I think all the long time racing fans in New England will know what I’m talking about. I’m sure that will bring back memories. Berlin City was on the pole for this race last year so hopefully we’ll give them something as exciting this year.”

* Allmendinger will sign autographs at his merchandise hauler at 9:50 a.m. at NHMS.

* Allmendinger’s 61st start in Sprint Cup. He will drive chassis 268 this weekend.

* The Berlin City Auto Group with dealerships throughout New England, specializes in the sales, service and parts for automotive manufacturers and pre-owned vehicles.

Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sonoma Report Card

Sonoma Report Card

Kasey Kahne – Definitely not the favorite coming into the race, but holding off Tony Stewart on those last restarts was no small feat.
Tony Stewart – The question that came to my mind at the end of the race was if his front bumper might have gotten used up more with someone other than Kasey in front of him.
Marcos Ambrose – I have to give props to him for coming from the back to the front.

Juan Pablo Montoya – Even taking fuel mileage out of the equation, JPM was solid all day long.
AJ Allmendinger – Ambrose came from 41st to 3rd in 110 laps. AJ came from 41st to 7th in 55 laps. That deserves an A.
Others – Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer

Elliott Sadler – He went for an early race spin, got the lucky dog, pitted for some tires late in the race, and scored a top 10 finish.
Patrick Carpentier – All through practice and the early stages of the race I wondered if Michael Waltrip made the right decision, but the Canadian road racer proved his mettle.
Others – Jeff Gordon, Max Papis

Carl Edwards – Just about everyone messes up a corner in a road course race. Unfortunately for Cousin Carl, he took a teammate and the most popular driver in NASCAR out when he did.
Others – Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers

Joey Logano – The rookie was looking strong on the road course this weekend
Paul Menard – I don’t remember seeing him off course all race long.
Others – Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte

Boris Said – He hit more cars than David Stremme usually does.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – He had such a strong run going until he got Edwards-ized.
Others – Kyle Busch, Casey Mears, Martin Truex, Jr.

Ron Fellows – The road course ringer didn’t have quite the finish he was looking for.
Kevin Harvick – He was running strong until tire problems took him out.
Others – Greg Biffle, John Andretti, David Reutimann, David Ragan

David Gilliland – After his bonehead move in practice, he thought the weekend could only go up. Guess not.
Mark Martin – He got knocked around so much that he must have felt like a pinball.
Others –Jeff Burton, Robby Gordon, Scott Speed, Sam Hornish, Jr.

Reed Sorenson – Mechanical problems kept him from joining his RPM teammates in the top 10
P.J. Jones – We never even got to see his car on the track.
Others – David Stremme, Brandon Ash, Dave Blaney

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tuesday Ramble - Sonoma Edition

Silly Season is a widely used term when discussing possible driver lineup and sponsor changes in NASCAR. It used to start about July and end sometime in the fall, so that everything was all settled and teams were geared up to go into the off-season with their new drivers and sponsors.

Over the last few years however, Silly Season has stretched out to become pretty much a twelve month long affair. In fact, speculation on which Roush driver would have to be farmed off to another organization has been going on for well over a year.

There was much hoopla in 2006 with Toyota getting ready to enter the arena and new teams sprouting up. Then in 2007 we had the Dale Jr. saga, and in 2008 the Tony Stewart saga. But that wasn’t even the beginning.

With sponsors dropping off like flies, teams merging in order to survive, and even a potential lawsuit for a driver to keep his seat, Silly Season never really ended in 2008. As an AJ fan, I didn’t truly know if he would even have a ride come Daytona 500 time. And even now, I still don’t know if he will be finishing out the season.

2008 seemed to carry right over to 2009, and even though a few teams have gone away, a few teams and drivers are still fighting to keep their names out there by showing up at the track each week. And while there are a few unanswered questions as far as drivers go – who will Roush drop, will Truex stay at EGR, etc – Silly Season in 2009 has mostly been talk about the manufacturers.

With Chrysler just starting to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and GM just entering them, there are a lot of unanswered questions for teams. Many of the manufacturers have pulled out of the Truck series and the Nationwide series already, and are planning cuts even for the most lucrative NASCAR organizations. Add in the fact that sponsor money is still scarce, and we might as well try to predict what is going to happen in 2010 with a Magic 8 ball.

Will Red Bull leave Toyota and switch to Chevy? Vice versa for EGR – will they leave Chevy and go to Toyota? RPM has been in the news a lot lately with rumors swirling about a move to Toyota as well. Or even more mind boggling, is it possible that we will see another foreign manufacturer enter the sport?

We’re not even to July yet, and rumors are swirling around the garage areas like vultures waiting for a kill. The problem is – there probably aren’t going to be any answers to those questions for awhile.

With everything on hold for two of the car companies, are they even allowed to sign a release letting race teams out of their contracts? Or for that matter to agree to bring in a new one? I can’t fathom all the legal issues, but my guess is that we’re not going to find out anything anytime soon.

As far as the drivers go, we may see shuffling going on right up until the Daytona 500 next February. Teams have to have sponsorship money in place before signing a driver for their car, and the sponsors are waiting in vain for the economy to stabilize enough to promise their support. Not only that, but we don’t even know yet which sponsors might decide not to renew their contracts.

Have you heard the rumors about RCR possibly having to cut back to just two teams next year if sponsorship doesn’t come through? Is there any driver who is really safe in their seat anymore? Last year I could have named about twenty-five drivers that I was certain had absolutely no worries about their immediate future. Currently I can only think of a dozen or so who can sleep soundly at night (besides Paul Menard, of course.)

So I guess NASCAR is like much of the United States right now. Drivers, crew members, and even team owners are trying to make sense out of a crazy situation, all while waiting for the other shoe to drop. What will happen? I guess we will have to wait and see, because my Magic 8 ball says – Reply hazy, try again.

Sonoma: Post-race Quotes

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Race Winner
"It's crazy. We qualified really well here the last couple of years and it feels good to qualify well here, run out front, and to hold off Tony Stewart, that's awesome. That guy (Stewart) is as good as it gets on any type of race track and we were able to go hard with our Budweiser Dodge Charger. Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and the guys did an awesome job. It's unbelievable to win here. To win any race and to win at a road course for me is crazy. It feels really good.

"Since Darlington we've had a top-10 car ever single weekend. Whether we finished inside the top-10 or not, we've had a great car for a while and today on a road course. I look forward to New Hampshire next weekend."

ON DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS: "It goes back to my crew chief Kenny Francis again. I was thinking the inside lane, he said, 'I don't know, the outside looks pretty good.' He told me not to do what he wanted, but what I wanted and it worked out. I started to think about the outside lane some more and it paid off."

ON THE FIVE RESTARTS AT THE END OF THE RACE: "My biggest thing was don't spin the tires, work on getting into Turn 1 there and just being beside him at the top of the hill and hopefully hold him off there. A few of the times we were able to jump the start and beat him into 1 no problem. So that was it was tough.

"That new restart deal is tough. For the last three weeks I've been...I think every weekend I've had some good ones and some bad ones as far as the restarts go. Today we were able to pick where we wanted to be, and it worked out really good for us, and we were able to hold him off. But yeah, two to go, another restart, I was like, 'I can't believe this.'"


KENNY FRANCIS (Crew Chief, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
"There was a lot going on there. With this new tire Goodyear brought it was a lot different complexion of racing than it's been in the past, and you kind of had to decide what to do with your tires and whether to come get tires or stay out there a couple times during the middle of the race.

"The fuel strategy is always an issue here with can you pit early and make it all the way, or do you risk the cautions or do you come in when you get your window. But we played it. There was a stretch there in the middle of the race where we were in the about the middle of the pack and the fuel thing hadn't cycled out yet so we elected to come get tires, and I think that was probably the key move for us for the race. We drove up through the field on the tires and got up near the front, then when the pit stop stuff cycled out we were right there in the front.

"So it all worked out. We didn't know what was going to happen. We were sitting on the box and had no idea how it was going to work out. We said, we'll try to stick to our plans, hit our window that we're wanting to hit and hopefully it works out, and it did luckily."


RICHARD PETTY (Co-owner, Richard Petty Motorsports)
"It has been a long time, but when we joined with the Gillett crowd in the fall, I guess, or spring this year, wintertime, we knew they had a good team. So we just brought in three or four different people and trying to look at things different. But there's not a whole lot of changes. We've got the same cars and the same crews. You change a few people, but they've got a good organization.

"It was a winning organization, and I happened to get involved in it, and hopefully we can make it a little bit better from time to time. You know, after watching today and watching the guys run and having two other cars in the Top 10, this just really made us feel good because we've run good enough to win a couple or three races, but circumstances just haven't been on our side. Today it really looked bad to begin with because we got two of our cars, one of them had trouble and they had to come in the garage area, and the other two got a lap down, not no fault of their own, but it just happened. They was able to catch it back up and run 7th and 10th. So from Richard Petty Motorsports it was really a good day. I think going in on Monday morning, I think all of us will be welcomed home a little bit more than what we have been for the last few weeks."


AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Best Buy Dodge Charger)
Finished 7th
"A tough day early for us early in the race. I was just clicking off laps when the car just locked up and sent me into the gravel. We ended up cutting down a left-front tire and had to come in under green to pit. After being the fastest car in happy hour yesterday, we knew that our Best Buy Dodge was going to be fast today. Just a weird deal with the car (brakes) locking up like that. But, we fought back hard and earned a seventh-place finish which is awesome. We'll take it."


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Stanley Dodge Charger)
Finished 10th
"A great come back for our Stanley Dodge today. We ran as high as sixth the first 25 or 30 laps, but then we got tapped from behind, spun and caused some damage to the rear of the car. Once we got back on the track, we were able to stay only a lap down, get the Lucky Dog and raced our way inside the top 20 with 10 laps to go. I've got to give credit to my crew guys for hanging in there and getting me back on the track as fast as they did. It was an awesome job. You just have to keep digging on these road courses because track position and fuel mileage is always a factor. A great day for Richard Petty Motorsports. Congratulations to Kasey and the entire Budweiser Dodge guys. They had a great car and were the team to beat today."


REED SORENSON (No. 43 Valvoline Dodge Charger)
Finished 40th
"We had a top-10 car right around the lap 30 with our Valvoline Dodge Charger when we had a mechanical problem with our rear trackbar that sent us to the garage and put us down a bunch of laps and ended our day."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sonoma Race Recap

I have a confession to make. I didn’t watch the first part of the race. My husband wanted to go for a 4-wheeler ride for Father’s Day, so we were off playing in the dirt when the green flag flew in Sonoma. I talked him into coming home a little bit early though, only to turn the TV on and see AJ scored in 41st place, one lap down. Apparently he locked up the brakes and flat spotted a tire, eventually causing it to blow out. That in itself wouldn’t have been so bad, but then AJ got a pit road speeding penalty to top off the bad luck.

It looked like it would be a repeat of the fast few weeks where the 44 team couldn’t even buy some good fortune. I wanted to cry, but then I turned on my TrackPass to see where the Best Buy Dodge was on the track and saw that AJ was right behind the leaders – and he was chasing them down! So I sat there at my computer cheering him on, still wearing my mud encrusted jeans with my sunscreen and dirt smeared face, and watched him race his way back onto the lead lap.

AJ only stayed there for a little while though, as the 11 car of Denny Hamlin punted him in the hairpin turn and spun him around. Thankfully the caution came out a short time later and the 44 car was in the lucky dog position. AJ restarted in the 39th position at the tail end of the field. He didn’t stay there for long though, and was passing sometimes four or five cars a lap.

As other teams began to reach their fuel window to make it to the end of the race, cars started coming down pit road and AJ cycled clear up to the 5th position on the race track before coming in himself. Then the Best Buy Dodge team finally had luck turn their way when the caution flew just as they were pulling off of pit road. Now they were good to go to the end on fuel, and had fresher tires than any car in front of them on the track.

From then on AJ was able to do what he does best – wheel the heck out of a race car. If there was any question in my mind if my upgrade from Pit Command to Race View last month was worth the extra money, it was answered on Sunday. Hell yes, it was worth it! I don’t think I even watched the television, keeping my eyes trained instead on the digital images on my computer screen. Watching AJ set up the car in front of him and then make the pass time and again was amazing!

I think that the only thing that kept AJ from getting a top five this weekend, or possibly even a top three finish was the frequent cautions that plagued the end of the race. Double file restarts made it exciting, but as we’ve seen the last couple of weeks, if you are in the line that doesn’t move, you are screwed. It seemed like on every restart AJ would lose three positions. Then he would pass five cars before the yellow flew again, netting him only a two position gain. It happened time and again, and was very frustrating.

A seventh place finish was very gratifying after what happened early in the race, but it almost brings out more what ifs than a bad finish would have. AJ was in 39th position at the halfway point of the race. How good could he have done if not for those problems in the beginning? I think he could have won it, but I guess we’ll never know and have to settle for his second best finish of the season. I can live with that.

In addition to AJ’s great run into the top 10, Richard Petty Motorsports as a whole had a fantastic day in Sonoma. Elliott Sadler overcame some early problems of his own and scored a 10th place finish, and teammate Kasey Kahne held off road racer extraordinaire Tony Stewart to win the race.

How great was it to see Richard Petty in Victory Lane? He hasn’t been there since 1999, which was before I even started watching NASCAR. Of course I had dreams of AJ being the one to get him back into the winner’s circle, but I certainly didn’t mind when I saw that trademark Petty grin. Long Live The King!!!

Sonoma: Race Results

Congratulations to Richard Petty Motorsports on a great day on the road course at Infineon. Kasey Kahne put Richard Petty back in Victory Lane, and it was a wonderful thing to see. And despite early problems, both AJ Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler scored solid top ten finishes. Think what they might have done if not for the troubles. It could have been an RPM 1, 2, 3 finish!

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Results
1. Kasey Kahne
2. Tony Stewart
3. Marcos Ambrose
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Juan Pablo Montoya
7. AJ Allmendinger
8. Clint Bowyer
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Elliott Sadler
11. Patrick Carpentier
12. Max Papis
13. Carl Edwards
14. Jamie McMurray
15. Kurt Busch
16. Brian Vickers
17. Ryan Newman
18. Matt Kenseth
19. Joey Logano
20. Bobby Labonte
21. Paul Menard
22. Kyle Busch
23. Casey Mears
24. Boris Said
25. Martin Truex, Jr.
26. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
27. Ron Fellows
28. Greg Biffle
29. Kevin Harvick
30. John Andretti
31. David Reutimann
32. David Gilliland
33. David Ragan
34. Jeff Burton
35. Mark Martin
36. Robby Gordon
37. Scott Speed
38. Sam Hornish, Jr.
39. David Stremme
40. Reed Sorenson
41. Brandon Ash
42. Dave Blaney
43. P.J. Jones

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sonoma: Qualifying Results

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Starting Lineup
1. Brian Vickers
2. Kyle Busch
3. Marcos Ambrose
4. Tony Stewart
5. Kasey Kahne
6. Martin Truex, Jr.
7. Ryan Newman
8. Elliott Sadler
9. Boris Said
10. Matt Kenseth
11. Jimmie Johnson
12. Joey Logano
13. Jeff Gordon
14. Mark Martin
15. Greg Biffle
16. Kevin Harvick
17. Juan Pablo Montoya
18. Sam Hornish, Jr.
19. Dave Blaney
20. AJ Allmendinger
21. Casey Mears
22. Robby Gordon
23. Jamie McMurray
24. Denny Hamlin
25. Bobby Labonte
26. Clint Bowyer
27. Kurt Busch
28. Reed Sorenson
29. Ron Fellows
30. Paul Menard
31. Joe Nemechek
32. David Gilliland
33. Max Papis
34. Carl Edwards
35. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
36. Jeff Burton
37. P.J. Jones
38. Patrick Carpentier
39. David Stremme
40. David Ragan
41. John Andretti
42. David Reutimann
43. Brandon Ash
DNQ Scott Speed
DNQ Tom Hubert
DNQ Chris Cook
DNQ Brian Simo

Sonoma: Practice 1 Results

AJ was the fastest of the four RPM drivers in Friday’s practice session, motoring the #44 Best Buy car to 13th position. He spent a good portion of the practice on the bottom end of the practice charts, but jumped up to the top late in the session. He goes out to qualify 26th on the grid this afternoon, and hopefully the late draw and a fast Dodge Charger will get him a good starting position.

Richard Petty Motorsports Practice Details

AJ Allmendinger
Laps Run – 12
Fast Lap – 92.567
Average Speed – 91.302

Reed Sorenson
Laps Run – 11
Fast Lap – 92.423
Average Speed – 91.046

Kasey Kahne
Laps Run – 12
Fast Lap – 92.393
Average Speed – 91.647

Elliott Sadler
Laps Run – 11
Fast Lap – 92.024
Average Speed – 91.123

Practice 1 Results
1. Marcos Ambrose
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Boris Said
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Brian Vickers
6. Martin Truex, Jr.
7. Mark Martin
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Greg Biffle
10. David Ragan
11. Ryan Newman
12. Clint Bowyer
13. AJ Allmendinger
14. Matt Kenseth
15. Kyle Busch
16. David Gilliland
17. Sam Hornish, Jr.
18. Juan Pablo Montoya
19. Joey Logano
20. Reed Sorenson
21. Denny Hamlin
22. Kasey Kahne
23. Scott Speed
24. Robby Gordon
25. Kevin Harvick
26. Kurt Busch
27. Ron Fellows
28. Max Papis
29. Paul Mendard
30. Elliott Sadler
31. Tony Stewart
32. Jeff Burton
33. Bobby Labonte
34. Carl Edwards
35. Patrick Carpentier
36. Dave Blaney
37. Brian Simo
38. Casey Mears
39. David Stremme
40. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
41. Chris Cook
42. Joe Nemechek
43. David Reutimann
44. P.J. Jones
45. Brandon Ash
46. Tom Hubert
47. John Andretti

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sonoma Preview

AJ Allmendinger knows he wouldn't be where he is today in his racing career if it wasn't for his father, Greg Allmendinger.

The former micro-midget driver gave up his racing career and, along with his wife Karen, made sacrifices to give their son an opportunity to pursue the dream Greg never had the money to reach.

The 27-year-old hopes a good race in the Best Buy Dodge at Infineon Raceway near his native Los Gatos, California, this weekend will be a fine Father's Day gift for Greg.

AJ ALLMENDINGER ON ROLE HIS DAD PLAYED IN CAREER- "He is everything in my career. Between him and my Mom, my Dad was racing before I was ever born, so I feel like I was born at a race track. Growing up I watched him race at the local dirt tracks in California. He gave up racing so we could afford me racing. He is my biggest fan. He even has an AJ tattoo. He's one of those Dad's that is always a part of my career. I'm racing because of him."

WOULD YOU DO SAME FOR YOUR CHILD SOME DAY? - "No. It's way too expensive ... seriously, I don't know if it would be the same thing for me. I'm fortunate enough to be doing this at the top level. He dreamed of racing, but he never had the opportunity to go big time racing. He's my biggest fan."

BEST FATHER'S DAY GIFT- "I won my first Champ car race in 2006 at Portland on Father's Day. He was pretty pumped up about that. I wouldn't mind that happen ing again this weekend at Infineon. That would be awesome."

GREG ALLMENDINGER ON SON'S CAREER- "Both Karen and I are very proud of AJ and what he has accomplished in his racing career. He hasn't had it easy by any means. He's had to work and struggle. But he's never given up. We've helped, but he's had to earn everything he has in life."

FATHER'S DAY WISH- "Oh that's easy. Let's win this race on Sunday!"

Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Michigan Report Card

Mark Martin – Skill and luck, aged to perfection.

Greg Biffle – Oh so close to making it.
Tony Stewart – Another top ten finish, and still has the points lead.
Others – Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin

Carl Edwards – He’s still working on tweaking his hybrid to get the most mpg of anyone.
Juan Pablo Montoya – Increasing his odds to make the Chase this year.
Others – Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer

Elliott Sadler – He is good at Michigan, and almost scored a top 10 finish.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr – At least Lance is able to get the car better at the end.
Others – Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, David Ragan, Bill Elliott

Robby Gordon – He might have bounced off the wall a few times, but he had a fast car this weekend and managed to score a nice top 20.
Jimmie Johnson – I guess Chad needs to work on really fast cars that get really good fuel mileage.
Others – Kevin Harvick, David Reutimann, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne

Ryan Newman – Tough race after consecutive top 10’s.
Others – Casey Mears, Joey Logano, Jeff Burton, Reed Sorenson

Sam Hornish, Jr. – He has improved so much lately that I was disappointed with a finish that I would have cheered for last year.
John Andretti – After a great qualifying run, he had nowhere to go but backwards.
Others – Bobby Labonte, Michael Waltrip, Marcos Ambrose, David Gilliland

Max Papis – Should get bonus points for effort and the amount of heart he puts into what he does.
AJ Allmendinger – The car was so evil that he finally brought it to the garage to try and exorcise the demons.
Others – Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr, Scott Speed, David Stremme

Start and parks – Dave Blaney, Sterling Marlin, Joe Nemechek, Tony Raines

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Ramble - Michigan Edition

Fuel mileage races – don’t knock them. It ups the excitement factor when fans don’t know who is going to win until the leader crosses the finish line. That’s what makes plate racing so much better to watch as well – it can be anyone’s game. Some people say it isn’t a legitimate win because the best car doesn’t necessarily win, but I disagree.

Everyone on the track on Sunday had the exact same set of circumstances. Everyone had the same size fuel tank and the same amount of laps to make until the end. The difference is that some raced for the win by wanting to be the leader on the track the whole way, and some raced for the win by wanting to be the leader on the track when it counted.

The biggest thing that I don’t like about fuel mileage races is that just like in regular passenger cars, not all engines have the same amount of consumption. Since my driver is in a Dodge, I don’t want to see any race come down to fuel mileage. The engines in those Dodge Chargers just seem to suck up a little more gas than the other cars out there.

Another thing that I don’t like is that it puts a lot of weight on the drivers. They are already under tremendous pressure to perform, and I’m sure they replay several incidents in their minds after the race and ask what if. I would imagine that having to save fuel during a run only increases that question. When you miss winning a race by less than a lap, wouldn’t you be kicking yourself in the butt for any little bit extra you could have saved?

Now we’re coming up to a road course race. And road courses are notorious for coming down to fuel strategy. In fact, some engine tuners will make their cars put out less horsepower just to be able to stretch their fuel window a little bit. So will we see someone pull off an upset in Sonoma this weekend? I sure hope so. (And I hope his name is AJ.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Michigan Race Recap

My part of this weekend’s race recap is going to be short and sweet for a couple of reasons. 1) I don’t have much good to say, and I’m not a negative person by nature. And 2) The majority of the scanner commentary can’t be quoted without putting content ratings on this blog.

So suffice it to say that the only thing worse than having really bad luck is having a really bad car. AJ and the 44 team fought handling issues from the time they unloaded on Friday. Then the driver managed to pull off one heck of a qualifying lap that afternoon. Saturday went from bad to worse though, and on Sunday he started 6th and then dropped like a rock.

The one thing I love about this stretch of TNT races is the extra camera views on RaceBuddy. The bad thing about watching them this weekend was that I got to see AJ hit the wall several different times, and come off the corner at nearly a 45 degree angle on way too many occasions. Every time he got in the gas the back end of the car would wiggle around like it was on roller skates. Trust me, it was BAD!!!

So instead of doing my recap this week, I’m just going to copy someone else’s homework. This came off of AJ’s website (see link at right.)

Long, Loose day for AJ in Michigan

With the 16th quickest time in first practice and then a season-best 6th spot in qualifying, expectations and hopes were high for a good finish in the LifeLock 400 at Michigan Speedway as AJ Allmendinger wheeled the #44 Stanley Tools Dodge for RPM Motorsports.

But despite the Fast Friday pace, he handle started to go off as early as Saturday in practice.

"We are just missing it right now," said AJ after Happy Hour. "We just would go back and forth-too loose, too tight. We definitely need to go back to the hauler and piece together what we can."

But unfortunately, come race time, things didn't get much better as all that speed was all for naught as something made the #44 devilishly loose, right from the get-go. AJ slipped further and further down the order. Now AJ is a guy who can handle, and maybe sometimes even enjoy, a loose race car. He's got scary-fast reactions and knows exactly where the limit is and how to get the most out of the car, hanging around that limit.

So you have to know that if the team wanted to pull the car off track and AJ thought that was the best idea, that this car had something seriously wrong with it.

"That was a tough day for us. We made a ton of changes. I think something might have broken in the back (of the car) early in the race. It was just swaying back there. It's something we will have to look at on Monday at the shop. It's disappointing. As well as we ran last week and as well as we qualified, I had hoped we would run well today."

So an ugly 39th place finish after what had been an awesome start to the weekend knocked AJ down two spots to 31st in the standings.

But now, on to Sonoma, where AJ qualified on time last year. Hopefully he'll be able to turn this thing around out in wine country....

Michigan: Post-race Quotes

ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger)
Finished 12th
"I'm proud of my guys this weekend. That's the lightest car that we had all year with the most lead in it, and it showed today. You have to have light race cars to run good and we got that today. That's definitely our best run in a while. I had to pedal our Best Buy Dodge there at the end to make sure that we got the fuel mileage, but we were able to make it. I'm just proud of my guys. We've been kicked, beaten down the last month. We come back to a track that we know that we should run well at and did it. It felt really good."


KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Finished 21st
"Our Budweiser Dodge felt good all day. We had such bad fuel mileage that we had to save so much (fuel), but we still ran out (of fuel). I couldn't save any more fuel than I did today and not practically stop and we still ran out. I'm disappointed. We're finished 21st and should have been top 10 for sure."


REED SORENSON (No. 43 Reynolds Wrap Dodge Charger)
Finished 27th
"We fought handling all day long. I thought we were going to get the Lucky Dog there, but there just weren't enough cautions. We're just a little off and if we can figure a few things out, we will be up there with the leaders. Today was OK but we expect better."


AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Stanley Dodge Charger)
Finished 39th
"That was a tough day for us. We made a ton of changes. I think something might have broken in the back (of the car) early in the race. It was just swaying back there. It's something we will have to look at on Monday at the shop. It's disappointing. As well as we ran last week and as well as we qualified, I had hoped we would run well today."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Michigan: AJ Allmendinger Interview

AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Stanley Dodge Charger)
"I think that it will be typical Michigan, fast with fuel mileage strategy at the end. This is such a fun place to race with the multiple grooves, slick track surface and high banking. With the rain moving in, it's going to be interesting to see how much rubber gets washed off the track. If the sun comes out tomorrow, the early laps are going to be really tricky."

"Especially during these tough economic times, running well here at Michigan seems to hold more of a significant meaning. All the auto manufacturers are going through some difficult times and if you get your brand in Victory Lane, it creates a boost for everyone. Trust me, we'd love to get this Stanley Dodge in the winner's circle for Richard Petty Motorsports and Dodge. Race fans buy automobiles and to have your race car...a Dodge in Victory everyone a sense of pride."

"I don't. I come to the track every weekend trying to be as competitive as I can and win races. It doesn't matter if you're third or 33rd in points, you have the same objective every weekend and that's to win."

"I think the motivation comes from the effort that is put in every week by Richard Petty Motorsports and the people that build the cars for me. I really feel that I'm getting in really good race cars that are fast and competitive. It takes a lot hard work and sweat to get ready for these races and you don't want to let anybody down. You're motivated to win for yourself, your sponsors, your team...there's plenty of reason to get motivated every week."

"I don't think that I'm immune from it (losing confidence), but I certainly think that the equipment that Richard Petty Motorsports puts me in allows me to stay positive every week. I don't think that you can compete at this level of motorsports without having confidence in your ability as a race car driver. This is a competitive sport. There are very talented teams and drivers in NASCAR all shooting for the same thing -- to win. When I strap into my Stanley Dodge, I'm confident in my ability as a race car driver to do the job that I'm paid to do. If you don't have confidence out here, you better look for another profession."

"Having a fast race car that turns well (laughs). This is a big two-mile oval with fast corners. You have to be able to stick your nose in corner entry and trust that it's going to stick to be fast here. Being able not to lift and stay in the throttle all day really makes your job easier in the race car. If it rains, we may have some rubber get washed off the track. That will make the early laps pretty interesting. Once the track rubbers-up and all those big grooves start to fill-in, I think we'll see some good racing. Fuel mileage is always a key here at Michigan. We haven't been getting the best fuel mileage lately, so pit strategy and how the yellow (flag) falls will all be important."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Michigan: Happy Hour Results

Richard Petty Motorsports Practice Details
Reed Sorenson
Laps Run - 41
Fast Lap - 183.454
Average Speed - 179.000

Kasey Kahne
Laps Run - 30
Fast Lap - 183.430
Average Speed - 180.216

Elliott Sadler
Laps Run - 36
Fast Lap - 182.496
Average Speed - 179.252

AJ Allmendinger
Laps Run - 26
Fast Lap - 180.587
Average Speed - 178.323

Final Practice Results
1. Mark Martin
2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
3. Brian Vickers
4. Greg Biffle
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Carl Edwards
7. David Ragan
8. Joey Logano
9. Robby Gordon
10. Casey Mears
11. Jimmie Johnson
12. Ryan Newman
13. Marcos Ambrose
14. Jeff Gordon
15. Kevin Harvick
16. Tony Stewart
17. Reed Sorenson
18. Kasey Kahne
19. David Gilliland
20. David Stremme
21. Juan Pablo Montoya
22. Denny Hamlin
23. Martin Truex, Jr.
24. Kurt Busch
25. Jamie McMurray
26. Jeff Burton
27. Bill Elliott
28. Kyle Busch
29. Paul Menard
30. Elliott Sadler
31. John Andretti
32. Matt Kenseth
33. Sam Hornish, Jr.
34. Bobby Labonte
35. Scott Speed
36. David Reutimann
37. Michael Waltrip
38. AJ Allmendinger
39. Joe Nemechek
40. Sterling Marlin
41. Tony Raines
42. Max Papis
DNP Dave Blaney

Michigan: Practice 2 Results

Richard Petty Motorsports Practice Details
Kasey Kahne
Laps Run - 24
Fast Lap - 184.346
Average Speed - 180.947

Reed Sorenson
Laps Run - 26
Fast Lap - 183.669
Average Speed - 180.579

Elliott Sadler
Laps Run - 21
Fast Lap - 183.524
Average Speed - 180.968

AJ Allmendinger
Laps Run - 15
Fast Lap - 181.878
Average Speed - 180.572

Practice 2 Results
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Mark Martin
3. Kyle Busch
4. Carl Edwards
5. Greg Biffle
6. Matt Kenseth
7. Jamie McMurray
8. Jimmie Johnson
9. Clint Bowyer
10. Joey Logano
11. Ryan Newman
12. Kurt Busch
13. Juan Pablo Montoya
14. Kasey Kahne
15. Brian Vickers
16. Casey Mears
17. Tony Stewart
18. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
19. David Reutimann
20. Reed Sorenson
21. Jeff Burton
22. Jeff Gordon
23. Elliott Sadler
24. Kevin Harvick
25. David Ragan
26. Bobby Labonte
27. Robby Gordon
28. Bill Elliott
29. Paul Menard
30. Sam Hornish, Jr.
31. Marcos Ambrose
32. Martin Truex Jr.
33. David Stremme
34. Michael Waltrip
35. David Gilliland
36. AJ Allmendinger
37. Joe Nemechek
38. Scott Speed
39. Sterling Marlin
40. Dave Blaney
41. Tony Raines
42. Max Papis
DNP John Andretti

Friday, June 12, 2009

Michigan: RPM Qualifying Quotes

AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Stanley Dodge Charger)
Qualified 6th

"I'm proud of everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports. Everyone is working hard and they really gave me a good race car today. We haven't had the recent results, but we're getting better. Just a little bit loose all day."


KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Qualified 8th

"Not a bad lap for our Budweiser Dodge. I just didn't get back to the throttle quick enough and it cost us some time. The car seems balanced. It seems awful fast in race trim. Corner entry is really important here and I like how our car works corner-in-and-out. We definitely have something to work from for tomorrow's practice."


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger)
Qualified 25th

"We were really good in race trim. We just missed it in qualifying trim. I was really happy in race trim. Our Best Buy Dodge drove well; it was in the track really good. When we converted over to qualifying trim, we just lost something and couldn't get it back."


REED SORENSON (No. 43 Reynolds Wrap Dodge Charger)
Qualified 28th

"We were OK in qualifying. It's still pretty warm out and the track is really slick. The Reynolds Wrap Dodge was good in race trim earlier today. Qualifying was decent. I had a decent lap, just got too loose coming off of (turn) three and scrubbed off too much time."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Michigan: Starting Lineup

AJ and the #44 Stanley Tools team had a very successful qualifying session this afternoon! They parlayed a 16th place finish in first practice into a 6th place run when it really counted.

The team will work on the overall balance of the car during Saturday’s practices at Michigan International Speedway, and hope to get the car ready for the long runs we usually see here. This top 10 starting spot is the tenth of AJ’s Sprint Cup career, and his third for the season. Great lap, AJ!

LifeLock 400 Starting Lineup
1. Brian Vickers
2. Kyle Busch
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. David Reutimann
5. Kurt Busch
6. AJ Allmendinger
7. Juan Pablo Montoya
8. Kasey Kahne
9. Clint Bowyer
10. John Andretti
11. Tony Stewart
12. Kevin Harvick
13. Robby Gordon
14. Denny Hamlin
15. Bill Elliott
16. Matt Kenseth
17. Bobby Labonte
18. Ryan Newman
19. Martin Truex, Jr.
20. Greg Biffle
21. Scott Speed
22. Jeff Burton
23. David Ragan
24. Joey Logano
25. Elliott Sadler
26. David Stremme
27. Jeff Gordon
28. Reed Sorenson
29. Carl Edwards
30. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
31. Jamie McMurray
32. Mark Martin
33. Marcos Ambrose
34. Sam Hornish, Jr.
35. David Gilliland
36. Michael Waltrip
37. Casey Mears
38. Paul Menard
39. Dave Blaney
40. Joe Nemechek
41. Tony Raines
42. Sterling Marlin
43. Max Papis
DNQ Mike Skinner

Michigan: Practice 1 Results

First practice is over, and the Richard Petty Motorsports drivers are scattered throughout the leaderboard. With a hot and slippery race track, all the cars were looking for some grip before getting ready to qualify. AJ goes out 13th on the grid for qualifying this afternoon, and it looks like he hit on something late in practice. Hopefully that will give him a top 20 starting spot for Sunday’s race.

Richard Petty Motorsports Results
AJ Allmendinger
Laps Run – 16
Fast Lap – 186.008
Average Speed – 179.935

Kasey Kahne
Laps Run – 20
Fast Lap – 185.994
Average Speed – 180.793

Reed Sorenson
Laps Run – 20
Fast Lap – 185.543
Average Speed – 181.145

Elliott Sadler
Laps Run – 19
Fast Lap – 184.412
Average Speed – 180.536

Practice 1 Results
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Brian Vickers
3. Kurt Busch
4. Juan Pablo Montoya
5. Clint Bowyer
6. David Stremme
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Greg Biffle
9. Ryan Newman
10. Mark Martin
11. Sam Hornish, Jr.
12. Joey Logano
13. Martin Truex, Jr.
14. Bobby Labonte
15. Jeff Burton
16. AJ Allmendinger
17. Kasey Kahne
18. Tony Stewart
19. Bill Elliott
20. David Reutimann
21. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
22. Kyle Busch
23. Marcos Ambrose
24. Jamie McMurray
25. Scott Speed
26. Reed Sorenson
27. Robby Gordon
28. David Ragan
29. Carl Edwards
30. Matt Kenseth
31. Paul Menard
32. Kevin Harvick
33. Michael Waltrip
34. Elliott Sadler
35. Joe Nemechek
36. David Gilliland
37. Jeff Gordon
38. Tony Raines
39. Dave Blaney
40. Max Papis
41. Casey Mears
42. Sterling Marlin
43. John Andretti
44. Mike Skinner

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Michigan Statistics

AJ Allmendinger hopes to improve on his average starting position of 38th - and more importantly, his average finish of 26th - in Sunday’s LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI. The track has been a frustrating one for AJ, with several good runs going bad in the closing laps, and finishes that didn’t really tell the whole story of where he raced.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the pattern lately for the 27 year old California native. There seems to be a dark cloud hanging over the heads of the #44 Richard Petty Motorsports team. Lady Luck has not been kind to them for the last month, but hopefully things will turn around in the heart of the Irish Hills of Michigan.

Michigan Statistics

June 2007
Started 43rd, Finished 31st

August 2007
Did Not Qualify

June 2008
Started 39th, Finished 19th

August 2008
Started 33rd, Finished 28th

Michigan Preview

If luck evens out in life, then AJ Allmendinger might be the next in line to win the Michigan lottery. He's certainly due some good luck.

The 27-year-old Richard Petty Motorsports driver saw a top-10 finish turn into a 30th-place finish at Pocono Sunday when his Stanley Dodge ran out of gas two turns from the finish. The week before a debris caution seconds after making a pit stop cost him two laps at Dover.

Despite the poor luck, Allmendinger takes solace in the performance shown by his No. 44 Stanley Dodge at Pocono running as high as sixth place in the race after starting 30th. He hopes for a similar run at Michigan International Speedway this weekend.

POCONO--"We had 199 great laps at Pocono. The last one stunk."

LUCK -- "If it weren't for bad luck I don't know what luck we would have. What can you do. You just keep on racing as well as you can knowing its going to turn sooner or later."

PERFORMANCE-- "My guys are working hard. There's still a lot of racing ahead and if we can run like we did Sunday then sooner or later we will turn that into a good finish. The car was fast Sunday. I think everyone at Pocono or watching on television saw that."

* Allmendinger will sign autographs at his merchandise hauler at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday in Michigan.

* Allmendinger will drive chassis 281 at Pocono.

* Sunday's race will be Allmendinger's 59th start in Sprint Cup.

Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pocono Report Card

Tony Stewart – Another perfect grade for Mr. Stewart. Do you suppose he ever got those in school?
Carl Edwards – He had a great run going and led the most laps, but the Office Depot team beat the Aflac guys on pit road. You know that Carl only has one thing on his mind though – championship!

David Reutimann – After a tough race in Dover, the Coke 600 winner was back in Chase contending form.
Ryan Newman – Is this guy on a roll or what?
Others – Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Jimmie Johnson

Sam Hornish, Jr. – The former open-wheeler is showing that he has what it takes on ovals, and even on rovals.
Kasey Kahne – Should have finished 10th, but a spin on the last straightaway relegated him to 15th.
Others – Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer

Casey Mears – Another strong top 15 run
Michael Waltrip – Made a nice recovery after his unique pit road entrance earlier in the race.
Others – Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex, Jr.

Brian Vickers – Not sure what has happened with the lead Red Bull driver lately, but he needs to pick it back up to stay in the Chase hunt.
AJ Allmendinger – His finish didn’t show it, but he had a bad fast car all day long.
Others – Mark Martin, Reed Sorenson, Kyle Busch

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Is Lance McGrew feeling pressure now? Oh yeah, you can guarantee it.
Kevin Harvick – I wonder how long until Kevin starts asking for Todd back as crew chief.
Others – Joey Logano, Elliott Sadler, David Ragan

Robby Gordon – Personally, I’m just amazed he was able to race 500 miles at Pocono after winning the Baja 500 on Saturday. Wonder how many energy drinks he downed in that two day period.
Scott Speed – As a rookie, he is still struggling to figure these cars out.
Others – Bobby Labonte, Paul Menard, Regan Smith

Dexter Bean – Despite coming into pit road too fast and getting a penalty for taking out the commitment cone, I was impressed with his first ever Sprint Cup start.
Kurt Busch – He had a strong car until mechanical problems ruined his day
Others – David Stremme, John Andretti, Denny Hamlin

Patrick Carpentier – I was glad to see the Canadian open wheeler back in a car, but sad to see him park it a short time into the race.
Other start and parks – Sterling Marlin, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, David Gilliland

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday Ramble - Pocono Edition

Pocono Raceway was not good to AJ this weekend, but it didn’t have anything to do with poor performance and everything to do with bad luck. I have to admit that I yanked my headphones out of the computer and threw them down when AJ radioed in that he was out of gas on the final lap. I also said some choice cuss words that I can’t repeat on here without putting up some kind of content warning.

The fact that I was sitting next to both of my parents during this outburst didn’t even faze me. I was so mad – no, I was furious! How could this happen? I just didn’t understand it. AJ had topped off before coming to the green, and cars that didn’t top off made it to the checkered flag. And I knew that AJ was saving fuel – I could see the throttle and brake telemetry right on my computer screen.

I was so angry in the beginning that I cursed crew chief Sammy Johns until I was blue in the face. Then I calmed down and realized that if he hadn’t made that gamble, that AJ probably would have finished somewhere between 15th and 20th anyway, instead of the 10th place or better that he would get if he could make it. So I forgave Sammy and instead fumed about the Dodges, which always seem to get horrible mileage, and wished to high heaven that AJ had been driving something else instead. I guess maybe I should be careful what I wish for after Monday’s news tidbits, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

I was so heartbroken after the race, and just sick to my stomach for AJ’s sake. He needed this good run so badly, and he had the car to finally get the finish that he deserved. And then it all slipped away in half a lap. This isn’t just about finishing order or points position, either. Don’t forget that he still is not secure in a ride for the last ten races of the season. Not to mention that Richard Petty Motorsports could really use the share of 10th place prize money that they would get. That fact was brought home just a day after AJ’s disappointing finish at Pocono when news came out about layoffs and salary reductions at RPM.

With Chrysler in the middle of Chapter 11 restructuring, the Dodge teams that receive factory support seem to be experiencing a cash flow problem. According to an article on, Richard Petty says that they have been affected by the bankruptcy proceedings. At the moment, the Dodge teams apparently have to file paperwork for reimbursement from Chrysler for engineering, technical services, and factory provided parts. The paperwork then has to go through legal proceedings before the team can be reimbursed.

With RPM already struggling to support four teams with limited sponsorship, it makes me wonder how long they can continue to do so now that they have to wait for factory support from Dodge. The hope was that as soon as Chrysler came out of the bankruptcy proceedings that things would get back to normal. But Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg threw a kink into the works when she granted a stay on the sale of assets to Italian automaker Fiat on Monday. This leaves only a week until the government mandated deadline of June 15th for the sale. After that date, Fiat can walk away from the purchase.

So what does this mean to the NASCAR teams? It means that the Chapter 11 restructuring is going to take even longer than expected. Apparently the higher ups at RPM are concerned about how long it will take for Dodge to pay the bills they are submitting. With the race team already strapped for cash, news came yesterday from Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer about nine workers being laid off and salary cuts for the remaining employees.

With Richard Petty Motorsports seemingly in flux due to the bankruptcy proceedings, rumors have already started flying about a move to Toyota in 2010. And adding fuel to the fire was another announcement on Monday regarding the Nationwide series. RPM has not fielded a car in that series for 2009, but they have now partnered with Braun Racing for five races. And Braun Racing is one of the top Toyota teams in the Nationwide series, and currently fields two full time entries – the #38 of Jason Leffler and the #32 car, which is shared by Brian Vickers and Burney Lamar – along with a part-time ride for David Reutimann in the #10.

No official word has come out on whether Braun Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports will run a Dodge or a Toyota for the five scheduled races to be shared by drivers Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler. But having RPM enter into a partnership with a known Toyota team certainly increases the speculation that the team will make a manufacturer change when their contract ends with Dodge in 2009.

Unfortunately, all of this uncertainty makes it hard for RPM to be competitive for the remainder of this year. They are working on the new R6 engine right now, but don’t have enough built to even run one at every race. And the question becomes – how much of their resources should they commit to that engine when they may not be running it next year? Yet if they don’t work on improving their team and getting better finishes, will there be any sponsors interested in them for next year?

The biggest thing that RPM has going for them right now is that they have a good lineup of drivers. Kasey Kahne is not only extremely talented, but he is one of the most popular drivers in the sport right now. Elliott Sadler is a charismatic person with a large media presence, and sponsors love him. Reed Sorenson has the youth factor on his side and is a great long term investment if they choose to keep him. And AJ is a driver whose star is on the rise. His fan base is growing at an amazing rate, as is the respect of his peers.

Yet even with all of that going for them, I am concerned for the future of Richard Petty Motorsports – and more importantly, the future of my driver. I think that the RPM executives are going to have to make several tough decisions in the near future. Do they commit to improving the Dodge equipment that they have, or do they save their resources and make a change for 2010? If they do spend the money on improving the teams, how long can they field four entries? And if they do have to shut a team down, which one do they choose?

In a way, this last decision is similar to what Roush Fenway is facing this year by having to cut down to four drivers for next season. Only in Roush’s case, they aren’t really cutting a driver. There is no doubt that they will simply move one of their drivers to Yates Racing and supply them with what is basically Roush equipment. Richard Petty Motorsports doesn’t have that option, and if they do have to close one of the teams, there will be a driver looking for work. I can guarantee it won’t be Kasey Kahne, so who will it be – Sadler, Sorenson, or Allmendinger? I guess only time will tell.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pocono Race Recap

It pains me to write AJ’s race recap this week, and I considered not even doing it. But I figure there are people out there who don’t know all the circumstances behind his finish. He started in 30th place due to rained out qualifying, and ended in 30th place when all was said and done. That doesn’t tell the whole story of how he ran though, so I am going to walk you through AJ’s race, as difficult as it is for me.

Pocono Race Recap

With all on-track activities rained out on Friday, the Stanley Tools Dodge Charger was relegated to a 30th place starting spot when the field was lined up by the NASCAR rule book. The 44 team worked hard during both practices on Saturday to get the car tuned in for the race on Sunday, and AJ finished up Happy Hour 9th on the board and pleased with his car.

When the green flag fell on Sunday, AJ was still happy with the handling of his Stanley machine. By the end of the first lap, he had already moved up four spots. A few cars pitted under the early caution brought out by the #11 car of Denny Hamlin, and by lap 10 AJ had the #44 Dodge Charger up to 20th place. At that point the car was a little bit free entering the corners, but he needed the most help with some grip coming off the corner.

The 44 team had a chance to make some adjustments when the yellow flag came out on lap 13, and AJ pitted from the 19th position to get four tires and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted the race in 22nd place after a few cars behind him took just right side tires. He quickly made that ground back up though, and was in 18th position by lap 23.

AJ radioed in on lap 26 that the car was getting looser as the run went on, but that it looked like everyone was battling the same problem as they were all sideways coming off the corners. He eventually tried some different lines through turn 1 especially to help the loose condition, and then made a green flag pit stop on lap 45 for four tires and a track bar adjustment. The 44 team did an excellent job on pit road, and when green flag stops cycled through, AJ was sitting in the 11th position.

Despite running top 10 lap times, AJ called in on lap 64 and said that he didn’t like the feel of the car and to not play with the air pressure in the tires anymore. Sammy called for another track bar adjustment, and AJ again came to pit road for a green flag pit stop on lap 76. He came back out on the track and cycled back through to 11th place again.

This time the car started out the run a little bit tighter, but by lap 83 AJ radioed in saying that it was “so loose” and by lap 92 he said there was “no right rear grip” and that he was “just hanging on.” Despite the free condition, AJ made up a couple more spots and was in 9th place when the caution came out on lap 103. This time Sammy came back up half a round on the track bar and made a small air pressure change.

The green flag flew on lap 109 with AJ in 9th place, and was followed by a quick caution on lap 113. AJ said that the car was better, and Sammy opted to keep him on the track under the caution, moving the #44 Stanley Tools Dodge up to 6th place for the restart. The double file format led to some exciting laps when the green flew, and there were a couple of white knuckle three wide incidents through the corners until AJ finally got settled into line.

AJ was running 9th at lap 131 when he called in that the engine temperature was climbing on his Dodge Charger, and that he thought he must have picked up some debris on the grill. His gauge was reading 230 degrees, which was high but not terminal. Thankfully it was almost time for a green flag pit stop, and AJ came in just 6 laps later for four tires and no changes. The crew also got the grill cleaned off and the temperatures dropped back down to a normal level.

A little ways into this run, AJ complained that the rear end was out of the track again. Apparently even small adjustments, or a bad set of tires could cause the car to handle badly. Cloud cover also changed the track conditions which caused the 44 car to lose a little ground. When the yellow flag came out on lap 157 for debris, AJ pitted out of 12th place to get four fresh tires and a wedge adjustment.

Rain started coming down on the track during the yellow flag, but the track crew kept the cars running throughout the caution laps to help in track drying efforts. As it got closer to restarting, Sammy made the decision to bring AJ into the pits to top off the gas when the field got the one to go signal. With 35 laps left in the race and knowing that he needed to conserve fuel, AJ sat in 23rd position when the green flag fell.

As cars that had not pitted under caution and couldn’t make it to the end started to come in for gas, AJ found himself up in 10th place, even though he was saving RPM’s in every corner to keep the 44 car on track until the end. It looked like the strategy call was going to get AJ the top 10 finish that he deserved as the white flag flew, but things fell apart as AJ came down the Long Pond straightaway between turns 1 and 2. He radioed in that he was out of gas, and despite trying to wiggle the car and get some fuel to the pick up and get it re-fired, AJ could do nothing but coast as he watched car after car go around him.

The #44 Stanley Dodge Charger never did make it back across the finish line for the checkered flag, but came to rest in the final straightaway. AJ was credited as the first car one lap down, and was relegated to a disappointing and heart breaking 30th place finish. The only good that came out of the finish was that David Stremme’s was worse, and AJ picked up one spot in the points standings.

All in all, it was both a good day and a bad day. AJ had a top 10 to 15 place car all race long, and was running lap times as good as the leaders at several points in the race. Now if only he could buy himself some good fortune to go along with a fast race car. If anyone has any luck to spare, send it AJ’s way. He could use some.

Pocono: RPM Post Race Quotes

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Finished 15th - 14th in points
"We had a really good Budweiser Dodge today. To start up front, have a throttle cable issue early in the race, fall back to 41st and race our way all the way up to third (place) was awesome. I can't tell you how great of a job that Kenny (Francis, Crew-Chief) and the Budweiser guys did in the pits all day. We knew that everybody was chasing fuel mileage late in the race and so were we, unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of it."


REED SORENSON (No. 43 Valvoline Engine Guar. Dodge Charger)
Finished 20th - 24th in points
"We had a great car about 50 percent of the time. We had a car that could race hard, but late in the race we started to experience an electrical issue. We fell back some positions due to the issue, but raced hard until the end and brought home a top-20 finish for our Valvoline Guarantee Dodge."


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger)
Finished 25th - 27th in points
"We struggled a little bit early on with our Best Buy Dodge before we started to hit our stride late. The car was tight in the center and loose off most of the day, but the track started to come to us late in the race. We had a lot of green flag racing today and the field spread out quite a bit which made it hard to make up track position. The Petty team had good cars today - probably some of the best we've had all year, but unfortunately our results don't show the progress we've made"


AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Stanley Dodge Charger)
Finished 30th - 29th in points
"What a frustrating day. We had a really fast Stanley Dodge and raced all the way from 30th to sixth. I thought for sure that we had a top-10 finish at the end, but we pushed our luck on fuel and ran out (of gas) on the last lap. That was devastating knowing we had a top-10 car and finished 30th. I know our cars are getting a lot more competitive, but we just haven't had any luck fall our way at the end."

Credit - Dodge Motorsports

Pocono 500 Results

As much as I would like to kid myself into thinking that the last lap of this race never happened, and that AJ finished 10th in the Pocono 497.5, this is how it actually shook out on Sunday:

Pocono 500 Results
1. Tony Stewart
2. Carl Edwards
3. David Reutimann
4. Jeff Gordon
5. Ryan Newman
6. Marcos Ambrose
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Juan Pablo Montoya
9. Jeff Burton
10. Sam Hornish, Jr.
11. Greg Biffle
12. Clint Bowyer
13. Jamie McMurray
14. Casey Mears
15. Kasey Kahne
16. Matt Kenseth
17. Michael Waltrip
18. Martin Truex, Jr.
19. Mark Martin
20. Reed Sorenson
21. Brian Vickers
22. Kyle Busch
23. Joey Logano
24. Kevin Harvick
25. Elliott Sadler
26. David Ragan
27. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
28. Bobby Labonte
29. Paul Menard
30. AJ Allmendinger
31. Robby Gordon
32. Scott Speed
33. Regan Smith
34. David Stremme
35. John Andretti
36. Dexter Bean
37. Kurt Busch
38. Denny Hamlin
39. Sterling marlin
40. Dave Blaney
41. Joe Nemechek
42. David Gilliland
43. Patrick Carpentier

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dexter who?

Dexter Bean is making his first Sprint Cup start in the Pocono 500 this weekend at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. I have to admit that while I've seen the name around, I didn't have a face to go along with it, and didn't know much of anything about the young man. So I did a little research and here is what I found on

Dexter Bean

Birth Date: January 5, 1987
Hometown: Westby, WI
Nickname: Dex
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 170
Marital Status: Single

Second generation racer, Dexter Bean has made a name for himself in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Bean, who began his racing career on go-kart tracks in La Crosse and Westby, Wisconsin at the tender age of 10, has dreamed of the day he would be able to be behind the wheel of a car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. While Bean was racing go-karts in various divisions throughout his home state of Wisconsin, he learned to prepare his kart before each race and even did most of the work himself. Bean also gained a wealth of experience working on the pit crew for his father's late model, AutoZone Elite Midwest Series, and ITEMS cars. After turning 16, Bean followed in his father’s footsteps and took on a tougher challenge by racing full-bodied late model stock cars for his family's BlackJack Racing Team. Since then, Bean has raced in the Wisconsin Challenge Series, the MARS Series, the Toyota All-Star Showdown, the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Midwest Division, and the ARCA RE/MAX Series; making a name for himself along the way. This year Bean will finally fulfill his dream of becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.

Fun Facts:
• Hobbies: hunting, bowling, golfing and skiing with his friends.
• Dexter's favorite television show is CSI
• Dexter loves Chinese food
• Dexter's first street car was a Ford Mustang
• Dexter's favorite color is red
• Dexter is a spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
• Dexter was the 2008 recipient of the H.G. Adcox Sportsmanship Award

Pocono: Final Practice

AJ had a hot lap early in practice while the rest of Richard Petty Motorsports seemed to struggle a bit. Let’s hope that AJ’s practice time was more than just one fast lap and that he has a well-balanced #44 Stanley Dodge Charger for the race tomorrow. He has a long way to go to get through the field after starting in 30th.

Richard Petty Motorsports
AJ Allmendinger
Laps Run – 16
Fast Lap – 164.381
Average Speed – 162.736

Kasey Kahne
Laps Run – 12
Fast Lap – 163.366
Average Speed – 161.562

Reed Sorenson
Laps Run – 14
Fast Lap – 162.878
Average Speed – 161.444

Elliott Sadler
Laps Run – 14
Fast Lap – 162.464
Average Speed – 161.454

Practice 2 Results
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Ryan Newman
3. Greg Biffle
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Jimmie Johnson
6. Tony Stewart
7. Kyle Busch
8. Jamie McMurray
9. AJ Allmendinger
10. Kurt Busch
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Sam Hornish, Jr.
13. Carl Edwards
14. Jeff Burton
15. Mark Martin
16. Casey Mears
17. Jeff Gordon
18. David Reutimann
19. Bobby Labonte
20. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
21. Martin Truex, Jr.
22. Brian Vickers
23. Joey Logano
24. David Gilliland
25. Kevin Harvick
26. David Stremme
27. Juan Pablo Montoya
28. Regan Smith
29. Kasey Kahne
30. David Ragan
31. Reed Sorenson
32. Marcos Ambrose
33. Elliott Sadler
34. Travis Kvapil (for Robby Gordon)
35. Scott Speed
36. Paul Menard
37. John Andretti
38. Michael Waltrip
39. Dave Blaney
40. Joe Nemechek
41. Patrick Carpentier
42. Dexter Bean
43. Sterling Marlin

Pocono: Practice 2 Results

At a track like Pocono with long straightaways, horsepower is key. Unfortunately, none of the Richard Petty Motorsports Dodges are running the new engine this weekend. Handling can help make up for a lack of horsepower though, so AJ and the rest of RPM will try to fine tune their cars in Final Practice.

Richard Petty Motorsports
Kasey Kahne
Laps Run – 8
Fast Lap – 165.177
Average Speed – 163.654

AJ Allmendinger
Laps Run – 12
Fast Lap – 164.742
Average Speed – 163.338

Reed Sorenson
Laps Run – 10
Fast Lap – 164.375
Average Speed – 163.200

Elliott Sadler
Laps Run – 11
Fast Lap – 163.827
Average Speed – 161.795

Practice 2 Results
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Ryan Newman
3. Tony Stewart
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Jeff Gordon
6. Jamie McMurray
7. Martin Truex, Jr.
8. Casey Mears
9. David Reutimann
10. Kyle Busch
11. Greg Biffle
12. Mark Martin
13. Brian Vickers
14. Kasey Kahne
15. Carl Edwards
16. Clint Bowyer
17. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
18. David Ragan
19. AJ Allmendinger
20. Matt Kenseth
21. Sam Hornish, Jr.
22. Jeff Burton
23. Kurt Busch
24. Reed Sorenson
25. Regan Smith
26. Dave Blaney
27. Joey Logano
28. Elliott Sadler
29. Bobby Labonte
30. David Stremme
31. Kevin Harvick
32. Joe Nemechek
33. Paul Menard
34. Juan Pablo Montoya
35. Michael Waltrip
36. Marcos Ambrose
37. Travis Kvapil (for Robby Gordon)
38. Scott Speed
39. David Gilliland
40. Sterling Marlin
41. John Andretti
42. Patrick Carpentier
43. Dexter Bean

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pocono: Starting Lineup

AJ’s bad luck streak continues as he is relegated to a 30th place starting position for Sunday’s Pocono 500. Qualifying was rained out at Pocono Raceway, as was first practice. The starting lineup will be determined according to the rule book, which uses the following format in the event of a rainout:
1) First 35 by current Owner Points [team does not have to attempt all the races]
2) Last Years Cup Champ or the Event Champion if not already in the field
3) Car Owners whose team has won in the previous and current season not already in the field
4) Drivers who have won in the previous and current season not already in the field
5) Past Nextel Cup Champions not in by 1 thru 4
6) Qualifying Attempts with Owners points as the tie breaker
7) Qualifying Order Position
(all above apply as long as the team was entered by the entry deadline - usually 7-13 days before the race)

Pocono Starting Lineup
1. Tony Stewart
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Kurt Busch
5. Ryan Newman
6. Kyle Busch
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Matt Kenseth
9. Greg Biffle
10. Jeff Burton
11. Carl Edwards
12. Mark Martin
13. David Reutimann
14. Kasey Kahne
15. Juan Pablo Montoya
16. Clint Bowyer
17. Brian Vickers
18. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
19. Martin Truex, Jr.
20. Marcos Ambrose
21. Casey Mears
22. Jamie McMurray
23. Joey Logano
24. Kevin Harvick
25. Reed Sorenson
26. Sam Hornish, Jr.
27. Elliott Sadler
28. Bobby Labonte
29. David Stremme
30. AJ Allmendinger
31. David Ragan
32. Michael Waltrip
33. Paul Menard
34. Robby Gordon
35. John Andretti
36. Sterling Marlin
37. Scott Speed
38. David Gilliland
39. Joe Nemechek
40. Patrick Carpentier
41. Dave Blaney
42. Regan Smith
43. Dexter Bean (1st Cup Start)

DNQ Derrike Cope
DNQ Mike Wallace (Late entry)
DNQ Tony Raines (Late entry)

Double File Restarts? I say go for it.

I have to admit that I’m looking forward to seeing double file restarts starting this weekend at Pocono. I think it brings the sport back towards its Saturday night local track roots. As soon as the free pass rule was adopted for safety reasons, getting rid of the lapped cars lining up on the inside for restarts only made sense. It lets the leaders battle for the lead and the lapped cars battle for the free pass – both without hindrance from drivers on different agendas.

I think what excites me most about the new format is simply that NASCAR was willing to make a change mid-season based on input from fans, team owners, and drivers alike. Whether it will help the racing or simply put that much more of a burden on the underdogs remains to be seen, but NASCAR can’t make progress without first making change. If they simply maintain the status quo, they will never know what might have been.

I’ve read input from people who are both for and against the change. Drivers especially seem uncertain about whether or not they like the idea. If you are the leader of the race, you want to see the lapped cars inside you. Most of the time the leader clears the first lapped car easily but second place doesn’t, giving the leader an immediate advantage. With this new rule, you have the second place car starting on your outside (or inside, depending on where you choose to restart.) Advantage lost.

Another aspect of this that I think we will start to see, as crew chiefs adapt to the change, will be strategy calls for the cars that are a lap down. It used to be that if you were a lap down and did not pit under caution that you could restart the race in front of the leader. With the new format, cars on the tail end of the lead lap are automatically waved around. Will we see some crew chiefs leave their drivers out and pray for a quick caution before they have to pit for tires and fuel, or is it better to have fresh tires and fight for the lucky dog spot? If anything, it may help the poor souls who start the round of green flag stops only to have the caution come out before the field cycles through.

All in all, I think that it will at least make it more interesting for awhile just to see how everyone adapts to the change. How many drivers will be black flagged for passing before the start/finish line until they remember that they can’t pass on the restart anymore, not even to the right? How many extra caution laps will they have to run under each yellow to get the cars all lined up in the right position?

I guess only time will tell us if NASCAR made the right move or not, but I’m looking forward to 500 miles at Pocono to give us a glimpse into the future. Okay, so maybe I’m not looking forward to 500 miles at Pocono. But hey – at least I will be watching the restarts before getting bored and turning away from the TV until the next caution.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pocono Statistics

With three distinct corners and long straightaways, Pocono Raceway is a challenge for car setup. Often drivers have to give up handling in one corner to make the car better in another. AJ Allmendinger’s first year trying to tame the tricky triangle proved to be a rough one. In June of 2007, a pit cue mistake left AJ stranded on the 2.5 mile tri-oval with no fuel and dropped him off the lead lap. Then in August, the car stepped out on lap 2 of the first practice, leaving AJ the insurmountable job of trying to qualify a backup car.

AJ rebounded in June of 2008 by having an outstanding qualifying run and finishing 12th, which was his best career finish in a points race at that time. He struggled a little bit in the August race that year, but still managed to come home with a top-20 result. Even with the bad luck in 2007, AJ has an average starting spot of 22nd and an average finish of 23rd at Pocono. With rain looming on qualifying day, I would imagine we will see AJ start deep in the field at 30th. But with practice looking good for Saturday, expect the #44 Stanley Dodge team to dial that car in for a good race on Sunday.

Special good luck wishes to AJ for this weekend – he needs a change of fortune!

Pocono Statistics

June 2007
Started 28th, Finished 39th

August 2007
Did Not Qualify

June 2008
Started 8th, Finished 12th

August 2008
Started 31st, Finished 19th

Pocono Preview

AJ Allmendinger drives the No. 44 Stanley Dodge this weekend at Pocono International Raceway. The 27-year-old Californian owns two top-20 finishes in his first three races at the 2.5-mile, triangular-shaped track.

Allmendinger is looking to rebound from a disappointing finish in Dover where a caution flag just after a pit stop effectively left him two laps behind the leader.

Allmendinger applauds NASCAR's recent canvassing of the drivers to improve the quality of racing each weekend. Last week, NASCAR notified drivers and teams about potential restart changes that could include double-wide restarts.

POCONO--"I don't know what we have to do to get rid of this bad luck, but we've had a black cloud following us the last couple of weeks. We know we are better than the finishes we have had of late. I'm confident we can turn this around. We really aren't that far off. On Sunday at Dover we were faster than a lot of those cars that had pretty good finishes.

"I think if you go ask most drivers they will tell you they like Pocono. It’s something completely different. I'm not sure it needs to be 500 miles, but the track is pretty cool."

NASCAR CHANGES-- "I'm for anything that NASCAR thinks will make for a better show for the fans. I've learned in racing you take everything one day at a time. I don't care if we line up double wide or triple wide. We'll race no matter what the rules. The fans pay the bills and if they are happy we'll be happy."

* Allmendinger will sign autographs at his merchandise hauler at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday in Dover.

* Allmendinger will drive chassis 285 at Pocono. This car finished 21st at Richmond.

* Allmendinger finished 12th and 19th in the 2008 Pocono races. He has completed all but two laps in his three starts.

* Sunday marks Allmendinger's 58th start in Sprint Cup.

Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dover Report Card

Dover Report Card
I'm lenient, so nothing lower than a C- here unless a driver is really a bonehead and earns it. Remember - this is just for the Dover race, and not reflective of the entire year.

Jimmie Johnson – Chad and Jimmie dominated the race on Sunday, leading the most laps in addition to the most import one – the last lap.
Tony Stewart – He may have finished in second place on Sunday, but the driver / owner took over the points lead. The last time a driver / owner led the points was in 1992.

Matt Kenseth – The Daytona 500 winner had a good run at Dover.
Kasey Kahne – He powered the new Dodge engine to a 6th place finish.
Casey Mears – A much needed top 10 finish, the best for RCR on Sunday.
Others – Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 12th place isn’t too shabby for his first time without Tony Jr.
Mark Martin – Hard to give a top 10 finish an A-, but Martin wasn’t quite where I expected at the Monster Mile.
Others – Clint Bowyer, Sam Hornish, Jr.

Joey Logano – The rookie has been gaining momentum for the last few weeks
Kevin Harvick – After struggling recently, Harvick was probably content with a 17th place run.
Others – Jamie McMurray, Jeff Burton, David Reutimann

Reed Sorenson – The second highest finishing RPM driver
Regan Smith – Very impressive for a team that isn’t running the full schedule. Plus, his no DNF streak lives on.
Others – Marcos Ambrose, Martin Truex, Jr.

Kyle Busch – I’ll bet he wishes someone had spotted that broken splitter before he pitted for what he thought was a wheel vibration.
Brian Vickers – The lead Red Bull driver has been strong for a few weeks, but showed a little weakness at Dover.
Others – David Ragan, Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler

AJ Allmendinger – He deserves an A for effort, but a D- for luck averages him out to a C+ grade at the Monster Mile.
David Stremme, Paul Menard, and Robby Gordon – They each need a weekend where they don’t wreck either themselves or someone else.
Others – Bobby Labonte, Juan Pablo Montoya

Denny Hamlin – Needs a visit from the good luck fairy.
Scott Speed – Engine issues took a toll on this rookie.
Others – John Andretti, Michael Waltrip

Joe Nemechek, Dave Blaney, Mike Skinner – Start and parks. It’s such a shame that the sport has come to this.
Others – Mike Bliss, Tony Raines, David Gilliland

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday Ramble - Dover edition

I’m experimenting a little bit with where I want this blog to go, so I think I will try a little thing called a Tuesday ramble, where I will post my opinions of the prior race. Since I mainly follow AJ, that’s where the focus of my attention is during the race, so I will apologize in advance if I didn’t notice what any other driver did other than where they finished. If you like the rambles, let me know. Any input can only make this blog better.


Tuesday Ramble – Dover edition

With a 29th place finish for the #44 Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper Dodge Charger, I think it is safe to say that I thought the race on Sunday sucked. I swear, if AJ has any luck at all, it is only bad luck. He needs some positive juju to turn his season around and reverse the backwards points slide that he has been on the past few weeks. He will be heading to Pocono Raceway 30th in points this weekend, and needs a strong run.

Not only did AJ’s bad day put me in a bad mood, but so did NASCAR with all of their debris cautions. I think they just realized that the tires weren’t holding up, and instead of doing the competition yellows to keep cars out of the wall like they did at Indianapolis last July, they decided to find debris every 40 to 50 laps. To me this was a bonehead move, because the guys who were doing a good job of managing their tires would just start moving up through the field when the yellow would come out again. Now I don’t want to see any driver hit the wall, but I think NASCAR should have just let the race unfold without interference.

I also take exception to some people’s opinion that the race was very exciting, and that if you didn’t like the ending to that race, then you’re not a fan of NASCAR. Now I must admit that I watched those final 10 laps unfold with the same anxious amazement that everyone else did. Who was going to win? Was the Biff going to conquer the Monster again? Would Tony get his first win as a car owner? Or would Jimmie put on his superhero cape once again and pass them all?

So 10 laps of the 400 were exciting, but the outcome was still pretty much inevitable. I could do the math in my head and knew it was only a matter of time. Chad and Jimmie had their A game on, and as much as I admire their excellence at what they do, it just takes away from the race for me. Seeing any driver put a whipping on the field like the 48 car did is just boring, in my opinion. So the Dover race just didn’t generate much excitement for me.

I am inherently a glass half full person though, and I did take a few positives out of the weekend. Number one is that two of AJ’s teammates (Reed and Elliott) led laps on Sunday in Dover, and Kasey ran in the top 10 for most of the day and finished 6th. The most important word out of that last sentence was “finished.” Yes, the new Dodge engine that RPM built for the #9 car made it the full 400 miles at Dover!!! When can they all get one?

Another positive thing on Sunday was that AJ had a fast car; and while it was a little too loose for his liking, his lap times were top 10 – 15 all day long. According to my PitCommand Leaderboard, there were several times that he was the fastest car on the track. Of course some of this was because he was on a different agenda than most everyone else. His motivation was to get one of his two laps back at all cost, even to the detriment of his right side tires. That ultimately ended up biting him in the rear end, but it could also have been a superstar move if it had worked.

All in all, the Monster Mile just didn’t provide the racing action that I was looking for on Sunday. I must admit that while I left my earphones on to pick up AJ’s radio chatter, I turned away from the TV and did statements for my husband’s business on the computer for the last 100 laps. That I would rather work instead of watch the race says a lot right there.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dover: Post-race driver quotes

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Finished 6th, Moved to 14th in points
"It was a good day for our Budweiser Dodge. (Greg) Biffle and I were battling all day and it was fun. He ended up third, and we ended up sixth. It was a good race for us. The new motor had plenty of power which made the car fun to drive. We were good on pit stops and the car handled well. We were just so loose all day, especially on short runs. Our Dodge was great on long runs, but the race had so many debris cautions that it was crazy. As soon as we would get racing, a debris caution would come out and really take the pace away from the race. For our Budweiser Dodge team, it was a really good day. We've made some really big gains the last few weeks ."


REED SORENSON (No. 43 Air Force Dodge Charger)
Finished 19th, Moved to 25th in points
"It was cool to lead those laps at the start (of the race). I'm glad we got to do that for the Air Force guys that were here this weekend. We had a pretty good day. When I could run my line, I could really get a good drive off the corner. That was a tough race, but we are getting here. I thought we might get a top 10 finish, but we got the (air) hose caught on the splitter on that stop with about 70 to go and lost some spots. I think it also messed up the car. The Richard Petty Motorsport guys are working hard and that's showing on the track. I hope the way we ran create s some momentum we can take to Pocono with us next weekend and run even better."


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Stanley Tools Dodge Charger)
Finished 27th, Moved to 27th in points
"You know we want better and we aren't satisfied by any means with 27th. Looking on the bright side, we showed progress today. The Stanley Dodge had a great start to the weekend on Friday in qualifying and we ran decent today. We tried some strategy and that got us to the front. We raced hard and fought to stay on the lead lap. We still have a lot of work to do making these cars turn."


AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Auto Value Dodge Charger)
Finished 29th, Moved to 30th in points
"Man, we thought we were going to have a good day. That debris caution early (lap 117) cost us two laps and that killed our day. The timing for that caution couldn't have come at a worse time for us. At a place like Dover, it's almost impossible to make up two laps. When we had our chance (to make some spots up) there was a long green flag run and the 48 was so fast, he kept us down. Then we had a cut right rear (tire). We're having terrible luck and it's frustrating. We deserved better today."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports