No. 43 U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion
• AJ Allmendinger started on the front row in the 2nd position at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday night
• Allmendinger wheeled his way to a fifth-place finishing position
• Unofficially, Allmendinger sits in 13th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings
Race Summary: AJ Allmendinger lined up on the front row for the second consecutive points race on Sunday evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway and made it clear early on that he was going to be a force with which to be reckoned.
Early in the 600-mile event, Allmendinger communicated to Crew Chief Mike Shiplett that the car was a little tight. The first pit stop of the night came at Lap 44 and quick pit work and a fast car enabled Allmendinger to take the lead at Lap 48 and hold onto it for the next four laps. The U.S. Air Force Ford Fusion remained on the tight side, so Shiplett called for air pressure and chassis adjustments during a stop under caution at Lap 71. There were several different tire strategies occurring throughout the field for most of the night and after settling in behind those teams who took just two tires, Allmendinger lined up for the restart in seventh.
As the 1.5-mile track became shaded, the No. 43 entry became tighter. Despite that, Allmendinger was able to hold on to a position inside the top 10 for much of the event. At the halfway point, the California native held down the fourth spot.
A caution flag at Lap 233 set off another round of pit stops. Several cars chose to stay on the track and after taking on only right side tires, the U.S. Air Force Ford lined up for the Lap 238 restart in the 12th position.
Mired back in traffic, Allmendinger found that his car was much too tight, but he held on to a position inside the top 10. A caution flag flew just after the No. 43 team had performed a four-tire stop at Lap 280, but before the entire field had stopped. Like many competitors, the No. 43 team chose to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap and lined up in the 18th spot for the restart at Lap 287.
Allmendinger was running 10th with just under 100 laps remaining in the marathon event. By staying out during a Lap 303 caution period, Allmendinger made his way into the fourth position for the Lap 311 green flag. The team was forced to give up track position and pit for four tires, fuel and a slight chassis adjustment to keep up with the changing track, and at Lap 323, held down 17th.
Allmendinger remained patient in traffic and slowly but surely began to make his way back toward the front of the field, all the while working to save fuel so the team could make it to the end of the race without having to make a late pit stop. When the engine of the No. 48 car expired with four laps remaining in the event and brought out the caution flag, Shiplett called his driver into his pit stall for right side tires and a splash of fuel. Several competitors opted to take their chances and when the green flag flew for a green-white-checkered-flag finish, one by one, those cars that stayed out began to run out of fuel. Managing to avoid hitting any of the cars slowing on track, Allmendinger drove to the finish line for a fifth-place finish. It was the team’s first Top-five effort of the season.
After posting his first Top-five and third Top-10 finish of the 2011 campaign, Allmendinger gained three positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings. He now sits in 13th place heading into Kansas Speedway next weekend.
For his part in the Top-five finish, Mike Shiplett was awarded the DIRECTV crew chief of the race award.
Allmendinger’s Thoughts: Our fuel mileage wasn’t that good, so that whole last run we were saving. It was funny because the fuel numbers kept changing because we were 10 laps short, then we were two laps short, and then we were gonna run out coming to the checkered. At that point, I was happy when it stayed green and made it on fuel, and then on that last restart we came in and were just hanging out that point. You just hope you don’t get into guys that run out of fuel. I had a great restart and split the middle. The 31 just completely ran out and the 99 got into him. I checked up and it was pretty insane. You were just hoping two or three more laps would be run at that point, but a top five is way better than we’ve been on a mile-and-a-half all year. The U.S Air Force Ford was quick all day. Track position was so key. We showed once we got up there and ran second or third that nobody could run with us, except the 9 and the 99, so we’ll take it.”
Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports PR