- Associated Press - Saturday, March 16, 2013

BRISTOL, TENN. (AP) - It’s been a non-stop week for AJ Allmendinger since announcing a two-race IndyCar deal with Penske Racing that includes the Indianapolis 500.

Allmendinger was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to announce the deal, traveled to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama to participate in media day and a two-day open test, then was off to Bristol Motor Speedway for Sunday’s NASCAR race.

“I’d rather have it this way than be sitting at home suspended, so I’ll take it,” Allmendinger said of his hectic schedule.

Allmendinger is grateful for any work he can get since last summer’s suspension for failing a random drug test. It cost him his full-time NASCAR job with Penske Racing, but team owner Roger Penske has given Allmendinger a second chance in the open-wheel series. Excited for the opportunity to return to his roots, Allmendinger was a bit puzzled by rumors he sailed his Indy car “15 feet in the air” during the test.

Nobody actually witnessed the incident except a corner worker, who reportedly told people Allmendinger got big air.

“The corner worker tried to make it seem a lot bigger than it was,” Allmendinger said. “I think if I flew 15 feet in an Indy car, I wouldn’t be able to drive it right back. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Allmendinger said a more accurate version is all four tires did leave the ground when he hooked the outside tires in the dirt and turned sideways across the curb. But the car was drivable back to the pits.

“If it was as high in the air as the corner worker wants people to believe, it would have been destroyed,” he said.

Allmendinger will start 29th in Sunday’s race at Bristol driving for Phoenix Racing. He was disappointed with the qualifying lap, but said the car was good in race trim.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got 500 laps to do it,” he said. “We’ll just kind of piece our way through it. That’s what you’ve got to do with this team.”

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