Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kansas Statistics

AJ only has one prior start at the multi-groove Kansas Speedway. Both Red Bull cars missed the race in 2007. However, despite never having turned more than a handful of practice laps on the 1 1/2 mile oval, AJ managed to qualify the #84 Toyota in the 14th position in 2008 and brought it home in a season best 9th place.

For those that may not remember, that outing at Kansas marked AJ's last run with the Jimmy Elledge led Red Bull team after being unceremoniously ousted from the program before season's end. Deciding not to offer AJ a contract for 2009 apparently meant the company wanted to build for the next year with incoming Cup rookie Scott Speed. So despite still having a handful of races scheduled with the team, Red Bull cut AJ from the program altogether and left him standing on the sidelines looking for a ride.

With all of that going on, AJ managed to keep true to his nature and drove his hardest to get his crew the finish they deserved. The 84 team was only 11 points ahead of the top 35 cut off going into the race, and knowing that he was no longer welcome by the company, AJ could have easily sabotaged the team's efforts by dropping the car outside that magical line. Instead, he drove the car up into the top 5 in the beginning laps of the race. Then instead of losing heart after a pit road violation sent him clear back to 29th place, AJ rallied back to a top 10 finish. His efforts put the 84 team up to 33rd place in the owner's points standings and gave them a cushion so AJ's replacement wouldn't have to qualify on time.

Now AJ is heading back to the versatile Kansas track on the heels of a strong 7th place run at Dover. After only logging two top ten finishes with Team Red Bull, the California native is now trying for his fifth top ten of the season with Richard Petty Motorsports, a team with which he has earned four of the five best finishes in his career to date. Look for AJ to be strong this weekend.

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