Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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

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