Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pocono II Preview

Few drivers can document their improvement over the last season like AJ Allmendinger. This year he's scored nearly 900 more points after the first 20 races of the season than he did in 2008. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver has posted three of his four best career finishes since climbing behind the wheel of his No. 44 Valvoline Dodge. His third place finish at Daytona highlights the season so far.

IMPROVEMENT-- "I feel a lot better than I did last year. I like where I am at. We still have a lot of work to do and I think those stats will be even better next season. We have had some great runs that don't show in the results. Pocono is a great example. We probably had a top ten finish here last time but ran out of gas on the final corner and finished 30th. We're better than the numbers you see.

"We put this deal together so late in the off season. (Crew Chief) Sammy Johns and my crew have done an incredible job. It's not easy in this sport. You run real well one weekend then struggle the next. You can never relax, but the reward is incredible. This is the toughest series in the world so it isn't supposed to be easy."

* AJ Allmendinger has a best finish of 12th in four starts at Pocono.

* This race marks Allmendinger's 65th start in Sprint Cup.

* Allmendinger will sign autographs at his merchandise hauler at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday in Pocono.

Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports & Dodge Motorsports

Indy Report Card

Jimmie Johnson
– He didn’t lead the most laps, but he lead the most important one.
Tony Stewart – Another strong finish and still the points leader
Others – Mark Martin

Kevin Harvick
– He really needed a good run. Maybe this will turn his season around
Juan Pablo Montoya – Did the NASCAR computer lie or did Juan’s tachometer lie?
Others – Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Kasey Kahne

Jeff Gordon
– Not a stellar performance. I expected to see him up front with his teammates.
Joey Logano – Not too bad for a rookie at a track he had never seen. And he came from the back on a track where it’s almost impossible to pass.
Others – David Reutimann, Matt Kenseth, Reed Sorenson

Ryan Newman
– A good points day for Smoke’s teammate
David Stremme – I don’t think anyone could blamestremme for anything on Sunday. Pretty clean day for the #12 car.
Others – Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr, Clint Bowyer

AJ Allmendinger
– Just couldn’t quite find the handling or the horsepower he needed.
Jamie McMurray – He can’t seem to do better than mid-pack finishes this year.
Others – Casey Mears, Marcos Ambrose, Bobby Labonte

Bill Elliott
– It was great seeing him start up front and stay there most of the race
Robby Gordon – Came back from an early spin to have a decent day
Others – David Ragan, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch

Paul Menard
– Good news is that he didn’t wreck and he finished the race
Scott Speed – Is it just me, or does it seem like he isn’t improving any? Indy was his 24th start in Cup. AJ’s 24th start was halfway through 2008 and he had a Sprint Showdown win and several top 20 finishes under his belt.
Others – David Gilliland, John Andretti, Terry Labonte

Dale Earnhardt, Jr
– It was refreshing to see a driver admit to a mistake.
Kyle Busch – He didn’t admit to any mistakes, but it was refreshing not to see him throw his team under the bus.
Others – Denny Hamlin, Michael Waltrip, Sam Hornish, Jr.

Regan Smith
– Not the expected result from a team that has been strong in every race they have run, but his DNF streak lives on.
Elliott Sadler – An oil leak left him watching most of the race from inside the garage.
Others – Start and parkers: Mike Skinner, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Ramble - Indianapolis Edition

Sometimes taking a break from something that you love is easier said than done. As I mentioned in last week’s ramble, my grandma sprung a family get together on me for Sunday afternoon – scheduled to begin right in the middle of the race. Now I know what you’re thinking and no, I didn’t stand my grandma up on her birthday. Well, only a little bit.

As race time approached and I faced having to leave, I got cold feet. How could I turn off the race? AJ was doing pretty good. There was still an opportunity for cautions to fall the right way so that he could gain some track position. And of course the biggest thing I hate is missing some sort of funny radio banter. For instance, the comment he made about wishing he had horsepower like the #33 and how he felt like he was racing against Cup cars with a Nationwide car.

So I faced my choice – NASCAR or Grandma? NASCAR or Grandma? Okay, NASCAR won. I know, I know – my priorities are screwed up. That is something that my grandma pointed out in front of all my relatives when she took me to task for showing up almost two hours late. But hey, I showed up. I even got to see my favorite aunt that I lived with in college – who, coincidentally, is a lady that AJ’s mom reminds me so much of, and is probably why I feel like I know Karen when I really don’t.

So I can admit in front of you all that my willpower sucks! (I can’t turn down ice cream, either.) However, before I left my grandma’s party I did assure her that if I hadn’t been able to compromise and if my only choice was to come to her birthday or watch racing, that I would have chosen to come to her party. And I was telling the truth … I think.

Indianapolis Race Recap

There isn’t a whole lot to recap for the Allstate 400 in Indianapolis last weekend. AJ started 33rd on the grid after being too loose in qualifying, and worked his way up as high as 18th or so before finishing in 20th position. The Hunt Brothers Pizza team spent the whole race trying to find that fine line for a good handling car.

AJ was fighting a tight condition trying to get down to the white line at the inside of the track, but it seemed like any adjustment they made unhooked the back end and made him lose rear grip. With long caution free runs and pitting under green flag conditions, the team didn’t have too many opportunities to make major changes or to try a two tire strategy.

All in all it was a long race with a decent finish – not really bad, but not too good either. One promising aspect was that the Richard Petty Motorsports pit crew was on top of their game all race long and helped the #44 car maintain position each time he came into the pits. Another feel good story for RPM was that teammate Kasey Kahne got yet another top 10 run with the new R6 engine, and that Reed Sorenson was in the top 15 all race long. Things are definitely looking up.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Indianapolis: Post-race Quotes

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Finished 7th

"At times, I thought we were pretty quick today. We had speed on green flag runs. On the last run, the car was a little bit free, turned really well and we were fast. The yellow came out and we stayed out on tires. The front felt really hard there at the end and was tight. (Kevin) Harvick made a nice save or he would have taken both of us out.

"The tires performed well. We had no issues. I kind of like it if they fall off a little more so we can do different things with the back of the car. But the front is going to get tight. It's probably different for everybody. Overall, it was a good race.

"I was too tight to pass cars there at the end, so I just made sure I was saving fuel and not let the car behind me catch me. It was another good finish and a good point's day."


REED SORENSON (No. 43 Valvoline Dodge Charger)
Finished 13th

"Our Valvoline Dodge was really good today. We had about a 10th-place car. We were better on long runs than we were on the short ones. I had some alternator issues that hurt us in the end of the race that didn't allow us to run like we wanted to. Overall it was a pretty good day for us.

"It's hard to pass here. Even with the old car passing here at Indy is tough, it's just even worse with the COT. Track position was critical. We knew that there were going to be limited chances to pass, it was mostly stay in line and try not to overdrive the corners."

AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Hunt Brothers Dodge Charger)
Finished 20th

"We were average today. We were about 20th to 25th all day. That's about where we finished. We just struggled, but we will get better for Pocono."


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger)
Finished 40th

"It was a tough day for sure for the Best Buy Dodge. We're not sure what happened other than we had some oil coming out of the bottom of the car. It's disappointing because we run strong here in the past and just didn't have the opportunity to show our hand today. There's not much I can do as a driver other than just try and put this behind us and head to Pocono next weekend."


RICHARD PETTY (Co-Owner, Richard Petty Motorsports)
"We were expecting a little bit more. They (our drivers) got everything that was in them (the cars) out. We were just off a tick. Of course, everybody else was too, I guess. Circumstances worked good for us. We had good pit stops. Everything went good. We just didn't run fast enough. It was one of those days when you get outrun. Today, we got outrun."


MARK MCARDLE (Vice President of Competition, Richard Petty Motorsports)
"Obviously, we would have been happier with better results. We'll take a solid day in points for both the 9 and 43, a good day for the 44 as well. We continue to show strong performance with the current generation of cars and the R6 engine is running well. We have a lot of positives to build on. We just didn't have quite the car we needed today to contend for the win. We weren't too far off. We've been gaining a little bit each week. Once again, I think we had a car that was capable of contending for a top-five position. We had great pit stops all day. We just didn't quite get the result we wanted."
Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Indianapolis: Qualifying Quotes

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Qualified 8th
"I felt that the track was a little slicker and I just drove the Budweiser Dodge too hard to get a good lap. If I would have slowed down, I probably could have picked up a few more hundredths. I'm happy with the car. We need to have a good practice this afternoon. That's what it's all about to get ready for tomorrow."


REED SORENSON (No. 43 Valvoline Dodge Charger)
Qualified 9th
"Our Valvoline Dodge was pretty good. On the very last qualifying run that we did yesterday, we weren't where we wanted to be and put the tune-up back to where it was earlier. I lost a little bit of time in Turn 2. The car was really good in Turns 3 and 4 and made some time back up. I'm proud of all the Valvoline guys. I think that it's good to start up front here. I'm not sure where it's going to end up, but it just makes for a lot easier day knowing that you just have to work on your car for the cleaner air."


AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Hunt Brothers Dodge Charger)
Qualified 33rd
"Man, we were just loose. That wasn't a fun lap. We are going to work on setting our car up for long runs here in the final practice and get it ready for tomorrow. We aren't going to start where we want, but if we can get our car as good as we think we can, then we are going to be fine for the race."


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger)
Qualified 42nd
"It obviously wasn't the qualifying lap that we were looking for in our Best Buy Dodge. It's very disappointing because we normally qualify really well here. Something strange was going in with the steering wheel that made the car feel like the car wouldn't turn. We've got another practice this afternoon to get our car right."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Indianapolis Qualifying Results

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

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Indianapolis Statistics

Although AJ only has one Sprint Cup race under his belt at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was a memorable race for multiple reasons. I don’t think anyone will forget the horrible tire problems that caused NASCAR to throw competition cautions every 10 to 15 laps. But for AJ, the race was also notable because it was the sight of his first top 10 finish in the Sprint Cup series.

Mother nature, combined with mechanical troubles on the 84 Red Bull car, only allowed AJ 20 laps of track time in his first visit to Indy in 2007. So when he went on track for qualifying that Saturday afternoon, Turn 4 reached out and bit him and AJ missed the show.

He came back strong in 2008 though, in his second race with Jimmy Elledge atop the pit box. He turned a lap fast enough to qualify his way in and started the race in the 26th position. Despite problems with the Goodyear compound, Elledge made multiple calls for just 2 tires in order to gain track position in the stop and go race. AJ even led the field for a handful of laps before finally bringing the silver 84 car home in 10th position.

Now driving the #44 Hunt Brothers Pizza Dodge for Richard Petty Motorsports, hopefully AJ can bring some of that magic back for the 2009 race. Indy is a high paying venue, so who knows – maybe a good finish will buy AJ one of those new R6 motors or entry into the last 10 races, which are still up in the air for sponsorship.

Indianapolis Preview

Sorry - the content is a little dated. I guess I should have looked for this last week, but didn't think about it since I usually post it on the Thursday before the race.


AJ Allmendinger isn't sitting home this weekend as he and his Richard Petty Motorsports teammates enjoy a rare off weekend before racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
in the Allstate 400 on July 26. The 27-year-old plans a quick trip to Las Vegas before one of the Sprint Cup Series biggest races of the season. Allmendinger comes off a 13th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday night. He finished 10th in the Allstate 400 last year.

OFF WEEKEND--"I'm headed to Las Vegas for the weekend. It will be fun just to get away from racing for a few days, clear my mind, then get back after it at Indianapolis. That's a huge race for us. We finished third in the Daytona 500 and would love to get a run like that at Indy. The purse at Indy pays a lot of bills and it's a race that can create a lot of momentum for the rest of the season."

INDIANAPOLIS--"I love this track. We ran really well here last year finishing tenth. I always figured I would race at Indy but I figured it would be in an open wheel car. There's a lot of us in Sprint Cup racing now who probably dreamed of racing at Indy before racing at Daytona. The place is just special. You win there and you've made your mark in racing no matter what you are driving. I couldn't be happier racing in NASCAR and to win in the greatest series in the world at one of the great tracks would be a dream come true. That would be the coolest thing in the world."

* Allmendinger led four laps and finished 10th at Indianapolis in 2008.

* Crew chief Sam Johns will run in a triathlon in Asheville, N.C. this weekend.

* Allmendinger will sign autographs at his merchandise hauler at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday at Indianapolis.

Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Ramble - Off Weekend Edition

I have always hated off weekends from racing. And just the thought of the final race in Homestead nearly brings tears to my eyes. But I have learned that it is good to take breaks every once in awhile, even from the things you love.

I love ice cream, but I can’t eat it constantly. I love my husband and daughter, but if I had to spend every minute of every day with them I would have to be institutionalized. So I have come to learn that I can step away from NASCAR every once in awhile and it isn’t going to kill me. As long as I don’t do it too often.

This past weekend I had a very enjoyable camping trip up in the mountains. It was the second time this year we have gone up, but it was much more pleasant. When we went on the 4th of July weekend, all I could think about was the race in Daytona. I kept watching the clock and trying to figure out in my head how many laps they had run, how long until the end. I even hoped that some psychic intuition would tell me how AJ was doing in the race.

Instead, I had to wait until that Sunday night to watch the recording. It was the first time in a very long time that I had watched a race without the benefit of AJ’s audio or Trackpass. It felt like something was missing, but I also saw some things that I don’t normally during the weekend. (Like the other 42 drivers.)

However, I was very happy to be back behind my computer screen with my huge sound blocking earphones perched on my head for the Chicagoland race the next weekend. Especially since AJ had a good race.

Now I face a troubling prospect for Sunday’s race at Indianapolis. My grandma just called and said that we are having a family get together on Sunday afternoon, which happens to be her 82nd birthday. I don’t particularly want to go, but how do you say no to something like that? Damn it! Where’s a mysterious illness when you need it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chicagoland Race Recap

After qualifying in twentieth place on Thursday despite an early draw, AJ was pretty confident going into the race on Saturday night. Friday practice had them scratching their heads a little bit as the car went from tight to loose to tight again. But the overall balance wasn’t too bad, even though the power coming off the corners could have been better.

Once the green flag flew, I worried a bit about how well the car would perform as AJ dropped back a couple of spots. But he got them right back after a handful of laps and it seemed like the longer a tire run went on, the faster he would get. So even though it made the race none too exciting to watch from home, the long green runs were AJ’s best friend.

AJ spent pretty much the entire race fighting front grip in the center of the turns. Then it seemed like if they got the front to turn better, then the car would end up being too loose in the rear. This made it a handful for the driver, but AJ did the best he could and moved up to the very top of the race track to help the condition.

Unfortunately, since he couldn’t get the car to turn down on the bottom, he pretty much just had one racing line to choose from. So when he would get behind someone who was running the high line as well, he had a hard time going low and completing the pass. This left him stuck in the same place he started, and he stayed right around twentieth for the first part of the race.

Some good adjustments by crew chief Sammy Johns improved the handling in the middle part of the race, and by the halfway point AJ was up to 16th position as Mark Martin continued to put a bunch of cars a lap or more down. Then things started taking a turn for the worse for the Hunt Brother’s Pizza team.

A bad adjustment under yellow which made the car the worst it had been all night, combined with a long green run had AJ fighting to keep the leader behind him. Getting ready to pit under green flag conditions, spotter Tony came on the radio and said that there was possible debris on the track and that NASCAR officials were looking. Not wanting to get caught by a caution after pitting, Sammy made a call to hold off coming down pit road for an extra lap.

That extra lap nearly cost the 44 team, as well as putting points leader Tony Stewart in jeopardy. With AJ pitting right in front of the 14 team on pit road, the crew chiefs usually coordinate green flag stops to not be in each other’s way. But with the call to leave AJ out an extra lap, Stewart was just exiting his pits as AJ was trying to pull into his.

The near miss cost AJ precious seconds on pit road, and when pit stops cycled out, AJ found himself behind the leader. He managed to hold onto the lucky dog position for a little while, but eventually Mark Martin put two more cars a lap down before the caution again came out on lap 211.

When the green flag fell, AJ was battling with the #1 car of Martin Truex, Jr. for the lucky dog spot, but since his car wasn’t the best on short runs, he didn’t manage to make the pass before the caution again flew just four laps later. With only a handful of laps on the tires though, Sammy made the call to stay out and try for the lucky dog again.

Restarting the race in the 19th spot and the first car one lap down, the 44 team was hoping for another quick caution. They got it, but they were almost a part of it as well. Paul Menard cut a tire after contact with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Menard’s car went up and bounced off the wall right where AJ was running. At the time, AJ was watching to his left as he tried to clear David Ragan and didn’t see the incident in front of him. Spotter Tony was on the ball however, and called for AJ to go low. Menard’s car came down off the wall, but AJ narrowly squeezed through in the middle of the track.

That close call put AJ back on the lead lap, and after starting at the tail of the pack in 18th position, he managed to race up through the lap cars and get two more spots before the caution came out again. Now, thanks to the new double file restarts, AJ would be able to start up with all of the cars that he was racing for position.

Even though they could go the distance on fuel, Sammy called AJ to pit road for fresh tires and a track bar adjustment. The new tires allowed for a few laps of maneuverability before the conditions of the car forced him to run the high line again, and AJ managed to race his way past several cars who were on older tires.

A late race caution set up a three lap shootout to the end, and unfortunately for AJ the lead lap cars behind him dropped off to pit road for some new tires themselves while he stayed on the track. Sitting in P13 for the restart left me wondering if AJ would be a sitting duck for those cars to get by. He raced his butt off in those final laps though, and battled Carl Edwards right to the checkered flag to maintain his final scoring position of 13th.

It was a long, hard fight all night at Chicagoland for the 44 team, but despite some frustration with Sammy for the pit road miscue and a heated epithet aimed at one of AJ’s teammates, it was a good night for the Hunt Brother’s group. He matched his finish in the race last year, and moved up two spots in the points standings to 27th.

I think the biggest thing that impressed me on Saturday night was the calculated way that AJ managed his tire wear. After a handful of laps he would come on the radio and ask how many green flag laps they had run. And finally under one caution explained that’s how many laps that he could race in the other grooves before being forced to the top of the track for better handling.

I’m sure anyone else who has listened in on AJ’s radio chatter since he started in Cup in 2007 knows how much he has learned in that amount of time. When he first started he couldn’t even explain what was wrong with the handling, let alone how to fix it. Now he gives excellent detailed feedback, and also offers his input on what changes to make to the car. After this weekend, it’s very evident that he is still expanding his knowledge. Big thumbs up for that!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chicagoland: Post-Race Quotes

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Finished 3rd

"We had a good Budweiser Dodge tonight. We had to battle all night there at the end with Jeff (Gordon) having fresh tires at the end of the race. I wanted to hang on for all we had, we ended up third and it ended up being a good run for us tonight. I wasn't really very close to the 5, but I cleared the 24 and then he charged back. I got through (Turns) 1 and 2 better than he did, but he had tires and we didn't. I thought we did a really good job. We held our own and got a great finish. Those restarts were tough, a lot of tough competition. We had to battle really hard.

"We've been working really well together, our whole Budweiser Dodge team. Races like these, nights like this where you can get those (drivers) points and try to stay in that top-12, that's what it's all about and making the Chase. The guys had good stops all night. They've been on a roll with that. The car was good from the drop of the green (flag). We made some adjustments trying to keep up and make it better. Those restarts at the end were tough; there were a lot of good cars. I think we got as far back as sixth on the restarts and worked back to second and then third with Jeff (Gordon).

"I fought hard against Jeff there at the end. I wanted to hold him off. I felt like were better than him all night. He had some (fresh) tires there (at the end) and was better than us and ended up beating us. We battled hard. It was a good night."

HOW MUCH DID THE NEW R6 ENGINE HELP TONIGHT? "Well, the engine, I mean, we got to compare it to the best tonight. We raced with Hendricks and the Gibbs, the 11, throughout the race. Every restart, every pass for position was against one of those guys. We still have some work to do. I think it was decent, but we still have some work to do with those guys. My car handled great, you know, so I was happy about that.

"The restarts, I like it. I still think it's a great change that NASCAR did. I lost some and I made some again. Same every week. I lose three of the restarts and win three of the restarts. I don't know, 50% is not too bad."

IT SEEMED LIKE MOST OF THE RACE EVERYONE WAS ON CRUISE CONTROL; THEN EVERYONE WENT NUTS ON RESTART? "Well, I think late in the race one guy makes one guy mad and it causes a reaction from that guy. Then they get into another car. Then another guy is smoking another guy sideways. Next thing you know, you have 10 guys that are fuming. You never know what's gonna happen. Some guys had tires, other guys didn't, so the speed was way different. I think it just created a lot of kind of chaos back on those restarts. T hat's excitement for the fans and kind of craziness for the drivers."

HOW MUCH OF THE RACING TONIGHT WAS DUE TO THE FACT THAT THE TRACK HAS WEATHERED IN? "To me, it was similar to what it was last year, the last few years here. It's been wide. The pavement has been pretty white, pretty gray like it was. It gets rubbered up quick. You can race kind of all over the racetrack. To me, it was similar. We had our best car. I think I did the best job that I've done at Chicagoland Speedway. I've never raced that well here. It was a good night for us."


KENNY FRANCIS (Crew Chief, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
"The Budweiser Dodge ran well all night. We've struggled here at Chicago in the past. To have a car that good and run up front all night with our Dodge, I couldn't be prouder of our guys and Kasey for coming home third. We had a really good car all night. The fuel mileage was good. It all worked out good. I wish we could have beaten the 24 and 5 there, but it was a good race for us, a good points race for us."


AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Hunt Brothers Pizza Dodge Charger)
Finished 13th

"It was a good day for our Hunt Brothers Pizza Dodge. We didn't start off very well. We were a little bit off in practice yesterday and didn't really know which way the track was going to go tonight. We started off way too tight and basically from there on, it was a fight of being too loose and too tight. It seems like with our cars, we don't start the first 10 laps really good. We were just trying to fight back and forth to stay up with the guys who were better on the restarts. We fought hard all night. From where we were in practice yesterday, to get a 13th-place finish is awesome."

HOW CRAZY WERE THE RESTARTS? "I hope fans like it because it's nuts inside the car. We restarted in about 16th and all I saw was the leaders starting to wreck and bouncing off the wall. That's part of it. It makes it exciting for the fans. It's definitely fun in the car, but it's hectic."


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Insignia Dodge Charger)
Finished 27th
"I'm pretty happy to be heading into the off week. We never really got our car where we wanted it tonight -- it was loose in and off the corner and tight in the center. We just never really found the right adjustment to hook up the car. It was a frustrating night, but our guys worked hard and now they all get to enjoy a week at home before heading to Indy."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Friday, July 10, 2009

Chicagoland: Qualifying Quotes

REED SORENSON (No. 43 McDonald's McCafe Dodge Charger)
Qualified 11th

"I'm really happy with that qualifying run for our McDonald's McCafe Dodge Charger. We sat down after practice for about an hour trying to figure out what direction we needed to go because we just were too loose earlier in the day. We decided what changes we needed to make and picked up eight tenths from practice. Overall it was a really solid qualifying run. We have some work to do in race trim, but the 9 and 44 seem to be strong. I know that we can get some good data from them tomorrow."


KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger)
Qualified 15th

"Man, I thought we were going to have a better qualifying time than that. Our Budweiser Dodge was loose in the center and loose off. The good news is that I think we have a pretty good baseline to work from after our practice today."


AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 44 Hunt Brothers Pizza Dodge Charger)
Qualified 20th

"Our Hunt Brothers Pizza Dodge was decent. It's the best it has felt all day. I never have had a really good qualifying session here. I missed the race with the old car and qualifying was rained out last year. I really didn't know what to expect. I might have left a tick of time, but the car was pretty good. I was really good through (Turns) 1 & 2, just a little tight in 3 & 4."


ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 19 Insignia Dodge Charger)
Qualified 33rd

"We're just struggling a bit in qualifying. We only ran a couple laps in qualifying trim because we wanted to spend most of the practice in race trim and it showed. Our Insignia/Best Buy Dodge feels really good in race trim. We'll just have to have good pit stops, try and gain some track position and pass a lot of cars on Sunday."

Credit: Dodge Motorsports

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chicagoland: Qualifying Results

Pretty good lap for AJ considering his early qualifying draw. Hopefully the rain will hold off tomorrow afternoon so the #44 Hunt Brothers Pizza team can fine tune on the car. 400 Starting Lineup
1. Brian Vickers
2. Scott Speed
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Kyle Busch
7. Jeff Gordon
8. Bill Elliott
9. David Reutimann
10. Marcos Ambrose
11. Reed Sorenson
12. Ryan Newman
13. Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
14. Mark Martin
15. Kasey Kahne
16. Sam Hornish, Jr.
17. David Ragan
18. Dave Blaney
19. Juan Pablo Montoya
20. AJ Allmendinger
21. Martin Truex, Jr.
22. Kurt Busch
23. Jeff Burton
24. Joey Logano
25. Carl Edwards
26. Mike Bliss
27. Paul Menard
28. Kevin Harvick
29. Brad Keselowski
30. Jamie McMurray
31. Joe Nemechek
32. Tony Stewart
33. Matt Kenseth
34. Elliott Sadler
35. Greg Biffle
36. David Stremme
37. Michael Waltrip
38. Casey Mears
39. Mike Skinner
40. John Andretti
41. Robby Gordon
42. Bobby Labonte
43. David Gilliland
DNQ Mike Wallace
DNQ Dexter Bean
DNQ Tony Raines

Chicagoland Statistics

With the Sprint Cup series only visiting Chicagoland Speedway once each year, AJ doesn’t have a lot of track time on this particular 1.5 mile tri-oval. After a decent practice lap in 2007, AJ tagged the wall during qualifying and failed to make the race, extending what was already a heartbreakingly long stretch of missed races that summer.

So AJ’s only start at Chicagoland in the Cup series was in July of 2008, which was also the first race that crew chief veteran Jimmy Elledge joined the #84 Red Bull team. Qualifying was rained out that year, so AJ started 39th after the field was lined up by the rule book. AJ had a great race however, and worked his way all the way up to a 13th place finish.

(Sidenote: I miss Jimmy and his, “Come on in and we’ll put four fresh o-rings on it.”)

Chicagoland Preview

AJ Allmendinger makes his second career appearance at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday night. His lone start at the Joliet, Ill. track produced a 13th-place finish in 2008. At the season’s halfway mark, Allmendinger is 29th in points— 11 spots higher than at this point in 2008. He thinks his Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge will climb higher in the standings in the coming weeks.

DAYTONA— “It was typical restrictor plate racing. I didn’t think we would get a top five, but there at the end another car put us in the wall. We fixed the car but fell back in the pack. We climbed back pretty decent in the final four laps but got caught up in that mess at the finish line. It was a pretty hard hit, but I’m fine.”

CHICAGOLAND— “We’re due a good run and I’m pretty optimistic about Saturday night. I like this track. Our engines are getting better, our cars are getting lighter and the results with all the Petty cars are starting to show that more and more.”

SEASON- “We think we are a better team than 29th. We’ve run better than a lot of our finishes. Something has happened that’s hurt our finishes whether its getting caught in someone else’s wreck like Saturday night or something just goes wrong. We have made big gains throughout this season and we think the second half of this season is going to be a lot better than the first half.”

* This race marks Allmendinger’s 63rd start in Sprint Cup.

* For in-race twitter updates on Allmendinger and the Petty team follow: rpmotorsports, drewbrownrpm or rbarry1024.

* Allmendinger is a weekly columnist at

* Allmendinger is twittering for his fan club members at:

* “Tweet of the Week” Allmendinger’s best tweet came after former teammate Justin Wilson won Sunday’s Indy Racing League race at Watkins Glen. He wrote: “Jwil is the man. Happy for him. Owned Penske and Ganassi with by far a worse team. He is a pimp and the best indy car driver out there.”

* Allmendinger will sign autographs at his merchandise hauler at 2:10 p.m. on Saturday at Chicagoland.

Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports PR

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Daytona II Report Card

Safer Barriers
– I hate to even imagine how much worse the driver injuries would be if it wasn’t for the implementation of softer walls.
The Car of Tomorrow – For all the talk of less side by side racing and problems with drivability, these cars are very good in the safety department.

Tony Stewart
– He was up front all night, made no mistakes, and had a pit crew that was on their game.
Denny Hamlin – If Tony wasn’t going to win this race, his old JGR teammate was.
Others – Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Marcos Ambrose

Juan Pablo Montoya
– Does anyone even think of him as an open-wheeler anymore? He wrecked early, went a lap down, and still brought home a top 10.
Kyle Busch – He made smart moves all race, right up until that last block.
Others – Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler

Kasey Kahne
– He was involved in the Big One on lap 78 and would have finished top 10 if he hadn’t decided to give Kyle a push over the finish line.
AJ Allmendinger – Didn’t quite have the horsepower he wanted, but was looking at a strong finish until his old silver Red Bull car decided to get up close and personal. And he still made up 11 spots after pitting for repairs.
Others – Jamie McMurray, Regan Smith, David Ragan, Jeff Burton

Joey Logano
– The rookie once again showed that he’s not scared of restrictor plate tracks, and that other drivers aren’t scared to draft with him.
Ryan Newman – Tony’s car wasn’t the only strong horse in the SHR stable. Ryan flexed some muscle before the Big One ruined his night.
Others – Greg Biffle, Bobby Labonte, Robby Gordon

Brad Keselowski
– Another victim of the 13 car wreck on lap 78.
Kevin Harvick – If it wasn’t for bad luck, he would have no luck at all.
Others – Paul Menard, Martin Truex, Jr., John Andretti

Jeff Gordon
– see Kevin Harvick above
Scott Speed – Theoretically I know that the 26 came up the track and pushed Scott into AJ, but I’m not quite ready to forgive and forget yet. And I doubt AJ is, either.
Others – Clint Bowyer, Tony Raines, Sam Hornish, Jr.

Casey Mears
– If he had just held the brakes there at the end of his spin …
Michael Waltrip – Usually strong in restrictor plate races, but was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Others – Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, David Reutimann

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
– Friday night and Saturday night in Daytona were both ones that Junior probably wants to forget.
Start and parks – Dave Blaney, Patrick Carpentier, Joe Nemechek – I guess maybe it was worth not coming home on a wrecker. Still hate to see it.
Others – Mark Martin, David Gilliland

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Ramble - Daytona II Edition

So Martin Truex, Jr. is officially going to be in a Michael Waltrip Racing car next year. I have to admit that I doubted this rumor up until a few weeks ago. It just didn’t feel right to me for some reason, but I can’t put my finger on why.

I guess maybe I just wanted Truex to go to Stewart-Haas Racing next year. But with Mark Martin deciding to run a full time schedule in 2010, the option for a third car at SHR was pretty much locked up by Brad Keselowski. Granted, this still isn’t a certainty, because they have to find sponsorship. But I believe if a sponsorship opportunity falls their way that Keselowski will be in that third car.

The press conference today caused the first real domino to fall in the 2009 Silly Season, and I am watching with great interest to see what kind of pattern the trail makes as the rest of the dominos go down. There aren’t a lot of openings, and there are still a lot of sponsorship questions that haven’t been answered. So what will happen next?

Ever since the Truex to MWR news really solidified, there has been talk that he would leave early. Perhaps that talk comes from rumors that Aric Almirola is getting ready to get back in an Earnhardt Ganassi Racing car sometime in the near future. Personally, I think Truex will stick out his contract with EGR. But it is definitely in EGR’s best interest to get Almirola behind the wheel of a Cup car again, because I believe he will be Truex’s successor in the #1 car.

There are still a few unanswered questions regarding Truex’s move to MWR, including the naming of his crew chief. Bootie Barker is the current crew chief for Michael Waltrip in the #55 car, but in the press conference Waltrip talked like he wanted to keep his current team in place for his part-time driving role. So will the #1 crew chief, Kevin ‘Bono’ Manion, make the move over with his current driver? And where will the Bass Pro Shop sponsorship go?

I am guessing that we will know the answers to those questions soon. I expect that EGR will not waste a lot of time in deciding what they will do with the #1 car, crew, and sponsor. Word on the street has Bass Pro going over to Ryan Newman, but I don’t know how much of that is just speculation – since Newman, like Truex, is an avid fisherman and would be a good spokesperson for that sponsor.

So will there still be some surprises left in the Silly Season of 2009? Yes, I think that is a definite possibility. The move by Truex wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I think there is still room for some unplanned shifting in driver rosters and sponsorship. Not to mention that there are still several manufacturer changes in the rumor mill. Let the soap opera begin.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Daytona II Race Recap

Since I was out of town, I didn't get to hear any of the radio chatter. But I did watch a recording of the race. AJ did a great job, and looked like he had the possibility of a top 10 finish. It just seemed like the car lacked speed when the field got strung out. He squeaked through a couple of close calls, and almost made it across the finish line clean. Actually, Kasey might have hit him just after the finish line. But after that it was like watching a pinball being bounced around. I'm glad that everyone came out of that race okay. It is a testament to the safety innovations made in the last 8 years.

I copied the following race recap from since I didn't have my own notes to go by.


Even though he's made winning championships look easy throughout his career, AJ Allmendinger didn't really pop up on some folks radar until he took third in this year's Daytona 500.

That strong finish catapulted AJ into a whirlwind of changes as his program with Richard Petty Motorsports expanded and the kid from California has since stepped it up with some strong performances on everything from Daytona's wide-open restrictor plate runs to the twists and turns of Sonoma.

So there was some pretty good reason for optimism heading into the hot summer shootout at Daytona. And even though rain didn't give AJ the chance to qualify and the grid was set on points, a good-handling Dodge gave him the tools to move up early in the race.

The big restrictor plate pack is a tough place to pass, but AJ's shown he can pick his spots, and his battles, and he did just that in the early going once again on Saturday night. Some good stops from the #44 Richard Petty Motorsports and AJ's controlled aggression saw him threatening for a top ten.

That effort was thwarted when AJ got hit by the car he used to race (#82), and caused damage to the right side.

So AJ's hopes of backing up his Daytona 500 result with another strong finish at the "World Center of Racing," were dashed as he got caught up in the last-lap melee, and was credited with a 17th place finish.

"Man, I'm not sure what to say about this race, or this finish. It's a good result all things considered, but I felt like we had a better car going into this. Our car started going off and getting really loose. Every time we tightened it up, we'd lose even more speed down the straight away and we didn't have much to begin with. But with the PVA guys doing such a grat job on the stops and just keeping my patience we could have pulled out a top 15, possibly a top 10. That was shot when the 82 hit us. That flattened our right side. We worked our way up some more, but man that was a crazy run across the finish line. I'm still not sure what happened, but at least we're all ok and we still managed to finish on the right side of the start/finish line this time I was we could have given the PVA a better result here on the 4th."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Daytona Statistics

AJ only has two starts at the Daytona International Speedway to date. He failed to race his way into the Daytona 500 in his first two years of Cup racing, and in July of 2007 he missed the field due to qualifying being rained out. His hopes for a good race ended early in this race last year, when a tire blew out due to the fact that he was a go-or-go home car and it was an impound race.

However, with the Duel races every February and the additional experience of the Budweiser Shootout this year, he has quite a bit of drafting time on the super speedway. Not only that, but he had a great run in the 2009 Daytona 500 with a career best 3rd place finish. I wouldn't expect great things in qualifying this afternoon, but the car should be good in the pack. And I'm sure AJ is looking forward to another run to the front on the hot and slick track tomorrow night.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Daytona II Preview

AJ Allmendinger returns to Daytona International Speedway for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. In February, Allmendinger became one of the sport's major stories as he used the help of Richard Petty Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson to qualify for the Daytona 500. Three days later he nearly won the sport's biggest race finishing a season-best third. Allmendinger hopes for a little less drama this weekend, but just as good of a finish as he drives the Petty team's No. 44 Paralyzed Veterans of America Dodge.

DAYTONA 500-- "Those days down there in February were torture. I mean it had so many ups and downs I felt like I was on a roller coaster. We finished fifth in the Budweiser Shootout, then we stunk in qualifying, we weren't that good in the 150s and barely made it in the show. Then, we were great in the Daytona 500. It was draining, but we were good when we really needed to be good."

SATURDAY'S RACE-- "I feel better going in to this race than I did the 500. Seriously, a lot of it comes down to luck and the way we've been going lately in the luck department we ought to have something miraculous happen sooner or later. Our cars have been fast but we end up getting caught in somebody else's problems. Saturday night, we will be fast again and if we can avoid whatever happens on the track I'm pretty confident we'll get another good finish."

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN DAYTONA 500 AND THIS RACE-- "That's easy--the heat. Even though it is a night race it will be hot. The track will be slicker. Handling will be even more important. You might not see as big of a pack in the draft as you saw in February. But who knows. We'll just race and try to be there at the end."

* Allmendinger will sign autographs at his merchandise hauler at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Daytona.

* This race marks Allmendinger's 62nd start in Sprint Cup.

* Allmendinger is now a weekly columnist at

* Allmendinger will race chassis 285 on Saturday.

* This race marks the 25th anniversary of Richard Petty's 200th victory. The Paralyzed Veterans of America is running a tribute paint scheme in honor of the anniversary.

Credit: Richard Petty Motorsports

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tuesday Ramble - Loudon Edition

I know it’s Wednesday and not Tuesday, but I don’t want to change the name of my ramble. Month end played havoc with my blogging this week. Better late than never though, I guess.

So this week I think I will lay out my case for why people should get off Joey Logano’s back. I understand that people have personal likes and dislikes about drivers based off of their impression of them. And I’m guessing that is the major reason why people are saying that Joey doesn’t deserve the win that he scored at Loudon on Sunday. Because haven’t Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, and even Dale Earnhardt, Jr. each won fuel mileage races? I don’t remember hearing so much criticism when those guys played the gamble.

Now I know what you are all going to say. It’s different with those guys because they were competitive all race long and with Joey people were more upset because a non-competitive car won the race. But I don’t necessarily agree with that logic. Only one person can win on any given race day – and often it is not the car that dominates the race. In fact, less than half the races this year have been won by the car who led the most laps.

If this is the reason that people are truly upset that Logano won the race on Sunday, then why even bother having those other cars out there? If you only want the competitive cars to win then why not just pick say the top ten cars in qualifying and only they can race on Sunday? But that would be boring! The great thing about NASCAR is that when the green flag waves there are 43 cars that all have the possibility of winning the race, even if it is only a slim possibility.

I have to admire the strategy call by Greg Zipadelli on Sunday, just for the simple fact that it only worked by mere chance. He not only played a fuel mileage game, but he played a fuel mileage game with Mother Nature! Zippy didn’t know when the race was going to end. He had no clue how many laps were going to be left. It could just as easily bitten them in the butt like it did Ryan Newman, but it didn’t. The stars aligned, the angels sang, and the heavens opened up right when they needed it to. How amazing is that?

Of course another reason why people were grumbling was because of Joey’s remarks after the race about how he had a good car, etc. Now this was a guy who got the lucky dog twice, and wouldn’t even have been able to do that if it wasn’t for the wave around provisions for lap cars in the new restart rules. So maybe he was stretching the truth a little bit. But honestly, what’s the kid supposed to say? Yeah, my Home Depot Toyota sucked all day long and I lucked into a win. I don’t think so – it would have been disrespectful to his team.

My husband asked me after the race if I was pissed because all these other guys were winning and AJ wasn’t. I told him no – and I was being honest. Yes, I want AJ to win a race pretty much more than anything in this world! If I wish on a shooting star or when I close my eyes and blow out my birthday candles, that is what I wish for – a win for AJ.

But in realizing that I would be absolutely thrilled if AJ won a race in the same fashion that Joey did, not being just as thrilled for Joey would be hypocritical of me. The fact that someday the stars could align for AJ to put him in Victory Lane is why I keep watching week in and week out. If I knew who was going to win each race, there wouldn’t be any point in tuning in.

There are 42 losers that hang their heads and go home disappointed each weekend, and only one winner. NASCAR is a true team sport, and any member of that team can cost the driver a win. Races can be lost so easily – with a bad pit stop, poor fuel mileage, or even plain old rotten luck. Winning races is much harder to do, yet the 20 team managed it on Sunday. So why can’t we just rejoice in the fact that Greg Zipadelli pulled a rabbit out of a hat and Joey Logano reaped the rewards?