AJ only has two starts at Talladega Superspeedway prior to this weekend's race. The #84 Red Bull entry did not qualify for either of the 2007 outings, even though AJ was one of the top 10 qualifiers for the fall race that year.
In 2008, the spring Talladega race marked AJ's return to the car after being replaced by Mike Skinner for five races. It also marked the first race with the Silver Red Bull car. And while AJ got a stellar 4th place starting spot, his status as a go or go home driver hurt the team's efforts in the race. With having to qualify on time, the team had a qualifying setup under the car which was not conducive to long runs. The team planned to take the car behind the wall on the first caution to make the 84 entry race ready. Unfortunately, AJ ended up being the first caution as a tire blew and he hit the wall.
Late in 2008 Team Red Bull made the decision to oust AJ from his ride before the end of the season, and with no other ride at the time - AJ was not in a car at all for the fall race. However, that race was the catalyst for at that time Gillett Evernham Motorsports to part ways with driver Patrick Carpentier, and ultimately led to AJ driving Pat's car for the end of the 2008 season after a one race stint in Michael Waltrip Racing's 00 car.
With good runs in the first five races of 2009 putting him solidly in the top 35, AJ had garnered the status as a locked in driver by this year's spring Dega race. AJ qualified at the back of the field in 38th position and was working his way to the front along with his teammates when an early wreck ruined his day. He finished the race in 35th position.
Running in the draft is something that takes experience to be able to do well, and while AJ had a good run at Daytona earlier this year, the four and five wide style of Dega is a whole different animal. With only two races under his belt and both of those ending very early, AJ will have to spend much of this Sunday's race getting comfortable in the draft and finding some friends to work with at the end.
Did Not Qualify
Did Not Qualify
Started 4th, Finished 30th
Did Not Race
Started 38th, Finished 35th