Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger persevered in fighting an ill-handling race car and limited time to adjust to finish 15th in tonight’s Samsung Mobile 500 here at Texas Motor Speedway. His third top-15 finish in as many races moved him up to 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points after seven races have been put into the 2012 record book.
“Frustrating,” Allmendinger said of the situation here tonight. “We had a fast Shell-Pennzoil Dodge and just didn’t make it happen tonight. We started off in a hole. We just can’t start races that far off. The car was just way too tight, something that we hadn’t fought all weekend. I think we need to work on making small changes before the race and that’s something that Todd (Gordon) and I will learn together.
“The first three changes that we made during the race were good,” Dinger added, “I thought that we were making good progress and after that, we just lost the race track. We fought tight and tried to free it up. Then we went massive loose and tight, the last three runs were just not good. On top of it, there were only two cautions all night. You just don’t have the chance to make the adjustments to the car that you need. We know that we need to be better than that.”
Allmendinger started 12th in tonight’s 334-lap battle. Only two cautions slowed the torrid pace all race long and the final 234 laps were run caution-free.
Dinger ran as high as eighth and fell back as far as 19th during the race. His Dodge Charger started out extremely tight, and then went too far to the loose side. The crew adjusted with air pressure changes, wedge adjustments – and even removed and then replaced spring rubbers.
Several times during the race, the No. 22 Dodge was so ill-handling that Dinger did a tremendous job (coached on by crew chief Gordon and spotter Chris Osborne) just to hang on and make it to the next scheduled pit stop.
If handling conditions were not enough to fight here tonight, wind gusts of 40 mph were common throughout the race.
“It did a bunch, but (it) affected everyone else as well,” Dinger said of the windy conditions. “You could really feel the car move between (Turns) 3 and 4; you’d get a big push. But guys that were fast adjusted to it, so we can’t use it as an excuse.
“For us, we all know that we need to be better. The team has to be better. I have to be better. We were running ninth at the 200-lap mark and we just didn’t run the last 120, 130 laps like we needed to. The car had big mood swings all night. When you’re car isn’t perfect in these tough conditions, it makes it difficult on everyone.”
Greg Biffle chased down Jimmie Johnson and made the pass for the lead with 31 laps to go. He emerged with a 3.235-second win over Johnson at the checkers. Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five finishers, with Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completing the top 10. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were the other two drivers who managed to run the distance without going a lap down.
“AJ did just a tremendous job behind the wheel here tonight,” Gordon offered. “When you struggle like we did and can pull a top-15 finish out of it, you’ve had a pretty decent day at the track. We’ll all learn from it and improve as we go on to Kansas for another race on the intermediate tracks.”
Allmendinger moved up to 19th in the Sprint Cup point standings. He trails leader Biffle by 101 points and is 77 behind fifth-place Harvick. He trails 10th-place Clint Bowyer by 42 points.
Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski had a potential top-five run here tonight ended by fueling system issues. He finished 36th, completing 312 of the 334 laps. Keselowski now stands 15th in the standings and trails leader Biffle by 90 points.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now moves on to the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway for next weekend’s running of the STP 400. The schedule at Kansas begins on Friday with practices from 12:30 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. (CDT) and from 3:30 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. Saturday’s 11:10 a.m. single round of qualifying will set Sunday’s 43-car starting field. Sunday’s STP 400 (267 Laps, 400.5 miles) has a scheduled 12:00 noon CDT (1:00 p.m. EDT) starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.
Credit - Penske Racing PR