A.J. Allmendinger to
drive the 22 for Penske Racing
Could 2011 be the last time we see Kurt Busch running consistently up front? Photo Credit: Casey24836 / Flickr.com
By Andrew Carbone
Special to TheRacingExperts.com
BREAKING NEWS: Early today a statement from Richard Petty Motorsports was released saying their driver of the #43 car, AJ Allmendinger was released to pursue other opportunities. It turns out that about an hour later; Roger Penske signed A.J. to drive the vacated No. 22 Pennzoil Dodge. "Shell and Pennzoil are extremely pleased by Penske Racing's selection of AJ Allmendinger to drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge," said Lisa Davis, President of Shell Oil Products U.S. "AJ has consistently demonstrated great potential and continuous improvement as a driver, and with Penske's track record, our employees and customers can look forward to seeing him contending for wins and ultimately a championship in the NASCAR Cup Series. We know he will represent our brands well on and off the track and we look forward to a successful 2012 with AJ behind the wheel."(Penske Racing Press Release) AJ will be looking to score his first NSCS win driving the #22 Dodge.
Now, the next question is who will drive the historic #43 Ford? The answer looks like it will be David Ragan but don’t rule out Kurt Bush just yet. David Ragan was told to pursue other racing opportunities outside of Roush-Fenway Racing because of sponsorship issues, so David has been talking to various top-30 teams like TRG Motorsports and Phoenix Racing for 2012 rides.
RPM and RFR are close Ford partners, so the move with Ragan going over to the historic 43 would make the most sense. This would be the best move for Ragan competitively speaking. On the other hand, Kurt Bush to RPM rumors have been floating around before the entire A.J. Allmendinger move. Was A.J. released to make room for Kurt? Will RPM and Penske swap drivers? Well...we’ll find out.
But I highly doubt Kurt will move over to the 43 because he was released by Roush after the 2005 season for some of the same conduct reasons he was released from Penske this past November. With RPM and Roush being close partners as stated earlier, I feel that Jack Roush would block any Kurt Bush links towards RPM. As Kurt Bush may be the more talented driver, David Ragan would make the most sense in the #43 Ford. Kurt Bush may find himself with an underfunded team this coming season, this just goes to show that “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.”
He had competitive racecars throughout his time with Penske, and its going to be hard for him to find that now with the new team he goes to. Here is a statement from RPM regarding their driver search. "We believe there are several very talented drivers who are still available and would embrace the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the legendary No. 43 Ford Fusion. We continue to move forward and are optimistic about the future of this race team."(RPM)
Don’t forget about David Reutimann and Brian Vickers, they need rides too. It will be interesting to see what plays down in choosing the driver for one of NASCAR’s most historic rides.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.