Thursday, November 1, 2012

Texas II Race Preview

This Sunday at Texas will mark AJ Allmendinger's 4th and final start of the year for Phoenix Racing. So far bad luck has bitten the driver of the #51 machine in all three of his races with the team. At Charlotte a pit road incident put him two laps down and took him out of contention for an almost guaranteed top-20 finish. At the Kansas race AJ was running in 6th place when a tire blew early in the race, leaving the team with a 35th place finish for the day. Then at Martinsville an accordian-style pileup in one of the corners led to AJ getting hit in the back and NASCAR ordered him to pit road to fix the rear bumper bar. Stuck two laps down once again the Phoenix team had to settle for 28th place.

This weekend will be AJ's 10th visit to the Texas Motor Speedway. He has two top-10s to his credit at the fast 1.5 mile track with an average start of 18th and an average finish of 20th. Here is the schedule for the race weekend:

Friday, November 2
12:30 - 2:00pm/et NSCS Practice (SPEED)
4:40 pm/et NSCS Qualifying (ESPN2)
Saturday, November 3
3:00 - 3:50 pm/et NSCS Practice (SPEED)
5:45 - 6:45pm/et NSCS Final Practice (SPEED)
Sunday, November 4
3:00pm/et NSCS AAA Texas 500 (ESPN)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Martinsville II Qualifying Quotes

AJ Allmendinger, No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
Qualified 26th

ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN: “We struggled today a little bit. The whole day has been kind of messed up. We have really been struggling with some brake trouble. The guys are working hard. I think in race trim, it’s not as bad as the outright speed in qualifying trim. We’ll just keep working hard. We’ve got two practices tomorrow. I started 29th here in the first race here and finished second so we will be alright and good to go.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Martinsville II Race Preview

Despite the fact that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be back in his #88 Hendrick Motorsports ride this weekend which once again leaves Regan Smith available, AJ Allmendinger got the call to get behind the wheel of the #51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet this Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. The final decision was announced Tuesday morning so the team could prepare their car for this weekend's short track event.

AJ's last run at Martinsville was a huge success with his career best finish of 2nd place after a late race wreck jumbled up the front half of the field. When the race restarted for the final time AJ had the opportunity to try the short track bump and run on leader Ryan Newman in order to win, but chose to race him cleanly. A lot of people felt like AJ should have done anything to get his first win, but AJ went on record as saying that he would rather take a clean 2nd place finish.

This will be AJ's 3rd race with Phoenix Racing. So far he has finished 24th and 35th at Charlotte and Kansas respectively, but he ran better than he finished at both tracks. Let's hope that this Sunday ends that streak and the team is fortunate enough to get the good finish that they're capable of.

Weekend Schedule:
Friday, October 26
12:00 - 1:30 pm NSCS practice (SPEED Channel)
3:40 pm NSCS Qualifying (SPEED Channel)

Saturday, October 27
9:30 - 10:25 am NSCS practice (SPEED Channel)
12:00 - 12:55 pm NSCS practice (SPEED Channel)
Sunday, October 28
11:30 am Drivers' Meeting
1:00 pm Driver introductions
1:30 pm NSCS TUMS Fast Relief 500 race (ESPN)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kansas II Race Recap


AJ Allmendinger’s weekend in Kansas started early as the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams came to town for testing on Wednesday and Thursday prior to the official race event. Driving for the Phoenix Racing team in the #51 Chevrolet, AJ started off quick by posting 13th and 15th on the board in the two test sessions.
 
The #51 Phoenix Racing Chevy continued to be fast as the race weekend officially started with a 9th place run in the 1st practice followed by a qualifying effort of 13th. Saturday was a continuation of the strong runs with a 9th place and 14th place in the two practice sessions.
 
With AJ being in the top 15 in every practice and test session at Kansas, expectations were high for Sunday’s race. And AJ delivered as he started 13th and did nothing but march forward throughout the early laps of the race. By lap 40 AJ had cracked the top 10, and just 7 laps later he was up to 5th position. He then slid back to 6th place and settled in that spot for 20 more laps before a blown right front tire ended his race.
 
After being released from the care center AJ talked to the media about the wreck and what it has been like driving for James Finch and Phoenix Racing.

AJ Allmendinger, No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
Finished 35th

YOU SAID YOU FELT IT COMING, WHAT HAPPENED?
“It was getting tight the last couple of laps, but I just thought that was how the race track was going. I had that for the first run. Then I went in turn one, and felt it get really tight. I actually radioed in and said ‘I’m pitting this lap’. I tried to checkup down the back straightaway and try to save it and make sure it didn’t blow. Unfortunately it did. I just feel bad for everybody at Phoenix Racing. James Finch; Hendrick horsepower. The car was really fast. We were running so well. I thought we could have an easy top-10, if not a top-five. Just so disappointed. These guys work so hard. This small group of guys, they’ve been through so much this year. They work their butts off. I really enjoyed it. I hope I’m in the car next week. I don’t know, but if not, James Finch, everybody at Chevy, Hendrick giving me this opportunity. It has meant the world to get back in this sport. I love this sport, and I hope I’m back next week. But if not, I thank James, Steve Barkdoll and everybody for what they’ve done.”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kansas II Qualifying Report

AJ Allmendinger, NO. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet
Qualified 13th

HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING LAP?
“It was pretty good. This place is really fast right now so when you are in practice you kind of get that rhythm of going out there. We have been fighting just a little bit tight in practice. I got down into (turns) one and two and got right along the (white) line and it just got me a little free so I had to pedal it just for a second. When the speeds are this high if you pedal it just a little bit you lose a little bit of time. I’m happy overall so far - the whole week has been really good. As a driver you always want a little bit more, but that should I think keep us right inside the top-15 which will be good for us and we will try to get it good for 400 miles.”

HOW DO YOU THINK YOU CAR IS GOING TO BE FOR SUNDAY?
“I think it’s got out right speed so far the whole weekend. I think the speed is there, but the biggest thing is the fact that as you keep going out there on tires you keep getting quicker. Nobody has really gone out there on new tires and just run a ton. I think we will be alright. We definitely have good speed and track position is going to be everything so it’s the way that is going to play out. All of us have to be smart and not make any mistakes. I think if we can do that we can have a solid top 15 if not better on Sunday.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kansas II Race Preview


This Sunday at Kansas Speedway will mark AJ Allmendinger’s 2nd start in the NASCAR Cup series after being reinstated by the sanctioning body in September. It will also be his 2nd start in the #51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet owned by James Finch.
 
Last Saturday night at Charlotte AJ was able to garner a 24th place finish for the Phoenix Racing team even after having to serve a penalty under green flag conditions for an uncontrolled tire during the prior pit stop. But most importantly, AJ finished the race with the car intact and had a solid top-20 run going before having to serve the pass-thru penalty.
 
The hopes and expectations for Sunday’s race in the Kansas heartland are much the same as they were last Saturday night. For AJ to get as much speed as he can out of the #51 machine while making sure to finish every lap of the race. The team and driver have much to learn about each other, but fortunately have two extra days to work together prior to this weekend’s racing event. Due to the reconfiguration of the race track, NASCAR is allowing the Spring Cup teams to get some extra practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
 
AJ is no stranger to finding speed at the Kansas racetrack. In April of this year he sat on the pole and led the first 44 laps while driving the #22 for Penske Racing. A fuel injection problem brought an end to the dominant performance in the early part of the race, however. Prior to the 2012 Spring race AJ’s best finish was 9th at the track.
 
Phoenix Racing had a good showing at Kansas in April also. Kurt Busch qualified the #51 Chevy 14th on the grid and brought it home in 17th place. The reconfiguration of the track will be new for all the drivers and should even the playing field. With two extra days of practice there are high hopes that the Phoenix Racing team will have another successful outing with AJ behind the wheel.
 
Testing runs from 2-6pm/et on Wednesday and 9:30-12:30pm/et on Thursday. The weekend events start at 12:30pm/et on Friday with the first scheduled practice. Qualifying coverage will start at 5:00pm/et on ESPN2. There are two rounds of practice scheduled for Saturday: 11:00-11:50am/et and 1:50-2:50pm/et. The race will be broadcast on ESPN with pre-race ceremonies starting at 2:00pm/et on Sunday.


Photo courtesy @PhoenixRacing51
 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Charlotte II Race Recap

AJ Allmendinger was back in NASCAR Sprint Cup action this weekend, making his first Cup start since June. Returning to work after completing the NASCAR Road To Recovery program, Allmendinger joined Phoenix Racing in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.

After the team rallied to make last minute adjustments and outfit the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet to fit the new driver, Allmendinger was back in the swing of things as he showed encouraging pace in the opening practice sessions.

While his enthusiasm for entry speed cost him on his Thursday night qualifying run and he had to settle for 38th on the grid, Allmendinger knew he had a solid car underneath him. With 500 miles to run and a clear focus on just getting the most out of the weekend, Allmendinger approached the Bank of America 500 as a chance to get back into the grove over the course of a long race on his adopted home track.

After starting 38th, Allmendinger quickly worked his way up to the mid-twenties, staying on the lead lap with his Smiley-Faced Phoenix Construction Chevrolet deep into the night. A late-race pit road procedural penalty saw him losing time to the leaders as he had to make the long, slow way down pit lane at a crawling penalty pace before returning to the pack at full speed.

But despite all the variables that come with working with a new car, a new crew chief, and a whole lot of new faces, Allmendinger focused on his job to bring the Phoenix Construction car home in 24th place.

"It was great to get back into a Cup car, and I just want to thank James Finch and everyone at Phoenix Racing for giving me this opportunity--I'm really grateful," said Allmendinger. "I was hoping I could have repaid that favor with a little bit stronger finish. But it was great to get back in the car and compete again. It was a solid weekend all around despite everything coming together so quickly. I want to also thank everyone who has been so supportive through this entire process. It meant a lot, and now we are all focused on building on this and looking forward to whatever comes next."

Credit - www.ajallmendinger.com

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's Up With Society These Days?


Over the last month and a half I’ve grown more and more frustrated and disheartened by the ethics and scruples of the world of journalism. And also by the lack of empathy that people seem to have for their fellow human beings. During this time I’ve told myself repeatedly that it’s just a result of how much our society has become desensitized to the hardships that each of us faces in life. But that’s really just a nice way to say that society is spawning a bunch of jerks these days.

I would really like to rant and rave against all of these people. To ask the general public why they’re so quick to believe the negative about a person instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt. To ask how they can pass judgment on someone when they have no idea what it’s like to walk in that person’s shoes. And why they want to kick people when they’re down instead of extending a hand to help them back up.

I’d also like to remind a few journalists of a little something called a professional code of ethics, which calls for accuracy and factual reporting. And ask them whatever came of harm limitation principles that advise journalists to show compassion for those who may be adversely affected by their reports. Those same principles also encourage media members to show good taste in their articles and avoid pandering to lurid curiosity. When did those codes of conduct go out the window?

Mostly I have just been disappointed with the reactions people have had. I honestly thought that people would at least give some encouragement to AJ for trying to make the best of a bad situation and learning something from it instead of everyone just focusing on the details of what happened. Since when is making a stupid mistake not worthy of showing someone compassion? I don’t know – maybe it’s just me who is living in an era that doesn’t exist anymore. Or maybe I just don’t have it in me to be that negative of a person.

The biggest thing that hit me in this entire situation was when Jeff Gluck said he felt sorry for AJ fans. That was really surprising to me and instantly made me mad because I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I really don’t have anything to feel sorry about. Am I sad that I can’t watch AJ race at the moment? Yeah, I am. But I’m mostly sad about that because I know how much AJ wants to be racing and not because I’m out anything.

I don’t feel sorry for myself because I still have someone to root for – AJ! I’m not cheering for him to drive fast in a circle, I’m cheering for him to find some balance in his life and to be happy again. I’m rooting for him to pick himself up and dust off his britches. I’d love to see him make a comeback in NASCAR, but even if it never happens I’ll still be on the sidelines cheering for him in his life. And I truly think the people Jeff Gluck should feel sorry for are the ones who seem to take such glee in other people’s misfortune.

I understand why people don’t believe AJ. I could try and convince everyone that AJ is being honest. I have been lucky enough to make a lot of contacts in the NASCAR world, and especially among those people who know AJ personally. Friends, family, media members, crew guys, sponsor reps, PR people. People who either know the sport or who know AJ inside and out. I could share all the things that those “credible sources” have told me and try to make everyone just as certain as I am that AJ’s being completely truthful. But why bother?

The bottom line is that people are going to believe whatever they want to believe. If you think AJ is lying then you can come up with a dozen “sources” to back up that fact. And if you think AJ is telling the truth then you can come up with just as many “sources” to back that up, too. It all comes down to a basic opinion – you either believe AJ or you don’t. I could talk until I’m blue in the face and it won’t change that basic opinion. Yeah, maybe I’ll make a point or two that could make you think about whether your opinion is the right one. I might even sway one or two people into changing their minds, but to be honest it just isn’t worth the aggravation to me to try and defend my opinion.

Which is the exact same reason why it isn’t worth it for AJ to try and convince people he’s being honest. He has stated his version of what happened – there’s no amount of additional information that will change that. Right now he doesn’t need the distraction of getting into a debate over it. He needs to focus on completing his Road to Recovery program, getting reinstated by NASCAR, finding a job and a sponsor, and oh yeah – that simple little project he’s trying to undertake of turning his life around!

Come on people – what’s really important right now? Is it satisfying your curiosity over all the little details of what happened during this one instance of someone else’s life, or is it more important to show some support to a fellow human being who, no matter what those circumstances were, is trying to face the monumental task of dealing with his own personal issues? I just don’t understand society’s need to rehash everything out there that is negative and their unwillingness to just let it go and realize that sometimes things are just what they seem.

Oh yes, I’ve heard all the arguments against AJ, but most of them boil down to this basic sentiment: “AJ’s story doesn’t sound believable. He sounds just like every drug addict out there who says it was just a one time thing.” And I will grant you that argument – the story doesn’t sound believable. And it does sound just like what a drug addict would say. But doesn’t it also sound like something that a person would say if they really did just naively take a pill one time and then randomly got pulled for a drug test the next day?

The bottom line is that you either believe AJ or you don’t – all I’m asking is for people to look carefully into why they don’t believe him. And realize that in the end, it truly doesn’t matter whether he is telling the truth or lying. Right now what’s important is that AJ is trying to get his life back in focus and doesn’t need the constant distraction of sensational journalists yapping at his heels. I don’t buy into this whole “the other side of the story needs told.” No, it doesn’t. Because there is no “other side” to the story – AJ’s side is the only one there is. Now if there was irrefutable proof that AJ was lying, then maybe I’d agree that it needed told. But the only person who knows 100% what happened is AJ and he’s already told his story. No amount of continued speculation either for or against him can prove anything. Let it be done so the guy can work on getting his priorities straight.

I’ve made it known that I believe AJ completely, but I’ve never said why. And I’m not going to because I don’t need to defend my belief and it sure isn’t my job to defend AJ. People have called me na├»ve, stupid, illogical, even an enabler because I think AJ is telling the truth. But trust me, I am none of those things. I am a highly intelligent, very analytical, and for the most part a very skeptical person. I have spent my entire life and even made a career out of picking apart every bit of data that I can find and scrutinizing it. So you either believe that through my contacts I have enough information to make an informed decision and that I’ve looked into every possibility before forming my opinion. Or you don’t. But either way – I think people should at the very least try to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Instead of kicking him when he’s down, try wishing AJ the best of luck in attempting to get his life back in order.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Petition to NASCAR - A Plea for Leniency

*Edited for clarification: This petition is not to debate AJ's guilt or innocence before NASCAR. It is directed towards whoever determines the "Road to Recovery" steps (aka AJ's punishment) that he needs to take in order to get reinstated. This petition isn't for NASCAR to circumvent the rules but for them to take the circumstances of the case into consideration before sentencing AJ's career to certain death. The bottom line of the matter is that NASCAR needs AJ in the sport.*

***************

To Whom it May Concern in NASCAR:

As fans of AJ Allmendinger we want you to consider your actions carefully when examining all the information that will be revealed after AJ's "B" sample test results come back. Whatever the circumstances are, please keep in mind the spirit of the rule which you are enforcing. The substance abuse policy was set forth as a safety standard and needs to be implemented as such. When you start looking at the HUGE gray area of supplements, energy drinks, and other unregulated herbal remedies you can't just force things into being black and white.

Before deciding on AJ's punishment, remember what keeps NASCAR alive - the fans. Without fans there is no reason to continue putting on these races every weekend. You want to know what fans are missing and why they don't enjoy NASCAR as much anymore? NASCAR fans are looking for heart. They want to see drivers with emotions and passion and true heart - AJ Allmendinger has that. If he isn't racing in NASCAR it is a huge loss to your association.

AJ needs to be reinstated as soon as possible. No matter what his "B" test results are, we will continue to believe that this entire situation was without any intent on his part to subvert the rules - even worst case scenario it was no more than a lapse in due diligence on his part. AJ deserves no more punishment than the three weeks he has already been suspended and the points he has lost. Please reinstate him immediately.


Sincerely,

AJ Allmendinger fans

(If you agree with this petition, please state your name and where you're from. Feel free to add what makes you an AJ fan and what it would mean for you to not have him in NASCAR.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Guest Article by Jason Nance

It is time for NASCAR to provide additional information about its drug testing process to protect drivers, sponsors, and most importantly, its integrity to the sports fans who support NASCAR. During the last positive drug test, AJ Allmendinger tested slightly positive for an amphetamine, a stimulant that can be found in both legal and illegal compounds. There have been references made by Dr. Howard Greller on Sirius NASCAR about a ingredient within Fuel in a Bottle, an energy drink endorsed by AJ Allmendinger. NASCAR needs to ensure corporate sponsors and fans that each driver is treated fairly based on each situation that arises, in this case, it just happens to be a positive drug test.

In a audio interview with Sirius NASCAR, Dr. Howard Greller, Board Certified in Medical Toxicology, references an amino acid found within Fuel in a Bottle (1). L-phenylalanine, a building block of protein has a similar backbone structure of an amphetamine molecule. The first drug test looks for a broad base of chemicals and does not narrow in on a specific drug. The initial drug test showed AJ Allmendinger tested slightly above average in the amphetamine category.

Based on the initial drug test finding, NASCAR’s Medical Review Officer, Dr. Aukerman, found enough reason to suspend AJ Allmendinger. NASCAR has not released any information on why this step was taken. The lack of transparency has clouded the view of NASCAR for drivers and fans alike. If NASCAR could take this step with AJ Allmendinger over a possible energy drink, what could happen to other drivers in future testing? Another sponsor in NASCAR, 5 Hour Energy (2), also contains phenylalanine. Is NASCAR working with AEGIS labs to test out the impact on phenylalanine within its drug policy? This information needs to be released to other drivers so future mistakes around supplements can be prevented. Furthermore, these results can prove AJ Allmendinger’s innocence or guilt.

Under NASCAR’s current drug policy, if sample B comes back positive, the affected driver will be indefinitely suspended. In AJ Allmendinger’s case, if Fuel in the Bottle (3), a product AJ endorsed, helped the 155 pound athlete fail the initial test, why should the suspension be upheld? What drug  rehab is needed for a NASCAR driver drinking a supplement that he endorsed to help pay his bills? Furthermore, Dr. Black has been quoted with saying ‘Typically we (driver) talk once, and when they (driver) realize how hard the road is going to be, they give up’. NASCAR does not release this drug rehab plan to the public either, so the affected driver could be thrown under the bus by the sport he or she drove in to make a living.

NASCAR needs to publicly release information following the second drug test that confirms:
* If AJ Allmendinger tested positive for L-phenylalanine and if so, immediately reinstate him
* Update the drug policy to ban drivers, crew members, and spotters from taking energy drinks / shots

NASCAR’s reputation is on the line with AJ Allmendinger. Its decision will not only impact AJ’s career, but will impact corporate sponsors and drivers to change their investments and behavior. If its confirmed that AJ Allmendinger tested positive for L-phenylalanine, NASCAR should immediately reinstate him and make public all of the information surrounding his case to other NASCAR drivers. If not, NASCAR should assign the proper punishment.

Science proves that the the second sample B will come back positive. But will NASCAR use the same science to prove one of its own drivers innocence?

Sources:
1) Sirius XM NASCAR, http://bit.ly/PWiwqR
2) http://www.5hourenergy.com/ingredients.asp#phenyl
3) http://fuelinabottle.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/FIAB-ingredients.pdf

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Will NASCAR's Integrity Be Tested by Allmendinger Decision?

I don’t want to debate whether AJ Allmendinger is ‘guilty’ or not – that’s not my call. No one has all the facts of the case right at the moment, or knows the context of the information we have been given. And maybe I’m in the minority of AJ fans, but I think NASCAR is going through the process appropriately. This article is not intended as a criticism of anything that has happened to date.

This article is about the future, because NASCAR’s sanctioning body will soon make a judgment call that will set a precedent for any offenses against the substance abuse policy; a precedent that will have to remain consistent throughout their enforcement of the policy if they want to maintain their integrity. NASCAR drivers are watching and waiting. Team owners are doing the same. Sponsors, officials,  and crew members are all hanging in suspense to see what happens next to driver AJ Allmendinger.

Speculation is rampant on social media sites that the cause of AJ’s positive test for stimulants was due to either a supplement or energy drink that he uses as part of his normal regimen of training. If that’s the case, many drivers and crew members who fall under the random substance abuse testing of NASCAR probably consider themselves lucky not to be in the same boat as AJ, since supplements and energy drinks are a staple for most athletes. And it seems that no one, not even AJ, knows for certain why his levels tested “slightly above the threshold” as stated by his business manager.

At this stage in the process, it now falls on toxicology experts to determine the precise cause of AJ’s positive test. If it can somehow be proven that the positive occurred because of a mis-dosage on an over the counter supplement or energy drink, it’s going to be up to NASCAR to determine AJ’s punishment. That’s a big decision. That’s when the NASCAR brass will have to determine if they’re going to follow the spirit in which the rule was implemented, or if they’re going to take a hard line no matter what the extenuating circumstances are.

When NASCAR’s current substance abuse policy went into effect in 2009, the purpose was to protect the safety and well-being of the competitors, officials, and spectators. That’s a noble effort for which NASCAR should be applauded, and I won’t ever argue against the intent of their policy. Safety should be one of their top priorities. But is safety an issue in this particular case? Is AJ deserving of an extended suspension and rehab for possibly drinking one too many energy drinks?

That's the kind of decision NASCAR is facing. When all the facts of AJ’s positive test come to light, how is NASCAR going to determine the scope of his punishment? Do they take into account whether or not there was intent on his part? When they’re determining the threshold for what’s allowable under their policy, do they make adjustments for differing heights and weights for each driver? And how do you examine whether or not there is misusage on an over the counter product when that product is more than likely not even covered by FDA standards?

It seems to me that there are going to be a lot more questions than answers, even after the toxicology reports come back on AJ’s ‘B’ sample test. NASCAR’s integrity may come into question, not about the process in which the drug policy was implemented, but about whether or not the punishment is fitting to the crime. Will NASCAR follow the spirit of the rule, or do they take an extremely blurry gray line and try to make it black and white? That’s the answer that everyone seems to be waiting for.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Updated Statement from AJ's Business Manager

Charlotte, NC (July 11, 2012) “In an effort to help our colleagues in the media report on this in a timely and accurate manner, we wanted to provide some additional details regarding AJ’s sample “A” test results. AJ tested positive for a stimulant. He has no idea why the first test was positive, and he has never knowingly taken any prohibited substance. AJ is collecting his medicines and supplements for testing to determine whether an over the counter product caused his positive test. AJ and all of us at Walldinger Racing respect NASCAR's testing program, and he has requested that his "B" sample be tested as part of the process of getting to the bottom of this. We will have the opportunity to review all of the scientific data surrounding the test following the "B" sample test, but our understanding is that AJ's test was slightly above the threshold. As of this morning, we have not been given notice of when the testing of the “B” sample will take place. Thanks again for all of the support of our fans, team, and sponsors as we continue working through the process.”

-Tara Ragan, Vice President, Walldinger Racing Inc.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

AJ's Statement

Statement from AJ Allmendinger:

Charlotte, NC (July 10, 2012) "I have informed NASCAR that I have requested that the "B" sample be tested, following the steps according to NASCAR’s 2012 rule book regarding this situation. I fully respect NASCAR's drug usage policy and the reasons they have it. I am hoping this can get resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get back to driving the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge. I am sorry that this has caused such a distraction for my Penske Racing team, our sponsors and fans. Obviously I would never do anything to jeopardize my opportunity here at Penske Racing or to my fellow drivers. I am very conscious about my training and health and would never knowingly take a prohibited drug."

Credit - Walldinger Racing PR

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Daytona II Race Preview

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger enters Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 hoping for a problem-free restrictor-plate race. Saturday’s battle under the lights at Daytona International Speedway marks the third plate race of the 2012 season and Dinger has seen strength in his team’s plate racing program.

“We’ve had some incredibly fast race cars in the plate races this season, but we just don’t have the good finishes to match the strength we’ve shown,” said Allmendinger, who’ll be making his ninth career Daytona Cup start this weekend. “If we can just get through the whole race without the problems, there’s no reason we can’t come out of there with a great finish and have a legitimate shot at the win.

“We started off Speed Weeks at Daytona with a bang in winning the Rolex 24 with Michael Shank Racing and hoped to kick off our new Sprint Cup deal with a lot of success,” Dinger said. “We had a good run going in the Shootout, got caught up in the last big crash and still finished 12th. We were like 18th in qualifying and pretty solid with an eighth in our qualifying race.

“In the Daytona 500, we started 15th and had a really strong Shell-Pennzoil Dodge, but never had the opportunity to show it,” Dinger said. “We were only 15 laps into the race and hit pit road for what was supposed to be a fuel-only pit stop. Here comes the 39 car (Ryan Newman) out of his pit, loses a wheel and stops right in front of me. I had nowhere to go and hit him from the rear.

“So we’re only 15 laps into the Daytona 500 and our day was pretty much done. We had to hit the garage and get the radiator replaced. It was just a matter of getting back out there and logging laps after that.

For the record, Dinger was listed as finishing 34th in the season-opening Daytona 500, completing 177 of the 202 laps. In the most recent plate race, the May Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, Allmendinger started from the outside pole and was credited with a 15th-place finish.

“We had a heck of a qualifying run at Talladega with our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge,” said Allmendinger. “We ran in the top 10 all race long and had a good shot at winning until a restart with only a few laps to go. We were going for the same space as the 11 car was and it caused the final caution of the race. My guys did just an unbelievable job in patching our car up. It was quite incredible that we were able to come out of there with a 15th-place finish.”

“I am really looking forward to this weekend’s race at Daytona,” said crew chief Todd Gordon. “Like Talladega, this will be another impound race and I think that helps us. We just need to finally have an incident-free race day at the track.

“Sure, there’s a lot of difference between the two tracks – Talladega is bigger and wider and it’s more about the sheer speed,” said Gordon. “But it’s still all about putting a whole race together. All the plate races are big crap shoots. First, you have to have a day with no mechanical issues. Then, you have to be able to steer clear of the wrecks and be around for the finish.

“If you can accomplish that, you have a chance to win a race on the plate tracks,” Gordon said. “That’s what we are looking for this weekend at Daytona. AJ has shown tremendous focus and a great level of patience that has been really impressive. If we can have a problem-free race there on Saturday, we have as good of shot at winning as any team out there.”

Allmendinger’s third-place finish in the 2009 Daytona 500 rates as his best result to date in eight career points races on the 2.5-mile track (four starts in the Daytona 500 and four starts in the July Coke Zero 400). Overall, Dinger has one top-five finish and two top-10s at Daytona. He has a 17.2 average start and a 23.1 average finish and has been running at the finish in every race. He has a 91.1 percent (1,301 of 1,428) lap completion average.

In 16 career plate races, Dinger has one top-five finish and two top-10s. He has a 19.1 average start and a 24.5 average finish. He has a 95.5 percent (2,789 of 2,951) lap completion average in plate racing, even with two DNFs.

Dinger started ninth and drove to a 10th-place finish in last year’s Coke Zero 400. “It was a pretty solid run for us there last July,” Allmendinger said. “We had a good run going with my teammate (Marcos Ambrose), but we lost the draft at the end of the race. By the time we got hooked back up, everybody was already gone. We were able to bull our way through the crash at the end and came out with a 10th for the night.”

Allmendinger and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be racing their “PRS-642” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Daytona. The team brought this car out during Daytona Speed Weeks back in February. Dinger started 10th and finished eighth driving this chassis in the first Gatorade Duel qualifying race. He started 15th in the Daytona 500 and finished 34th after a run-in on pit road relegated the team to the garage area to replace the radiator. The team last raced this car at Talladega back in May. Dinger qualified it on the outside pole and finished 15th after getting involved in a late-race skirmish. The team will have their “PRS-626” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger on hand as their backup car.

This weekend’s Daytona International Speedway action gets under way on Thursday with practice set from 4:00 p.m. till 5:20 p.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 6:35 p.m. till 8:00 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Friday at 4:10 p.m. (live on Speed-TV & MRN Radio). Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 (160 Laps, 200 Miles) is scheduled to get the green flag just after 7:30 p.m. EDT. Race No. 18 of 36 points-paying events on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Kentucky Race Recap

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger finished ninth in tonight’s Quaker State 400 here at Kentucky Speedway, marking his second top-10 finish in as many weeks. The Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 team is hoping they have turned the corner in finding the consistency they have lacked so far during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

“I was happy with the way most of the day went, especially around here because I haven’t been good around here,” Allmendinger said after the race. “A lot of the credit goes to Brad (teammate Brad Keselowski) in helping me out. He’s obviously really good (smiles). It’s good for the team to get another win.

“We’ve got to learn how to keep up with the race track,” Dinger added. “Obviously we show we got speed. We just got to be able to keep up better, whether that’s better info or whatever we need to do. We just kind of lack that in that area right now. We get better at that we got the speed obviously. We’ll hopefully keep getting better.”

Allmendinger started tonight’s race from the 16th position and immediately charged forward. He moved up to 13th on the first lap and was into the top-10 on Lap 4. Saying that his car was “just a little tight,” AJ powered around Kevin Harvick for ninth on Lap 15 and he passed Ryan Newman for eighth on Lap 25.

The first caution of the race came out on Lap 42 for Scott Riggs’ blown engine. Dinger was called down pit road for four tires and fuel, with no adjustments. He maintained the eighth position for the Lap 48 restart.

Allmendinger cleared Greg Biffle for seventh and continued a consistent pace through the first round of green-flag pit stops, which began on Lap 91. The Shell-Pennzoil Dodge hit pit road on Lap 95. The crew went with four tires, fuel and a half-round wedge adjustment.

When the stops had cycled around on Lap 100, AJ held the sixth spot. Kyle Busch was the leader, with Keselowski second, Jimmie Johnson third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Biffle rounded out the top-10 drivers at that point in the race.

Allmendinger reported that his Dodge continued to be a little tight as the second caution of the night flew on Lap 124, this one for debris on the frontstretch. Under the yellow, all of the top-10 cars hit pit road for right-side tires and fuel.

The “Double Deuce” lined up fifth for the Lap 129 restart, but the two-tire stop made the “Dinger Dodge” tighter than ever. AJ had fallen to eighth when Dave Blaney spun in Turn 4 to bring out the third yellow flag of the race. Kasey Kahne had gone a lap down earlier in his Quaker State Chevrolet after pitting under the green for a flat tire and got the free pass back onto the lead lap.

The leaders pitted again on Lap 150, with most going for right-side tires only once again. Allmendinger was seventh on the Lap 154 restart, but immediately started falling back. He had fallen to 11th on Lap 187 and reported that his car was now “in a four-wheel drift with no grip.” The team knew they had to go with four fresh Goodyears during their next trip to pit road.

With the handling becoming unbearable and the lap times slowing, the team “short-pitted” and hit pit road almost 10 laps earlier than planned on Lap 192. The call was for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments.

The other lead lap cars began their green-flag stops on Lap 200, with Keselowski leading on Lap 206 before hitting pit road. The stops cycled around on Lap 208, a lap before Newman blew an engine to bring out the fourth caution period of the race. Newman got into the outside wall hard. Regan Smith was an innocent victim as he got caught up in the oil behind Newman and also impacted the wall.

The yellow was a break for the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew as they were now able to get back in sequence with the other leaders as far as the fuel window went. They pitted on Lap 211 for four tires and fuel, with crew chief Gordon saying that the tire setup now offered a little needed “stagger.” The stop allowed Dinger to get the fuel he needed to go the distance.

The front four drivers – Keselowski, Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kenseth – all chose to stay out during the yellow, thinking they had enough fuel to complete the race. Johnson lined up fifth, with Earnhardt sixth, Truex seventh, Jeff Gordon eighth, Harvick ninth and Biffle 10th. Kahne was back up to 11th, with Allmendinger 12th, Jamie McMurray 13th, Marcos Ambrose 14th and Paul Menard 15th as they lined up for the Lap 219 restart.

On the restart, Keselowski took off and spread it out to a three-second advantage over second-place Hamlin. Johnson had issues on the restart and fell back as far as 11th before gathering it up and moving back up through the field. Allmendinger moved around Harvick for 10th on Lap 238. When Edwards was forced to pit for fuel on Lap 262, Dinger climbed to ninth.

Kyle Busch had hit the wall earlier and damaged the rear end of his Toyota, pitting lap after lap during the prior caution for repairs. He charged back up through the pack and was 10th heading into the final lap. AJ ran out of fuel as he rounded Turns 3 and 4 on coming to the checkers, but was able to hold Busch off by inches at the line.

Keselowski took the victory, his third of the 2012 season, by 4.399 seconds over runner-up Kahne. Hamlin finished third, with Earnhardt fourth and Gordon fifth. Johnson, Kenseth, Truex, Allmendinger (ninth) and Busch rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Tonight’s finish marked Dinger’s third top-10 finish of the season and he looked at it as a potential momentum-builder.

“Martinsville was probably pretty good and I was happy with that,” Dinger said of his career-best second-place finish back in April this season. “But for a track that I’m not very good at, that I really struggle at and tough conditions, running inside the top 10 for pretty much all of the day and getting a ninth out of it which I’d like to have been a little bit better, but it’s something to build on.”

After 17 races have been put into the 2012 Sprint Cup Series record book, Allmendinger is 23rd in driver points. With 400 points, he currently trails 10th-place Keselowski by 137 points. He is 63 points behind 15th-place Newman and 28 behind 20th-place Jeff Burton.

The Sprint Cup Series now returns to Daytona International Speedway for the third of four restrictor-plate races during the 2012 season. This weekend’s Daytona action gets under way on Thursday with practice set from 4:00 p.m. till 5:20 p.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 6:35 p.m. till 8:00 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Friday at 4:10 p.m. (live on Speed-TV & MRN Radio). Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 (160 Laps, 200 Miles) is scheduled to get the green flag just after 7:30 p.m. EDT. Race No. 18 of 36 points-paying events on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kentucky Qualifying Report

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger will start Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 from the 16th position. Dinger toured the bumpy 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in 30.160 seconds for an average speed of 179.045 mph in his qualifying effort here in today’s bizarre time trial session.

“I pretty much struggle around this place right now so it’s just trying to figure it out, really,” Allmendinger told Dodge PR Representative Jimmy White back in the garage area after qualifying had concluded. “(I am) just trying to get better, but really disappointed with that lap.”

Allmendinger had clocked in with the 11th-fastest lap in the first practice here today and was fourth in the day’s final practice session leading up to qualifying.

After teams had endured a sweltering afternoon with the temperature rising to 101 degrees with a 107-degree heat index, clouds moved in just as qualifying began. The wind began to pick up as a strong storm moved into the area. The session was halted after 21 drivers had made their attempts. The grandstands were cleared as the potential serious system moved through. Many large tents in the infield were overturned or completely destroyed.

When the storm had passed some 25 minutes later, dropping very little precipitation, the qualifying continued. The atmospheric temperature had dropped 20 degrees.

“It helped everybody that got to go after that,” Dinger said. “The track was a lot cooler. The biggest thing was the wind, trying to figure out how much to back the corners up. We just have to get better. It’s rough and it’s slick now. I just have a lot of work to do to try to figure it out. The car has been okay but it’s not fantastic. I think the 2 car (Keselowski) is really good. Brad is really good around here too so that helps a lot.”

Jimmie Johnson claimed the Coors Light Pole Award here this afternoon with a fast lap of 29.700 seconds (181.818 mph). It was his 26th career pole and a track record, after last year’s inaugural Cup race’s qualifying was rained out.

Kyle Busch, fastest in the first practice and the last driver to make his run, took the outside pole with a lap of 29.765 seconds (181.421 mph). Denny Hamlin was third with his lap of 29.810 seconds (181.147 mph), Kevin Harvick fourth with a 29.939 (-second/180.367-mph lap) and Ryan Newman fifth with a 29.944 (-second/180.337 mph lap).

Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski (eighth with a lap of 29.966 seconds/180.204 mph in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out today’s top-10 qualifiers.

“When you do all the practice and qualifying in the heat of the day and then race under the lights at night, it’s really tough all the way around,” said crew chief Todd Gordon. “But it’s the same for every team out there. Penske Racing has been really strong overall at this track and we may have to lean on our teammates a little here to help get our race package going.

“We’ll all get our heads together and figure it out,” Gordon added. “The big goal is to come out of here with another solid race and keep moving forward. I think we can do that here tomorrow night.”

Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 is a 267-lap, 400.5-mile battle around the 1.5-mile D-shaped Kentucky Speedway oval. The green flag is expected to fall just after 7:30 p.m. EDT. Race No. 17 of 36 points-paying events on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kentucky Race Preview

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger enters this weekend’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway looking for a solid weekend on the 1.5 mile D-shaped tri-oval track. Saturday’s 400-mile, 267-lap battle will mark only the second visit by NASCAR’s premier series to the facility located some 35 miles south of Cincinnati.

“Kentucky is another one of the tough mile-and-a-half tracks,” offered Allmendinger, who started 17th on the Sonoma Raceway road course last Sunday and was relentless in coming through with a ninth-place finish. “The Sprint Cup Series had never raced there until last year, but I had tested on the track about three years before.

“We saw just how tough Kentucky Speedway can be last season during our inaugural race there,” Dinger continued. “With qualifying getting rained out last year, we started way back in 23rd. We fought a loose condition just about all race long and never could get a handle on it. We wound up finishing 28th. It certainly wasn’t what we were hoping to put into the record book for the first-ever Cup race there.

“Our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team has shown a lot of strength on the intermediate tracks this season,” Allmendinger offered. “We’ve had some fast race cars and have been able to qualify really well. But we’ve had all kinds of problems – like the fuel system issues and mechanical trouble – that have prevented us getting the good finishes.”

In the races on 1.5-mile tracks to date this season, Allmendinger and his Todd Gordon-led No. 22 Penske Racing unit have a 9.5 average start (including a Coors Light Pole Award at Kansas Speedway). The various issues that Dinger refers to have worked to produce a 29.3 average finish in those races.

“We’re just hoping to be able to go in there this weekend and have a solid performance that starts with practice and qualifying on Friday and continues on through Saturday’s race,” Dinger said. “It’s a Saturday night race and I really enjoy the night races.”

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to Kentucky Speedway this weekend,” offered crew chief Gordon. “It’s a tough old 1.5-mile track that has the bumps and a lot of character. With the low banking, the layout and the track surface like it is, it’s definitely not a ‘cookie-cutter’ track.

“Our Penske Racing Teams have had a very competitive history on that track and we’re hoping we can add to the record this weekend,” said Gordon. “Last year we showed some good strength all the way around at Kentucky Speedway. Over on the Nationwide Series side, we dominated with Brad in winning the Friday night race.

“The Sprint Cup Series guys had a really good night there on Saturday night, too,” Gordon said. “Both cars had really good speed and performed very well. The 2 car and the 22 car both finished in the top-10 on that Saturday night.”

A quick look at the record book certainly substantiates Gordon’s claim as to the Penske Racing Teams flexing some muscle at Kentucky Speedway last season. In the Friday Nationwide Series race, Brad Keselowski led three times for 132 of the 200 laps in taking his Discount Tire Dodge to Victory Lane. In Saturday’s Sprint Cup race, Keselowski led 79 laps and finished seventh in the Miller Lite Dodge, while teammate Kurt Busch led 41 laps and finished ninth in the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge. Penske cars led 45 percent (120 of 267) of the laps in the Cup race and 66 percent of the laps in the Nationwide race. Overall, the Penske cars led 54 percent of all the laps during last year’s NASCAR weekend at Kentucky.

“Penske Racing as a whole has been strong on the flat mile-and-a-half tracks and it will be a fun challenge there at Kentucky this weekend,” Gordon added. “After a solid top-10 run at Sonoma last weekend, we’re hoping we can get the consistency that we need going there and continue it on down the line.”

Allmendinger, Gordon and crew will be racing their “PRS-823” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Kentucky. This car made its debut for the team in Kansas back in April. Dinger won the Coors Light Pole Award and led 44 laps before secondary linkage woes put him 10 laps down and relegated him to a 32nd-place finish. The “PRS-819” chassis will serve as the backup Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for this weekend. This was the car Dinger drove to a second-place finish in the April Martinsville race.

This weekend’s schedule at Kentucky Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series calls for Friday practice sessions from 11:30 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. till 3:00 p.m. The 5:10 p.m. Friday qualifying session will establish the 43-car starting field for Saturday’s race. Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 is a 267-lap, 400.5-mile battle around the 1.5-mile D-shaped oval, with the green flag expected to fall just after 7:30 p.m. EDT. Race No. 17 of 36 points-paying events on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sonoma Race Recap

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger started 17th and finished ninth in today’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 on the 1.99-mile Sonoma Raceway road course. It was the best points-paying result for the Todd Gordon-led No. 22 Penske Racing crew since finishing second at Martinsville in April.

“It was a pretty good day for the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge team,” Allmendinger said back in the garage after the race. “I was happy with the way we drove. I didn’t make a lot of mistakes and cost us anything.

“The car was really amazing in some spots and then there were spots where it just didn’t react,” Dinger added. “The car was really good in Turns 9 and 10. After 10 I could just kill the field in the hairpin, but I couldn’t get off the hairpin worth a darn. We weren’t a race-winning car today. We had solid weekend. We knew what our weaknesses were coming into the weekend and it showed on race day. We got everything out of the car that we could.”

After starting 17th here today, Allmendinger began a patient charge toward the front. He had passed Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski for 12th on Lap 12 and had cleared Greg Biffle to move into the top-10 on Lap 16.

Allmendinger, Gordon and crew were the first to show that they adopted a three-pit-stop strategy when they hit pit road for the first time after 19 laps. Following a stop for four tires and fuel, they returned to the battle back in the 33rd position. But when the remainder of the field finally went through their pitting sequence on Lap 36, Dinger was up to third behind leader Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

Fresher tires prevailed and Dinger fell to seventh on Lap 43. The “Double-Deuce” team hit pit road again under the green on Lap 49 for four tires and fuel. By Lap 65 the second round of stops had cycled and Allmendinger was running in the 19th spot.

Only five laps later, Kevin Harvick slowed almost to a stop as he was running out of gas. Thinking there would be a yellow, Gordon told his driver to hit pit road again for four tires and fuel. The strategy lifted the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team back to the same situation as those teams planning on completing the race with only two pit stops. However, Dinger, Gordon and crew figured to be two laps shy of fuel in making the distance.

Allmendinger immediately went into the fuel-conserving mode, but caught the break the team needed on Lap 81 when Tom Drissi spun and stalled to bring out the first caution flag of the day. After hitting pit road under the yellow on Lap 83 for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments, Dinger was shown running in the 15th spot for the Lap 87 restart.

The Bay Area native launched another impressive run toward the front, getting around Kasey Kahne for 10th on Lap 92 and was running ninth on Lap 106 when an incident involving Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Juan Pablo Montoya brought out the second caution flag of the race.

There were 22 cars running on the lead lap when the yellow flag flew and the cars running from 11th on back chose to hit road for fresh tires. The caution sent the race into overtime as the race would return to a green-white-checkered finish after the scheduled 110 laps.

Allmendinger did a splendid job in holding off the drivers running behind him with the fresh rubber. He was actually able to climb to seventh when he took the white flag and held on to finish ninth when the checkered flag waved.

Up front, it was Clint Bowyer taking a 0.829-second victory over Tony Stewart. Bowyer became the eighth different winner in the last eight races here today. Kurt Busch finished third, with Brian Vickers fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth. Jeff Gordon, Biffle, pole-sitter Marcos Ambrose, Allmendinger and Joey Logano rounded out today’s top-10 finishers. Teammate Keselowski brought the Miller Lite Dodge home in the 12th finishing position.

“A solid day for us,” said crew chief Gordon. “Based off of practice we decided that we needed to go with a three-stop pit strategy. I felt like we saw a lot of drop-off in tires and we were questionable on fuel mileage. Once we got in the race we thought we might have been able to make it on two stops. Rear tires fall-off so much here.

“I shorted our last stop and with when the 29 (Kevin Harvick) was running out of fuel and I wanted to stay out in front of the caution. The caution with 20 to go was a good opportunity to reset the field and felt like we had decent race car from there. If the last caution doesn’t come maybe we gain another few spots. We were right on the cusp of having to pit and not pit at all. I didn’t want to restart 15th with new tires. It gets awful hectic here and I thought there were too many cars that we needed to pass to get back inside the top 10.”

After 16 races have been placed into the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup record book, Allmendinger stands 23rd in points. He trails 10th-place Keselowski by 125 points and is 76 points behind 15th-place Logano. Dinger trails 20th-place Jamie McMurray by 37 points.

The Sprint Cup Series tour now returns to intermediate track action this weekend as it heads to Kentucky Speedway. This weekend’s schedule calls for Friday practice sessions from 11:30 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. till 3:00 p.m. The 5:10 p.m. Friday qualifying session will establish the 43-car starting field for Saturday’s race. Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 is a 267-lap, 400.5-mile battle around the 1.5-mile D-shaped oval, with the green flag expected to fall just after 7:30 p.m. EDT. Race No. 17 of 36 points-paying events on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sonoma Qualifying Report

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger will start Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 from the 17th position after clocking in with a lap of 76.064 seconds (94.184 mph) in today’s qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway. Dinger was 11th-fastest in the practice leading up to qualifying and was hoping for more.

“I'm not sure what direction to go or what we're missing,” Allmendinger said. “What we learned from testing isn't translating as fully as we were expecting. The whole platform of the car just seems unsettled. I could tell from the start of the lap that we were off but I pushed to get as much as we could. Obviously, we expected to be higher up there, but we will go back and reevaluate what we need. I think we need to focus on the front end and if we can get that better I think it will carry through the car.”

Dinger, crew chief Todd Gordon and the No. 22 Penske Racing unit have two practice sessions remaining to get their Dodge Charger dialed in for Sunday’s race. Saturday’s schedule calls for practice from 9:30 a.m. till 10:15 a.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 10:45 a.m. till 12 noon (live on Speed-TV).

Marcos Ambrose picked up the second Coors Light Pole Award of his career here this afternoon – and his second in-a-row after winning the pole last week at Michigan. Ambrose clocked in with a 75.203-second (95.262 mph) lap in smashing the old track qualifying record (75.950 seconds). The top 11 qualifiers broke the old record here today.

Jeff Gordon, fastest in practice and the final driver to make his run, qualified second with a lap of 75.357 seconds (95.067 mph). Jimmie Johnson was third (lap of 75.574 seconds/94.795 mph), Greg Biffle fourth (75.632/94.722) and Martin Truex Jr. fifth (75.661/94.686).

Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman rounded out today’s top-10 qualifiers. Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski will start his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge from the 13th spot after clocking in with a lap of 75.995 seconds (94.269 mph)

Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 (110 laps) on the 1.99-mile scenic Sonoma road course is scheduled to get the green just after 12:00 noon PDT. The race will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sonoma Race Preview

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger is looking forward to this weekend’s annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visit to California’s Bay Area for Sunday’s Save Mart 350 in Sonoma. For Dinger, it’s a homecoming in more ways than one.

“I grew up in the San Jose Area and my family still lives there,” said Allmendinger, a Los Gatos native. “I came from racing on the road courses earlier in my career and it’s always fun to get back out for the race in Sonoma. My mom and dad, family members and friends will all be there. It’s a fun race weekend altogether.

“The area is beautiful and there’s just a ton of different stuff to do and see,” Dinger added. “The Sonoma track has always drawn a great local crowd, but it also brings in people from all over the country when NASCAR comes to town. Everyone should see the area at least once in their lifetime. It’s always good to be close to home again for a couple of days, too.”

Sunday’s battle will mark Allmendinger’s fifth career Sprint Cup start on the scenic 1.99-mile road course. He knows how demanding that the winding stretch of asphalt can be.

“As always, the key for Sonoma is keeping all four wheels on the track,” Dinger said. “You need your car set up to be able to make your move underneath entering Turn 11 because that is the major passing point on the track. The biggest thing is that you have to have forward drive off all the way through the ‘esses’ and that’s certainly what we’ll be hoping to have working for us this weekend there.”

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon is also looking forward to getting out to the West Coast for the first of two road course races this season.

“I thought we had two really good road course tests leading up to this week’s Sonoma race,” Gordon said of the team’s May 15 test at Road Atlanta and May 29 test at Virginia International Raceway. “We had decent speed in both tests. I think the big thing is that we found places to work on to make our car better for AJ when we take to the track on Friday.

“We’ll certainly have a great book of notes to go off of from last year’s race,” Gordon said, alluding to the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge’s dominant performance in the 2011 visit to the winding Sonoma Valley Wine Country road course. In that race, the 22 team led four times for 76 of the 110 laps in an impressive victory. “That should definitely give us a great baseline and starting point to work with.

“AJ and our entire team are really looking forward to hitting the road course this weekend,” said Gordon. “He is really good on the road courses and we are optimistic about having a competitive weekend out there. Unlike the last few weeks where we practiced on Friday, qualified on Saturday and raced on Sunday, we’re back to a normal routine this week. We welcome getting back to where we practice and qualify on Friday and have two practices on Saturday to really get our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge dialed in.

In four career races on the Sonoma road course, Allmendinger has one top-10 finish, with an average start of 19.5 and an average finish of 17.5. He has only three unfinished laps (442 of 445=99.326 percent completion average). Add his stats from Watkins Glen International (four starts, one top-5 & two top-10s, with no uncompleted laps) and Dinger’s eight-race Cup road course career boasts one top-five finish and three top-10s. He has a 17.4 average start and 13.3 average finish on the road courses. He has a 99.628 percent lap completion average (804 of 807) on road courses entering this weekend.

In last year’s Sonoma battle, Allmendinger started seventh and finished 13th. He was able to charge up to fifth on the first lap, before getting loose and losing rear grip. Dinger still continued to be a fixture in the top-10 running order until contact from Brad Keselowski sent him spinning on Lap 65. He fell back as far as 23rd, but was able to mount an impressive charge back up to 13th when the laps ran out.

Allmendinger, Gordon and crew will be racing their “PRS-808” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger at Sonoma this weekend. This is the chassis that was raced at Richmond in the April 28 Capital City 400. Dinger started fourth and finished 16th in that race. The car was lightning fast on short runs, but with only five cautions during the entire race there was little time to make adjustments. The “PRS-807” chassis will serve as the backup. It was in the transporter serving as the backup at Phoenix, Bristol and Martinsville, but has never seen any track time to date.

“We converted this car over to be our road course car and have a lot of faith in it being a strong piece for Sonoma,” Gordon offered. “We don’t have a large car inventory and some of that is intentional because we will be racing the new cars next season. It is to be determined whether we also race this car at Watkins Glen in August.”

This weekend’s Sonoma action gets under way on Friday with practice set from noon till 1:30 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. (live on Speed-TV & PRN Radio). Saturday’s schedule calls for practice from 9:30 a.m. till 10:15 a.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 10:45 a.m. till 12 noon (live on Speed-TV). Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 (110 laps) on the 1.99-mile scenic road course is scheduled to get the green just after 12:00 noon PDT. The race will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Sonoma Notes of Interest

--AJ Allmendinger and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be racing their “PRS-808” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger at Sonoma this weekend. This is the chassis that was raced at Richmond in the April 28 Capital City 400. Dinger started fourth and finished 16th in that race. The car was lightning fast on short runs, but with only five cautions during the entire race there was little time to make adjustments. The “PRS-807” chassis will serve as the backup. It was in the transporter serving as the backup at Phoenix, Bristol and Martinsville, but has never seen any track time to date. “We converted this car over to be our road course car and have a lot of faith in it being a strong piece for Sonoma,” crew chief Gordon offered. “We don’t have a large car inventory and some of that is intentional because we will be racing the new cars next season. It is to be determined whether we also race this car at Watkins Glen in August.”

--This weekend’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Sonoma, Calif., road course is a homecoming for Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger. “I grew up in the San Jose Area and my family still lives there,” said Allmendinger, a Los Gatos native. “I came from racing on the road courses earlier in my career and it’s always fun to get back out for the race in Sonoma. My mom and dad, family members and friends will all be there. It’s a fun race weekend altogether. The area is beautiful and there’s just a ton of different stuff to do and see. The Sonoma track has always drawn a great local crowd, but it also brings in people from all over the country when NASCAR comes to town. Everyone should see the area at least once in their lifetime. It’s always good to be close to home again for a couple of days, too.”

--Sunday’s Sonoma battle will mark Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger’s fifth career Sprint Cup start on the scenic 1.99-mile road course. He knows how demanding that the winding stretch of asphalt can be. “As always, the key for Sonoma is keeping all four wheels on the track,” Dinger said. “You need your car set up to be able to make your move underneath entering Turn 11 because that is the major passing point on the track. The biggest thing is that you have to have forward drive off all the way through the ‘esses’ and that’s certainly what we’ll be hoping to have working for us this weekend there.”

--Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon is also looking forward to getting out to the West Coast for the first of two road course races this season. “I thought we had two really good road course tests leading up to this week’s Sonoma race,” Gordon said of the team’s May 15 test at Road Atlanta and May 29 test at Virginia International Raceway. “We had decent speed in both tests. I think the big thing is that we found places to work on to make our car better for AJ when we take to the track on Friday. We’ll certainly have a great book of notes to go off of from last year’s race,” Gordon said, alluding to the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge’s dominant performance in the 2011 visit to the winding Sonoma Valley Wine Country road course. In that race, the 22 team led four times for 76 of the 110 laps in an impressive victory. “That should definitely give us a great baseline and starting point to work with.”

--It’s a 42-hour drive from the Penske Racing Shop in Mooresville, N.C., to the next stop on the circuit, the 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma, Calif. The Shell-Penske Dodge No. 22 “trucking crew” have the trip well planned out. Backup truck driver George Larabee flew to up to Michigan on the team Sunday morning and drove the transporter back to Mooresville Sunday night. Full-time drivers Greg Sorber and J. R. Weller flew back on the team plane after the race. Both got a good night’s sleep on Sunday night. Sorber went in earlier on Monday to get the truck loaded. Depending on how the loading process went, the plan was to leave either late Monday night or first thing Tuesday with Weller behind the wheel. They are scheduled to be in Sacramento, Calif., by 2:00 p.m. on Thursday. The Shell-Pennzoil transporter will be one of some 50 haulers participating in a parade over the Tower Bridge and around the State Capitol to greet the Northern California race fans en route to Sonoma. While in Sonoma, Sorber and Weller both get plenty of down time and rest before heading back to North Carolina after Sunday’s race. With this trip being the longest haul of the season, the next two races on the schedule require only one driver per trip. Weller is scheduled to drive the transporter to Kentucky, while Sorber will be behind the wheel for the Daytona race trip.

--In four career races on the Sonoma road course, Allmendinger has one top-10 finish, with an average start of 19.5 and an average finish of 17.5. He has only three unfinished laps (442 of 445=99.326 percent completion average). Add his stats from Watkins Glen International (four starts, one top-5 & two top-10s, with no uncompleted laps) and Dinger’s eight-race Cup road course career boasts one top-five finish and three top-10s. He has a 17.4 average start and 13.3 average finish on the road courses. He has a 99.628 percent lap completion average (804 of 807) on road courses entering this weekend.

--In last year’s edition of the Toyota/Save Mart 350, AJ Allmendinger started seventh and finished 13th. He was able to charge up to fifth on the first lap, before getting loose and losing rear grip. Dinger still continued to be a fixture in the top-10 running order until contact from Brad Keselowski sent him spinning on Lap 65. He fell back as far as 23rd, but was able to mount an impressive charge back up to 13th when the laps ran out. “It was crazy just like always.” Dinger said. “Everybody was running into each other. From mid-race on, we were kind of loose. It could have been a lot worse and 13th isn’t great, but it could have been a lot worse with 20 laps to go.”

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Michigan Race Recap

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger bounced back from a pit road incident on Lap 80 to finish 19th in today’s Quicken Loans 400 here at Michigan International Speedway. The effort that saw him come from two laps down allowed Allmendinger to gain a spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points after 15 races have been put in the 2012 record books.

“We just had a tough day,” Allmendinger said. “I’m driving my butt off and there always seems to be a glimmer of hope during the race and we just can’t capitalize on it. We were really strong in the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge on the first run but never could take advantage of good track position. We’re running on such a razors edge that it’s tough to describe what’s going on with the car. One run we get loose, the next we’re tight. It’s confusing as heck to describe.”

Allmendinger started 20th in today’s weather-delayed (scheduled for 1:17 p.m. green flag, but did not start until 3:04 p.m.) 200-lap, 400-mile battle on the freshly repaved 2.0-mile MIS oval. He charged all the way up to ninth when a competition yellow brought out the fourth caution flag of the race on Lap 50. Dinger fell to 14th for the Lap 55 restart after taking on a second can of fuel during a two-tire pit stop.

Dinger had fallen to 15th when a round of green-flag pit stops was the order. He pitted on Lap 80 and sustained significant damage to the right-rear quarter-panel area of his Dodge after getting major contact from Kyle Busch’s Toyota.

The fifth caution of the race flew on the very next lap for debris. In just a matter of two laps, Dinger had fallen to 34th in the running order and was running a lap down. The team patched up their Dodge with several visits to pit road and had moved back up through the pack when another round of green-flag stops began on Lap 115.

Allmendinger hit pit road on Lap 119 for four tires and fuel (and wedge & air pressure adjustments) and was exiting the pits when Kurt Busch spun for the second time of the race to bring out the sixth caution flag of the race.

Now running two laps down, crew chief Todd Gordon called for Allmendinger to stay out and take the wave-around, moving the 22 car from two laps down to only one lap down. Dinger was 32nd on the Lap 125 restart and caught the break the team needed when Joey Logano went for a wild ride on Lap 126. Scoring the “lucky dog” free pass back onto the lead lap, Dinger was up to 25th for the Lap 140 restart.

The Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team could not capitalize on the lucky break, however, as they struggled with a loose race car. After their final visit to pit road on Lap 167 for right-side tires and track bar and air pressure adjustments, Dinger was 21st when the pit stops cycled around.

In spite of fighting the handling woes, Allmendinger, Gordon and crew were still able to soldier on to a 19th-place finish.

“It’s a tough day but we’ll just go on next week to Sonoma and road race ‘em because that’s what we do,” Gordon offered. “This one is over; you can’t do anything about it. We’ll look at notes, look at the chassis setups and go back and talk to all the different departments at the shop about how we can get a little smarter.”

Much to a huge amount of the fans’ delight, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended a four-year victory drought here this afternoon, taking his first victory in 143 races (dating back to the June 2008 race here at MIS). He crossed the finish line 5.393 seconds ahead of runner-up Tony Stewart.

Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five finishers here today. Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, Marcos Ambrose and Kevin Harvick completed the top-10 finishers.

Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski drove his Miller Lite Dodge from a 25th-place start to a 13th-place finish here today.

With 15 races completed for the 2012 season, Allmendinger is 24th in the Sprint Cup points. With 330 points, he is now 128 points behind 10th-place Keselowski, 77 behind 15th-place Joey Logano and 45 behind 20th-place Jeff Gordon.

The Sprint Cup tour now heads out to California for the first of two road course races of the season. This weekend’s Infineon Raceway action gets under way on Friday with practice set from noon till 1:30 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. (live on Speed-TV & PRN Radio). Saturday’s schedule calls for practice from 9:30 a.m. till 10:15 a.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 10:45 a.m. till 12 noon (live on Speed-TV). Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 (110 laps) on the 1.99-mile scenic road course is scheduled to get the green just after 12:00 noon PDT. The race will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Michigan Qualifying Report

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger will start 20th in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 here at Michigan International Speedway after clocking in with a lap of 36.010 seconds (199.944 mph).

“That was slower and I don’t know why,” Allmendinger said. “I guess I’ll just go with the answer that I don’t know (smile). It felt okay, I guess I maybe used a little too much brake, I guess, I don’t know. I thought it was going to be faster than yesterday."

“We’ve been fighting both (loose and tight),” Dinger added. “We just don’t have enough speed in the car. We’ve got to keep working on the balance. We’ve fought tight and loose in general. We’ll see what happens with the new tire.”

After several teams were blistering tires in yesterday’s two practice sessions here on the freshly-repaved surface, Goodyear decided to bring in a different left-side tire for Sunday’s race. It is the same tire that was raced at Charlotte back in 2007. NASCAR added another practice session for the Sprint Cup cars after today’s Nationwide Series race concludes.

“We’ll see what the tire feels like and see what it does to this racetrack,” AJ said. “Obviously there’s a blistering problem so they did the right thing ‘cause it’s scary as hell out there as it is anyway (smile). It’s good that they fixed it. We’ll just see what we’ve got and just keep working on the balance. That’s all you can do. We know we don’t have the speed that we need right now but we’ll just keep trying to make the balance best as possible.”

Marcos Ambrose claimed the Coors Light Pole Award here today with a fast lap of 35.426 seconds (203.241 mph). That obliterated the old track record of 37.069 seconds (194.232 mph) and was the 11th-fastest pole qualifying lap in NASCAR history. The top-19 qualifiers all cracked the 200 mph mark and the top-38 drivers broke the old track record. The most recent 200 mph qualifying lap came way back in 1987 at Talladega.

Kevin Harvick starts second here Sunday after clocking in with a 35.637-second (202.037 mph) lap. Greg Biffle (35.676 seconds/201.816 mph) starts third, with Kasey Kahne (35.692 seconds/201.720 mph) fourth and Ryan Newman (35.737 seconds/201.472 mph) fifth. Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson round out Sunday’s top-10 starters.

Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski starts his Miller Lite Dodge from the 25th spot after turning in a lap of 36.277 seconds (198.473 mph) here today.

Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 (200 laps, 400 miles) on the 2.0-mile track is scheduled to get the green flag just after 1:00 p.m. EDT. Race No. 15 of 36 points-paying events on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.

Credit - Penske Racing PR

Friday, June 15, 2012

Penske Crew Chief Transcript from MIS Testing

Todd Gordon (Crew Chief, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T)
HOW WAS THE TEST HERE YESTERDAY? “We were tight all day and never found anything that made an impact on it mechanically. We’re kind of reassessing our package for today, just trying to look at what didn’t work and let that lead us in the direction of where we need to work to be better. I feel like we have a couple of ideas there of things we could help ourselves with so we’ll see where practice goes today. This racetrack is crazy-fast. There were seven cars in final practice that were over 200 mile an hour lap average which is a lot of time on throttle and not a lot of time off of throttle. You’re racing an aero race and it’ll be interesting to see what happens. You can definitely see the effect of getting the draft down the straightaways but I think you’re also going to run into that bubble where since you’re racing on aero you’re kind of stuck when you roll up behind somebody. We’ll see if the racetrack opens up into multiple grooves.”

DO YOU THINK THE GROOVE WILL WIDEN OUT? “We may see the top come. It seems like the cars are all in the middle right now and you may see the top come in. It’ll be interesting. Yeah, I think at some point you’ll see a couple of grooves around here.”

DO THE NOTES YOU HAD BEFORE HERE WITH THE OLD PAVEMENT STILL APPLY? “I think the speed, the grip level, the tire change is accommodating a resurface makes this a new venture again. I don’t know that there is a lot of what you could take out of previous year’s notes to help this package along, much kind of what we saw at Pocono last week. When you resurface a place, put grip back in it, you take all the bumps back out of it. A lot of things you do mechanically to try to help yourselves through those situations, they’re no longer needed.”

HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING ABOUT THE TIRE WEAR OR TIRE TEMPERATURE? “I don’t think that we’ve seen as much of a sticker tire to scuff tire swing in balance but part of that may be our balance was off, that we weren’t close enough to see that swing. I feel like there’s more consistency here. Obviously as we’ve repeated runs on tires they’ve gotten faster. I noticed in first practice when you finally got to the point that guys had to put stickers back on there was about a second that they slowed up. It’s like you get faster and faster as the tires go on. The left-side tire wear is very minimal and right-side wear is normal.”

WHAT KIND OF STRATEGY CAN YOU DO TO GAIN TRACK POSITION? “I think two is an option, given left-side wear. We’ll have to see what happens with how balance goes in the race car but I think two is an option. I don’t know that none will be an option. It may be but you’re doing 200 and some miles an hour into a corner. Probably making sure the right-front tire is nice and safe is a good idea for a while (smiles).”

THIS TRACK IS KNOWN TO BE DEMANDING ON ENGINES. “That’s only exponently worse now. There’s guys driving into the corner and turning into the corner wide-open. There’s a very small window of off-throttle time if your balance is good. It’s a 400-mile race which helps but your time on throttle is long. Engine department has already made comments about it that they’re cycle time of how long you’re actually wide-open throttle is longer than any of these higher speed places that we go to.”


Travis Geisler (Director of Competition, Penske Racing)
FROM AN ENGINEERING STANDPOINT, WAS THERE ANYTHING FROM THE TEST YESTERDAY THAT REALLY STOOD OUT TO YOU? “We struggled for speed yesterday, we really did. I think both cars were not where we needed to be and we all worked on it really hard all day and I don’t feel like we made enough gains on it for sure. I went through last night and spent a bunch more time on it, just trying to figure out where we’re missing it. There’s certainly some things that are different here than any of us have really done lately. I don’t think anybody has gone 215 into a corner in a while. Certainly the amount of mid-corner speed we’re carrying now is pretty impressive.

"I think all of us are maybe a tick surprised that we’re going this fast and it’s going on this way (smiles) but I don’t think there’s no safety issue in my opinion. The margin is a very small increase over where we’ve been but everybody has always had this glass ceiling idea of 200 miles per hour being kind of the cutoff and obviously we’ve kind of blown through that. I think that’s maybe looking at the data the biggest thing that sticks out at you is where you are mile-and-hour wise and where you are sustained rpm wise. And I think it’s certainly going to be an engine company test this weekend. Michigan always has been but I think this one is probably going to be one of the biggest ones that we’ve had in a long time, especially with all the changes going into this season. This will be the first real EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) test at a track that’s this hard on it. There’s certainly been places that have been hard on engines but the speed we’re seeing and sustained rpm it’s on up there on the stress factor I’d say for the engine guys right now. We saw the 78 (Regan Smith) had an engine issue yesterday. I’m not sure that’s related or not but certainly something that kind of perks your ears up.”

IF YOUR DODGE IS HANDLING WELL HERE, A DRIVER ISN’T OUT OF THE THROTTLE FOR LONG. “I would say you’re probably close to 75-80 percent wide-open throttle so you’re not out of it for very long (smiles). That’s a lot of rpm and that’s definitely hard on the engine. It’s hard on everything. I mean, anytime you run that hard it definitely stresses a lot of your components. I’ve been thinking through everything, even from a balancing standpoint, even vibrations are a whole lot worse at that speed so when you look at all your brake components and hubs and pieces that make up all the moving parts of this, driveshafts, you’ve got to really be diligent to make sure you’ve got all the best stuff you can.”

DOES THAT MEAN THAT HANDLING IS A PREMIUM NOW HERE? “I think handling is a premium everywhere we go, no matter what. That’s the biggest thing we have. It’s more important that horsepower, it’s more important than anything because if you can’t handle you can’t use the horsepower that you have so a couple more wouldn’t help you anyway. Certainly here I think the biggest impact is the moments that you’re out of the throttle for however long they are, whether the car is turning good or not; you feel that impact the rest of the straightaway because you’re wide-open so long you figure everybody is relatively close once you’re wide-open. It’s that little bit of time when you’re not wide-open that really separates where you are and it impacts your straightaway speed so much if you’re too tight in the middle and you’re scrubbing off speed.

“I think the other side of things here is tire heat. I think we saw some blisters yesterday, primarily on left-sides which is kind of a concern because there’s not a lot you can do about it. I think the biggest issue there is the tire just not wearing. When you look at 20-lap runs there’s no tire wear on the left-sides. All they can do is build heat at that point because they can’t dissipate heat and you seeing left-fronts, left-rears, left-rears blistered in the middle, left-fronts blistered in the middle. You can’t adjust camber or what you’re doing to really affect your position there. I think you’re just going to have to be really careful and I think that if your car is well balanced you’ll take care of your tires and you’ll survive it. But if you’re off, you’re going to see where that margin sticks out and you’re not going to make it through a full run that way. I think there’s a lot of things right now bouncing around and the more time you give us at track the more things we worry about (laughs).”

DO THE SETUPS AND NOTES FROM PREVIOUS RACES HERE STILL APPLY? “There’s a lot of mix and match. There are some things that are inherent about this racetrack that are the same. It’s still ultra-fast, lots of grooves of racing; you’ve got a lot of room to move around. Turn 2 still gets flat and gets tight compared to Turn 4, just the way the track is laid out. Some of those things certainly still apply. Definitely the smooth pavement changes your shocks and your bump rubbers and your springs a little bit and you’ve got kind of tweak on that. There’s kind of an evolution there that has to occur.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Michigan Race Preview

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger enters this weekend’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway knowing what the major news topic will be. He expects the adjective “fast” to get monumental use from the beginning of Thursday’s 8:00 a.m. test session on throughout Sunday’s 400-mile race.

“Michigan has always been a basic, really fast two-mile oval and with the new repaving it will be much faster,” said Allmendinger, who will be making his 10th career start at MIS in Sunday’s battle. “Just how much greater the speeds we will run? That’s the big question heading there and everyone is curious to find out.

“The qualifying record will fall at Michigan on Saturday; that’s pretty much a given,” Dinger added. “Based on what we saw at Pocono last week, it will be really interesting to see how much the old record is beaten by and how many drivers can do it. Of course everyone will be talking about the high speeds we are taking into the corner.”

The current track record at MIS is 194.232 mph (37.069 seconds), set by Ryan Newman in qualifying for the June 2005 race. Kurt Busch drove the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge to the Coors Light Pole in last June’s race with a one-lap speed of 188.699 mph (38.156 seconds).

Last weekend at Pocono Raceway, the NASCAR premier series also attacked a brand new racing surface. Joey Logano established the new track qualifying record there of 179.598 mph (50.112 seconds). That obliterated the old record of 172.533 mph (52.164 seconds) that dated back to 2004. The top-36 qualifiers broke the old track record in last Saturday’s session.

Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup Champion, was among the five drivers participating in the April tire testing at MIS for Goodyear. When pressed for his reaction on the speeds the cars were running, he responded, “Probably, I would say fast to too fast.”

So how fast is “too fast?”

“I don’t know…I’m not driving,” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon answered with a chuckle. “But seriously, as far as what I am hearing for the top speeds into the corner at Michigan…215 (mph)…some swore they saw 219 (mph) during the tire test there.

“Our team did not participate in the tire test, but our teammates did,” Gordon said of Brad Keselowski and his Paul Wolfe-led Miller Lite Dodge Team (the Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya teams also participated). “We’ve discussed it a lot with them and the consensus is it’s going to be really fast. I read where Montoya said he had hit 238 at Michigan during his open-wheel days and that at times during the test, his stock car felt faster.”

Gordon certainly wasn’t too shocked by the high speeds seen during the tire test and expected to be seen again this week on the newly repaved 2.0-mile moderate-banked D-shaped race track.

“With the new surface, it’s to be expected,” said Gordon. “After all, I saw 209 (mph) at Pocono going into Turn 1. That’s coming off the longest straightaway we have and going into a tight low-banked turn. I don’t know if that might be even more demanding than taking the higher speeds into the turns at Michigan. The bottom line is that NASCAR officials have had no comment about the expected high speeds or any plans to slow the cars down.

“The faster speeds are a foregone conclusion,” Gordon added. “What impact that has on the racing there is yet to be seen. Every time we race at Michigan, you have to consider that fuel mileage may likely figure into the equation.”

Unlike at Pocono last week where the team’s plan going in was to test one car (the “PRS-814”) and race another (the “PRS-819” – and changed late Thursday afternoon to actually race the test car – the plan is different for Michigan.

“We’re preparing to utilize the ‘821’ there in Thursday’s testing and use it for the remainder of the weekend,” Gordon said.

In nine career Sprint Cup starts at Michigan, Allmendinger is still looking for his first career top-10 there. He has been running at the finish in all nine of the races and finished on the lead lap six times. He has completed 96.7 percent of possible laps (1,746 of 1,806). Overall, Dinger has a 25.7 average start and 21.2 average finish at Michigan.

As crew chief Gordon pointed out, Allmendinger and crew are scheduled to be racing their “PRS-821” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger in this weekend’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan. This chassis has been raced only once; during the April Samsung Mobile 500 weekend at Texas Motor speedway. Dinger started 12th and finished 15th in that battle on the 1.5-mile Fort Worth oval.

This weekend’s Michigan International Speedway action gets under way on Thursday with testing sessions from 8:00 a.m. till 11:00 a.m. and from 1:00 p.m. till 4:00 p.m. Friday’s schedule calls for practices from 12:30 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 3:30 p.m. till 4:50 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Saturday at 1:10 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 (200 laps, 400 miles) on the 2.0-mile track is scheduled to get the green flag just after 1:00 p.m. EDT. Race No. 15 of 36 points-paying events on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.
Credit - Penske Racing PR