AJ ALLMENDINGER - No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
Between taking to the dirt with Marcus Gronholm's Best Buy Ford Fiesta and making a visit to a Best Buy store ahead of the race weekend, it was a very busy few days for AJ Allmendinger as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series headed west to AJ's home state for the Auto Club 400 in Fontana.
After kicking off with a visit to Best Buy in Downey, California (store #1672), Allmendinger headed to his first track of the race weekend to get acquainted with the 650+ HP Best Buy Ford Fiesta that he was set to drive as part of the first-ever Global Rallycross event just down the road from Auto Club Speedway. Turns out that the same car AJ drove--the huge horsepower Ford Fiesta adorned with Best Buy livery--went on to win the event as multiple world rally champion Marcus Gronholm dominated the weekend.
On the Cup side, the weekend didn't get get off to the start that AJ had been hoping for. While a rough ride was to be expected in the rally car, the way the Best Buy Ford Fusion was handling the bumps on the 2.0-mile Auto Club Speedway wasn't making for ideal lap times, with qualifying producing a spot on the tenth row.
Despite a lot of brainstorming and tweaks, the car was still "loose in and tight off" at race time on a track that sees the drivers carry a whole lot of throttle and suitcases full of commitment into every corner. More pit-stop changes saw the car coming around a little bit, but still didn't have the pace to fight forward, with the No. 43 seeming to be stuck at 23 on the charts lap after lap. Not a group to panic, Allmendinger and Shiplett kept their heads down as the 43 fought to stay in the lead lap pack.
With one final yellow flag on the 186th lap, there was the chance to make one more set of changes, and score another round of rubber. That seemed to do the trick as Allmendinger made the most of the closing laps to nab 14th at the finish as he picked up one spot on every lap in the final eight trips around the 2.0-mile circuit. Turns out he just needed 14 more laps…
"That was quite a weekend!" said AJ. "I'll admit, was pretty frustrated with our pace through most of the weekend. No matter what we tried, we just didn't get the car as quick as we needed to. But I'm proud of how we just kept fighting and to come out of here with a top fifteen is not bad. It's not what we wanted out of the weekend but if we have an off weekend and still score those kinds of points, that will be huge in the long run. It was a lot of fun to run the Best Buy rally car and congrats to Marcus on his wins this weekend."
The effort didn't just score rewards for AJ with some decent points, as it also netted some $5,000 to the Paralyzed Veterans of America as Allmendinger won the "Sprint Bragging Rights" by finishing ahead of fellow Californian Casey Mears.
"I'm also really happy to get the chance to help the Paralyzed Veterans out with this award--they were on board with us at the Rolex 24 and we are looking forward to having them with us on the 43 again at Daytona this summer so it was great to win the Bragging Rights and it was another positive thing to come out of a weekend that didn't start the way we were hoping. Richard Petty has got some good cars for the short track package and I'm already looking forward to next weekend."
From the high-speed wide open spaces of "Fontana," it will be time for one grove, glowing brake disks, and some rough and tumble closed quarters racing on NASCAR's original track as the series heads to Martinsville next weekend.
AJ was 15th on the grid with a 12th place finish at the fall Martinsville race last season.
Credit - Walldinger Racing, Inc. PR