AJ Allmendinger


AJ Allmendinger dominates Nationwide race at Mid-Ohio, Sam Hornish resumes championship points lead


The NASCAR Nationwide Series made its first appearance at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time in the history this past weekend to hold the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200. The new track quickly proved to be one of the most difficult racetracks on the Nationwide Series this season. While all of the series regulars and road course specialists competed at the Mid-Ohio track last Saturday, the race had an extremely surprising winner.

AJ Allmendinger spent almost the entire race at the lead, and he would have been able to coast to victory if it was not for a caution with only two laps remaining in the race. The seventh and final caution of the 92-lap race forced all of the contestants to bunch together before they ran the final two laps of the race. The caution may have put the final result of the race in doubt if Allmendinger did not have such a dominant car all day. As soon as the flag waved for the final two laps, Allemdinger was able to jump ahead of the pack to take the checkered flag with little pressure from Michael McDowell and Sam Hornish Jr. behind him. McDowell was second and Sam Hornish Jr. assumed the series points lead after finishing third. Max Papis and Brian Vickers rounded out the top five.

The race last Saturday at Mid-Ohio was only Allemdinger’s second race on the Nationwide Series due to the suspension. He was also able to win his previous race at the Road American race track in Wisconsin. If AJ Allmendinger is able to keep up the dominant performances in his next few races, then he may be able to earn back the full-time job that he lost due to the suspension.



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Castroneves and Power Both Lead Team Penske Qualifying


Team Penske came up just short in its pursuit of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach pole position Saturday, but if recent history is any indication, the team will be in prime position for a race victory when the green flag flies.

Teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves both qualified for the Firestone Fast Six, with Power earning a third-place starting position and Castroneves securing a sixth-place starting spot. AJ Allmendinger had the ninth-fastest lap in his group during the first qualifying round and will start 14th on Sunday.

Power, the defending Long Beach race winner, was clocked at 67.3987 around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. Power unfortunately was unable to record his planned fast lap as the checkered flag flew before he could start his third lap in the Firestone Fast Six.

“Yeah, it was good, obviously, to get to the Fast Six, and then just how qualifying is at the moment. We got caught out at the end there,” said Power, who managed to win the race from a 12th-place starting position in 2012 despite qualifying second when he and the other Chevrolet drivers took 10-grid spot penalties after changing out engines. “Tim (Cindric) came over the radio and said that you’re barely going to make one more lap. I thought he meant fuel, not time, but it was time. So I got to the start of my last lap, and it was checkered flag. But still, I’m happy with third.”

The current IZOD IndyCar Series championship leader, Castroneves turned a lap of 67.9698 in the No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner has now qualified eighth or better in his last four races at Long Beach.
“We made some adjustments to the Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet between the sessions today and improved quite a lot,” said Castroneves, who won the 2001 Grand Prix of Long Beach from the pole. “It’s a shame because I felt that I had a better car than sixth. I’m not complaining, being top six is great, but I just want to make sure we get everything we can out of the car because it is so competitive here.”

Allmendinger, in his second race driving the No. 2 Penske Automotive Dallara/Chevrolet, had a fast lap of 1:09.2001 in the first qualifying session.

“Tough day for the No. 2 Penske Automotive Chevrolet,” said Allmendinger, who competed at Long Beach three times previously and recorded a top-10 finish in 2005. “We thought we had the car in a pretty good place going into qualifying but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out of it what I needed. I know that Will won the race last year from 12th so that gives us some hope that we can move up through the field tomorrow and hopefully be competitive.”

Power, who also won the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2008, will start inside the second row and alongside Takuma Sato and behind polewinner Dario Franchitti.

“It’s definitely a good starting position,” said Power. “I look for a good, solid race again tomorrow in the Verizon car.”

Sunday’s 80-lap Grand Prix of Long Beach is scheduled to begin at 4:45 p.m. ET with NBC Sports Network coverage beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


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Penske’s AJ Allmendinger catches a break


AJ Allmendinger knows it took a little green-white-checkered craziness for him to finish second Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, but for a team desperately needing some good news, he’ll take it.

“I don’t know if we had a second-place car, but with the way these races play out, you’ve got to put yourself in position,” Allmendinger said after the race. “It was definitely a top-10 car.”

Ryan Newman didn’t have a winning car, either, but that’s how it turned out after Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson — driving the two best cars in the field Sunday — got wrecked on the first overtime restart.
Sometimes things don’t go your way in the end, and sometimes you catch a break. Allmendinger got one Sunday for a career-best finish and his first strong showing since making the move to the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing.

“We’re getting better together,” Allmendinger said. “It’s frustrating at times. It wasn’t a good feeling around here. I was kind of lost, so I’m really thrilled with the finish, but I’m happy with how we ran all day.

“I want to be up there every weekend. I’m trying my butt off, trying everything I can to get these guys up front. They’re behind me. It feels good to have an organization behind you even when you feel like you’re struggling a little bit.”

Allmendinger feels the pressure to perform as the guy who replaced Kurt Busch, a former Sprint Cup champion who made the Chase four times in his six seasons at Penske and has 24 Cup victories.

Allmendinger still is looking for his first Cup win. He came close Sunday, but couldn’t get by Newman on the final restart.

“I knew on that restart to hang on the outside of Ryan,” Allmendinger said. “But he ran me really clean and I thank him for that. We were just a little too tight. We had a really good car on the long run.”

Crew chief Todd Gordon said one good run can work wonders for the team’s confidence.

“It’s big for both AJ and myself,” Gordon said. “Obviously, this 22 car is known for winning races. This kind of gives us a step in the right direction to having the success that we both know we can have.”

After fuel system problems in Las Vegas and a 37th-place finish, Allmendinger has improved in each of the past three events — 17th at Bristol, 15th at Fontana and the runner-up showing Sunday.

Allmendinger has moved up 10 spots in the standings from 30th to 20th. And for those who are comparing, he’s six spots ahead of Kurt Busch and the underfunded Phoenix Racing team.

But Allmendinger realizes he’s on a team now that belongs much higher in the standings than 20th.

“I’m working so hard,” Allmendinger said. “I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself because these guys are used to running up front and deserve to run up front. I’m trying to learn as quickly as I can, just like Todd is. We’re trying to learn together.”

Allmendinger had his best race of the year on a day when he wasn’t feeling his best. He welcomes the off week for Easter before heading to Texas for the next event.

“I think we all need a rest,” he said. “I need to get healthy. I’ve been traveling so much doing a lot of fun things for Shell/Pennzoil and for AAA. I’ve been worn out. I think this is the right time to get a weekend off, take some notes that we learned from this weekend and go to Texas and be ready to go.”

[Source: ESPN]

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