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Allmendinger anxious to see results
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - AJ Allmendinger landed the ride of his life when Penske Racing grabbed him during the offseason after Kurt Busch split with the organization.
On paper, it doesn’t seem as if Allmendinger has done very much with his golden opportunity.
In the NASCAR garage, everybody knows better.
Allmendinger has never been stronger in NASCAR than he is now, even though he doesn’t have the results to show for his improvement. He sits 22nd in the Sprint Cup standings after 11 races, and has just one top-10 finish vs. four finishes of 32nd or worse.
But he’s also led 99 laps, won a pole and qualified inside the top-four four times this season. Last Saturday, he won the pole for the qualifying event before the Sprint All-Star race, only to get a flat tire in the warm-up laps.
“A flat tire before we come to green? I mean, we’ve got to do something to change our luck up,” he said.
Allmendinger had to pit as the field went green to have his tire changed, and it dropped him to last in the 22-car field. What happened next may be a sign that his luck is finally about to turn. He drove his way back into contention, and after chasing Jamie McMurray around Charlotte Motor Speedway for several laps, he made a pass for second place and transferred into the $1 million main event.
“We’ve had fast race cars, we just need a little bit of luck,” said Allmendinger, adding the All-Star race “gives me a good amount of confidence. I’m excited to go to the 600.”
He should be, based on what he’s shown so far this season, his first with a competitive team since leaving Champ Car after a five-win 2006 season.
Allmendinger was welcomed into NASCAR by rookie team Red Bull Racing, which botched his development in a new series. He was let go after two seasons, hired by Richard Petty Motorsports, then tried his hardest to keep moving forward despite three seasons of chaos as Petty needed outside help to keep his organization afloat.
He got the break of his life roughly a month after the season ended, when Penske Racing called to offer him the No. 22 seat that had unexpectedly come open. It was a great ride _ Busch had averaged two wins a season, and consistently made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship _ with an organization committed to winning its first Cup title.
And even though his results don’t show it, Allmendinger has been off and running since joining the team.
“We’ve had a lot of speed pretty much everywhere we’ve went, and even when we do struggle, our struggle is I would say 15th to 17th place,” Allmendinger said. “It’s hard to look at the points and look at the results and take positives out of it. But ultimately this is more competitive than I’ve ever been. I’m up front a lot more than I’ve ever been, qualifying a lot better.
By Emily Miller
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