AJ Allmendinger will look to break into the Chase and win races with new ride

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Of the many new team combinations that will be followed with interest this Sprint Cup season, one of the most interesting dynamics exists at Penske Racing.

Brad Keselowski suddenly is the “veteran” team statesman, and the new kid on the block is AJ Allmendinger, fresh from Richard Petty Motorsports and ready to take advantage of a huge opportunity.

The Dinger was one of the biggest gainers in the off-season shuffle of drivers, crew chiefs and other team personnel, and his goal at Penske this season will be to win races and duplicate the overall Penske effort last year, which put Keselowski and then-teammate Kurt Busch in the Chase.

“This is a challenge that I welcome and look forward to,” Allmendinger said. “The two Penske teams were strong enough to both win races and make the Chase last year, and we’re looking for that same level of success this season. It’ll be important to start off the season on a positive note.

“Testing proved to each of us that, even though we haven’t had much time together, we all have the same goal and are really excited to get going. Testing also showed, though, that the drafting and NASCAR making changes to try and put forth the best racing possible, makes the Daytona 500 just about anybody’s game. I think we’ve got one of the best shots out there, and definitely a team capable of winning at any of the 36 races.”

Penske scored five wins last season, Keselowski winning three times despite a major foot injury and Busch winning twice. Keselowski finished fifth in points, and Busch was 11th.

Allmendinger was 15th in points for RPM.

Allmendinger will be shooting for his first career victory this season. He finished 24th in points in 2009 and 19th in 2010.

“I think it is a very realistic goal to win races and make the Chase this season,” he said. “I think Penske Racing proved last season that working with Dodge as only a two-car effort isn’t necessarily a bad situation. They proved that a smaller group with a strong common goal and clear way of doing things can be just as strong, maybe stronger.

“This is my second time around working with Dodge, and I’ve seen how dedicated they are to our sport. We’re really looking forward to taking them to victory lane this season.”

Allmendinger perhaps will be under more scrutiny than other driver this year.

“We have spent most of our time in NASCAR just trying to survive,” he said. “Getting this opportunity to drive the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing is truly like a double blessing. I am finally getting the stability I have needed to do my best, but I am also realizing a dream in driving for Mr. Penske.

“Coming from my open-wheel background, Roger Penske and his organization and race teams are just the best of the best. I am committed to representing Penske Racing, Shell-Pennzoil, Dodge and all the other great partners the best I can on and off the track.”

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.

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AJ Allmendinger Newest Member of the Penske Racing Dynasty

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The Newest Member of the Penske Racing Dynasty

On December 21, 2011 Penske Racing announced that AJ Allmendinger would be driving the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in the 2012 Sprint Cup Series. Allmendinger joins a juggernaut in Penske Racing with a rich history of winning championships. Racing icons like Rusty Wallace, Mario Andretti, and Rick Maers are just a few of the notable performers to come before Allmendinger.  So what does Allmendinger think about joining the team?

“I am really excited about the opportunity to join Penske Racing and drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in 2012. I have always admired Roger Penske and the way his teams compete and win in every series where they race. It is a privilege for me to represent such iconic and respected brands as Shell and Pennzoil, AAA and Dodge. I am honored to join Penske Racing and I will do my very best to continue to build on the standard of excellence established across the organization.”

At 30 years old Allmendinger brings a promising resume to the table. 2011 was a successful season for the California native that saw him finish 15th in the series standings among other achievements while driving the No. 43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports.

Allmendinger Issues a Statement To Penske Racing Fans

Here is what Roger Penske had to say about the new acquisition:

“AJ is a very talented and motivated driver and we believe he will be a terrific fit with our team. He has shown great promise and consistent results on the track over the last few seasons and working with Todd and the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge team will allow him to take the next step and compete for race wins and a spot in the Chase in 2012.”

For more on the newest member of the Penske Racing team visit:

Click here to check out AJ Allmendinger’s personal website.

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2011 Penske Racing Recap: Anticipation builds for a Great and Successful Year!

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There will be plenty of changes heading into the 2012 Sprint Cup season that begins next month with the Daytona 500, especially for Penske Racing.

Todd Gordon of Penske Racing will take over as the crew chief of the number 22 Dodge after a stellar Nationwide series performance in which his car had 6 wins and 6 poles. Roger Penske, perhaps the most revered name in auto racing, likes to develop and promote from within and he believes that Gordon is ready for this next big step, which is the equivalent of being a head football coach in the NFL. Driving the No. 22 will be AJ Allmendinger who is coming off a good season as he finished 15th in the standings.

Penske stayed in the news with the announcement that Kurt Busch will leave the organization after six highly contentious but overall successful years together. Penske said that the decision was mutual and that he was disappointed that Busch would no longer be racing for his organization. Busch won a total of 16 races for Penske.

The addition of Allmendinger in place of Busch for Penske Racing should be a long term positive for the organization as Allmendinger is a class driver and someone the organization can be proud of.

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Allmendinger’s Past Led Him To His Future With Penske Racing

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Can AJ Allmendinger make the grade as the new driver of Penske Racing’s No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in 2012?

If tenacity, desire and will–together with great talent–have anything to do with it, the Penske Racing team has a new winner to replace departed Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and 24-race winner.

The 30-year-old driver from Los Gatos, CA–currently residing in the Mooresville, NC area with wife Lynne–has had grand successes in auto racing but in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, the grand stage of stock car racing, he’s had a difficult time, never having the stability that’s essential to succeeding.

Allmendinger, named for A.J. Foyt Jr by his race-loving parents, first showed his innate skills in karting. I remember watching him at the Stars of Karting event at Bryan Herta’s track outside Las Vegas in late 2000, where he was a member of Paul Tracy’s team. Allmendinger did not win that event, but he did secure two IKF karting titles that helped propel him to the Barber Dodge Pro Series.

The Dinger won the Barber Dodge championship in his rookie 2002 season, putting a wheel wrong only once, in the Road America race. I recall watching the poor Barber Dodge mechanics digging dirt from inside his stricken race car and labeling it “Mount Allmendinger,” with flag affixed and all.

Allmendinger went to New Zealand as a Team USA Scholarship winner in 2002 and scored one pole and four top-four results flying the Team USA colors. From there he conquered the 2003 Toyota Atlantic championship, at that time the longest-lived ladder championship on American shores, winning Rookie of the Year honors simultaneously as he drove for Carl Russo’s RuSport Racing.

Both the team and Allmendinger graduated to the Champ Car World Series in 2004, and the driver again took Rookie of the Year honors, thanks to a run of six top-six results as the season came to its close; he beat out Briton Justin Wilson for the award. Wilson became Allmendinger’s teammate in 2005 but in June of 2006, RuSport replaced the Californian with Cristiano da Matta, the 2002 CART champion recently returned from Formula 1.

Forsythe Championship Racing quickly picked up The Dinger and he rewarded them with three consecutive race wins and a total of five overall in the 2006 season. And then Team Red Bull, for whom Allmendinger should have been driving in F1–instead of Scott Speed–came calling with a lucrative offer to go to Cup.

Allmendinger started his NASCAR career late in 2006 in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he drove for Bill Davis Racing, making three starts and earning a best finish of fifth–in his second race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He drove the No. 84 Sprint Cup Red Bull Toyota entry, beginning full-time in 2007, but it was a learning experience for both team and driver. He did much of the “Car of Tomorrow” grunt work as the season progressed and ran some select Truck races for Toyota as he learned the big differences between open wheel and NASCAR trucks and race cars.

Eventually, Allmendinger got canned from the Red Bull squad in favor of Speed–who was released a couple of years later after his own sub-par results. The two-time former open wheel champion eventually landed at Richard Petty Motorsports after it merged with Gillett Evernharm Motorsports following the 2008 season.

Allmendinger’s best Cup season is the one just ended, where he finished 15th for the year, just three places from the possibility of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup NASCAR playoffs. RPM put Greg Erwin on the pit box starting with the 2011 Brickyard 400 and that pairing led to Allmendinger’s late-season surge of six top-10 results.

No doubt Allmendinger’s skills in working with his new crew chief influenced Roger Penske and Tim Cindric when it was time to choose who would succeed Busch after their six-year run together.

Cindric and Allmendinger got together before the close of the year to talk about their new liaison in Cup racing and how they got to this point, what it means and where they go from here. Not only do they have a new driver in Allmendinger, but Penske Racing needed to secure a new crew chief for the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge and chose to promote Todd Gordon from the Nationwide ranks.

Cindric knows it’s a tough row to hoe, with so many changes occurring within the organization since the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedwy. “To go through [these changes] and have a different crew chief and a different driver going into next year, when it really wasn’t the plan starting the year,” that’s going to be tough for the team.

They’re also–as is every NASCAR Sprint Cup team–dealing with the intricacies of changing from carburetors to electronic fuel injection for fuel delivery on the Dodge engines, so they need both driver and crew chief that are used to making informed decisions on the fly.

“We certainly wanted to be sure that we made the right decision,” Cindric said, “and sometimes you need more time to try and understand what the landscape (ahead) looks like.”

With the volatility of Richard Petty Motorsports, which lost the No. 43’s Best Buy sponsorship to Roush Fenway Racing after the close of the year, Allmendinger was relieved to land at a group as stable as Penske Racing after “the things I”ve been up against basically my whole five years in the Sprint Cup Series,” Allmendinger related. “To find an organization that has stability and obviously the whole Penske organization has a ton of stability and great sponsors, walking through the shop, just the way everything is laid out and presented is absolutely amazing and something I’d never seen before,” he allowed.

Allmendinger never expected to be in this situation after the race at Homestead; he fully expected to remain with RPM in the coming season. “It wasn’t something that, for me, it was easily made,” he said of the decision to ask for his release from RPM in order to join Penske Racing. “I love the race team, my guys over at Richard Petty Motorsports, and just felt like we’ve built such good chemistry over the last four to five months of the season, to get to this point was a tough challenge.

“But at the same point, looking at an organization and where I”m going and the people that surround it, also made the decision a little bit easier because I knew that this was a great place to be,” he said of Penske Racing. “I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around it,” he said of the quick change of venues. “As tough as the decision was to make, I’m happy to be here.”

With Speed Weeks at Daytona less than a month and a half away, “I think that AJ is really going to lean on Brad (teammate Keselowski) to try and understand wht it takes to move into this organization and be successful,” Cindric pondered, “and I think Brad is committed as a teammate to help him get up to speed as soon as possible because he’s certainly shown that he’s committed to making that happen. There’s really no better place to do that than Daytona, where you’ve got to work together from the beginning.”

Cindric and Roger Penske had many choices in the merry-go-round that is the driver marketplace at the end of each season. “We had to look at potential,” Cindric

admitted. “I think that we considered virtually everybody that was out there and made sure that we did our due diligence to try and understand if there was anything in the landscape that we didn’t know or that wasn’t obvious,” he said.

“AJ was someone we had talked to over the years but he really wasn’t somebody that we considered until really almost the 11th hour. There was noise about the fact that they might not be able to make things work (at RPM). And when we sat down and looked at the guys that were available and at AJ – the on-track performance, if you look at it, there’s nobody there that has a better progression through his career. When you look at the slope of the curve there with the way his statistics are, certainly no one has that type of slope.”

And so AJ Allmendinger goes from one legend’s lair (Richard Petty) to another’s, Roger Penske. He realizes that this opportunity–much like the one he accepted in working with Forsythe Championship Racing back in 2006–offers him the chance to show just how good he can be in a Penske Dodge.

“I’m going to be smiling showing up to the racetrack every weekend,” Allmendinger said. “This is what I love to do and if I wasn’t smiling, I shouldn’t be driving race cars. It’s going to be pretty special and to have Mr Penske just around the racetrack talking to me, just being able to be around him, it’s more of an honor to drive for him. I love the history of racing in general and obviously, Mr Penske has a rich history in racing. It’s going to be just fun being at the racetrack, being a part of his organization and being around him more than anything. That’s something I really look forward to.”

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Penske Racing hires A.J. Allmendinger to replace Kurt Busch in team’s No. 22 car

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Roger Penske has hired AJ Allmendinger to replace Kurt Busch in the No. 22 car.

Last year, the 30-year-old Allmendinger had 10 top-10 finishes and was 15th in points driving Richard Petty’s No. 43 car.

The move, announced Wednesday, takes Penske back to his open-wheel roots.

Allmendinger won the open-wheel Barber Dodge Pro Series title in 2002, the Toyota Atlantics championship in 2003 and was the 2004 rookie of the year in the now defunct Champ Car series. In 2005, he won five races and was third in Champ Car in points. He joined the Cup circuit in 2007.

Busch won two races, took three poles and was one of 12 drivers to compete in the season-ending chase. Two weeks ago, after six bumpy seasons, Busch and Penske parted ways.

Source: Associated Press

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