"I feel pretty good about going into Martinsville,” said Allmendinger, who finished 15th in Sunday’s rain-shortened race at Fontana, Calif., in spite of racing for 30 laps with a rear tire that was going flat. “I like running on those short tracks, but it's so much about staying out of everybody's trouble. I'm hoping that we have had our share of mechanical issues and such so we can finally deliver some follow-through and get the results we’ve been looking for. It will be our sixth race working together this weekend at Martinsville and our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team continues to get stronger every week.
“The last two weeks have been big for us in that we’ve overcome obstacles to produce some decent results,” said Dinger. “At Bristol, we were able to qualify up front and lead laps before we had the problem with the right-rear suspension. We were coming on up through the field on Sunday at Fontana before we had the issue with the rear tire. I wish we could have gone back to green. We may not have had a car capable of winning it, but I think we were strong enough to have finished quite a bit better than 15th.
“I enjoy short-track racing at Martinsville,” Dinger said. “I always look forward to going there and I’ve run pretty well the past couple of times we’ve raced there. It’s racing where you have to get a rhythm going. It’s definitely a track that’s fun if you get your car to handle well. If you can get in a good rhythm it makes the laps go by quickly. You have to really concentrate on saving your brakes because it’s a track that really wears them out in a hurry. Qualifying is also very important, because it determines your spot on pit road, and pit selection is key at Martinsville.”
In nine career starts on the tight little .526-mile paper clip-shaped track, Allmendinger has posted one top-10 finish (a ninth in the 2009 edition of this race). He has a 21.6 average start and 22.9 average finish at Martinsville. He has an 89.5 percent lap completion average (4,046 of 4,519 laps) and has led a total of 25 laps. He has been running at the finish in all but one of the races and has finished on the lead lap three times.
Dinger started sixth and finished 14th in the spring race at Martinsville last season. He came back last fall to drive from a 16th-place start to an 11th-place finish.
“In last spring’s Martinsville race, we were really loose at the beginning, but made some great adjustments,” Dinger recalled. “We ran in the top-five or top-six most of the day. At times, I thought we could win, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We pitted with about 35 laps to go and the yellow came out. We got trapped a lap down and it was just too late to make it up. We had a top-five car there in that race, but just didn’t get the finish to match.
“In the fall race, we started by points after Saturday qualifying got rained out,” Dinger said. “We were really good at the beginning of the race and drove to the front to lead some laps. We kept making adjustments trying to get more rear grip and ran in the top-10 most of the day. We got caught up in two different crashes in the final 100 laps and had to come from the rear. We were 22nd on a restart with 50 to go. In the final six laps, we went from 15th up to finish 11th.”
Crew chief Gordon will be making his first trip back to Martinsville since serving as Kenny Wallace’s crew chief during a 2006 NASCAR Nationwide Series race there. He says the key to being successful at Martinsville has remained the same through the years.
“You need stability,” said Gordon. “You know that there’s going to be a lot of beating and banging; it’s just the nature of racing there. That’s a given. You need a car a driver can still control when he gets nudged from behind and underneath into the corners.
“I’ve always looked at it that I’d be willing to sacrifice the car’s handling some in the middle of the turns if it means the car is really capable of getting into the corners and off the corners well. If you look at the guys who have had success there recently – like Denny Hamlin – their cars are not so strong in the center, but they sure are stout getting into the corners and off the corners.
“I am really looking forward to getting back to Martinsville,” said Gordon. “AJ has had some pretty strong races there the last few seasons. I’m feeling pretty good about this weekend. I’m optimistic that we can continue to get stronger as a team as we head back to another short track this weekend.”
Allmendinger, Gordon and crew will be racing their new “PRS-819” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Martinsville. The “PRS-807” is the backup Dodge Charger for the “Double-Deuce” team. It was in the transporter serving as the backup at Phoenix and at Bristol, but has never seen any track time.
This weekend’s Sprint Cup schedule at Martinsville Speedway gets under way with Friday’s opening practice from 12:30 until 2:00 p.m. The final practice is set for Friday from 3:30 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday’s 500-lap battle is set for Saturday at 11:40 a.m. local (live on SPEED-TV). Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 (500 laps, 263 miles) has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. EDT starting time. FOX-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.
Credit - Penske Racing PR
Credit - Penske Racing PR