Team Penske announced today that AJ Allmendinger will join its IZOD IndyCar Series program in 2013. Allmendinger, who rose up through the ranks of open-wheel racing before transitioning to NASCAR, will compete in at least two IndyCar events for Team Penske this season, including the Indianapolis 500.
IZOD will once again be a primary sponsor of the No. 2 Team Penske car for multiple races this season. Allmendinger will drive the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet at this year's Indianapolis 500, scheduled for May 26 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 31-year-old Allmendinger will also compete in the April 7 IZOD IndyCar Series race at the Barber Motorsports Park road course in Birmingham, Ala., in the IZOD machine for Team Penske.
Today's announcement represents a homecoming for Allmendinger on a couple of different fronts. He will return to his roots as the Los Gatos, Calif., native raced in the Champ Car World Series from 2004-2006 when he earned five wins, two poles and 14 podium finishes over a three-year period. It also means a return to Penske Racing. Allmendinger drove for the organization's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team for the first 17 races of the 2012 season before he was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy. After successfully completing NASCAR's Road to Recovery program, Allmendinger returned to compete in four Cup Series events for another team at the end of the 2012 season.
"It is exciting to welcome AJ back to Penske Racing," said Roger Penske. "He obviously went through a tough time last year but he has done everything he needed to in order to get back to racing at the top level of the sport. We have always believed in AJ and his ability and he deserves this opportunity. We think he will be a strong competitor this season in the IZOD IndyCar Series for Team Penske and we look forward to racing with him in the IZOD car at Barber and at the Indianapolis 500."
When Allmendinger transitioned from open-wheel racing to NASCAR, he left as one of the hottest drivers in Champ Car. In his last season racing open-wheel cars in 2006, Allmendinger earned five wins - including an impressive stretch of three in a row - and seven podium results on his way to finishing third in the series championship.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back to my roots and racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series," said Allmendinger, who tested the No. 2 IndyCar for Team Penske at Sebring International Raceway on Feb. 19. "I have to thank Roger (Penske), Tim (Cindric) and everyone at Team Penske for this opportunity. I think it's every driver's dream to race for Team Penske at the Indy 500 and that experience is going to be incredible. I also have to thank IZOD for their support and for giving me a chance to show what I can do. I definitely intend to make the most of it."
Allmendinger will next drive the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske car at the IZOD IndyCar Series spring training test sessions, March 12-13 at Barber Motorsports Park.
As he rose up the ladder of his open-wheel racing development, Allmendinger was one of the most decorated American racers in recent history. He won the Barber Dodge Pro Series title in 2002 and captured the Toyota Atlantic Series championship the following season. Allmendinger went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors in the Champ Car World Series in 2004 as he continued to excel in IndyCar.
"Everyone at IZOD is proud to continue the brand's sponsorship of Team Penske in 2013 and we look forward to working with AJ (Allmendinger) as he makes his return to open-wheel racing," said Mike Kelly, Executive Vice President, The PVH Marketing Group. "AJ is a great fit for the brand as he embodies IZOD's youthful and competitive American spirit. We hope to see the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske car take the checkered flag at Barber, and on racing's biggest stage at the Indianapolis 500 where we'd all love a storybook ending with AJ drinking the milk in Victory Lane."
Credit - Penske Racing PR