Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Atlanta Race Recap

No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
*AJ Allmendinger started in the 11th position for the 500-mile event at Atlanta Motor Speedway
*Allmendinger took the checkered flag in the 10th position at the 1.54 mile oval in Hampton, Ga.
*Unofficially, Allmendinger sits in 13th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings

Race Summary: Though the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was scheduled to race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday evening, Mother Nature had other plans. After a day and night of intermittent rain showers, NASCAR officials were forced to postpone the AdvoCare 500 until Tuesday morning. AJ Allmendinger lined up in the 11th position for the start of Tuesday’s race, which was red flagged due to rain on one occasion and was plagued by light rain showers throughout.

Allmendinger took the green flag for the start of the race and though he encountered a tight handling Best Buy Ford in the early laps of the event, by the time the first caution flag flew at Lap 13, he had relayed to his crew that the car’s handling was much improved. That early caution enabled Crew Chief Greg Erwin to make a minor chassis adjustment to the Best Buy Ford and Allmendinger restarted in the 21st spot at Lap 17. Just seven laps later, he had maneuvered his way into ninth place.

Erwin concentrated his efforts on making the car turn better during the first 100 laps of the 325-lap race and Allmendinger held down the fifth spot at that 100-lap mark. Allmendinger communicated to his crew shortly thereafter that the No. 43 Ford was not as good as it had been during the last run and a Lap 130 caution flag allowed Erwin to call his driver into the pits for fresh tires and a track bar adjustment. Jockeying for position on the subsequent restart, Allmendinger and a fellow competitor made contact, which resulted in damage to the left front of the car. The Best Buy Ford fell as far back as 18th before a scheduled pit stop gave the crew the opportunity to make repairs to the car. A caution period several laps after the stop gave the Best Buy Racing crew another chance to make repairs and Allmendinger took the green flag for the restart in 28th.

Allmendinger had worked his way up to 23rd before a short rain shower forced NASCAR officials to park the cars on pit road while track drying efforts were underway. The 500-mile event got going again at Lap 220 and Allmendinger used his skills to pick up five positions on the restart. From there, he began to patiently make his way toward the front and held down 13th place with 75 laps remaining in the event. By the time the checkered flag flew, Allmendinger had driven up to the 10th position.

“I felt like we were a solid top five or top six car early in the going and we just got pounded on that restart,” Allmendinger said after the race. “I’m not sure what happened. Clint (Bowyer) just ran into the back of us. I don’t know if I was spinning the tires and he was ready to go or not, but I got hooked and we got door-slammed by somebody and then from there it was just kind of a fight to get back on it. The left side was crushed in, so the guys did a good job of getting the fenders pushed back out. The crush panel in the rear was destroyed. The car wasn’t the same, but to fight back with 100 laps to go being 28th and to get back to 10th, I was impressed with the whole day.”

The result marked Allmendinger’s fourth top-12 finish in the last four events and moved him up one spot, to 13th, in the Sprint Cup Series driver point standings. With one race to go prior to the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Allmendinger still has an outside shot of making the Chase. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver would have to win this weekend’s event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and several other things would need to fall into place, but the possibility for a shot at a run for the championship still exists.

Credit - Richard Petty Motorsports

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