Allmendinger Making Most of Opportunities
Photo by: Aaron Fisher / TheRacingExperts.com
A.J. Allmendinger in the No. 22 at Dover in June 2012. Allmendinger is scheduled to be back in the No. 22 Nationwide ride for Penske Racing in August at Mid-Ohio.
By Eric Webler
A.J. Allmendinger has had one interesting year, to say the least. Last year at this time, Allmendinger was running full-time in NASCAR’s premiere series with high hopes and expectations after taking over for Kurt Busch. Although he had promising runs, his career to that point seemed to be stalled, with inconstancy plagued efforts with his current and previous teams.
2012 seemed different. With a ride in a top-tier car, Allmendinger had unpredictable results to begin the first third of the year. Through the summer stretch, Allmendinger’s final finishing positions started to match qualifying efforts. Heading into Daytona, the No. 22 team had knocked off two straight 9th place showings at Sonoma and Kentucky, but July 7 is when everything changed for A.J.
The failed drug test administered randomly by NASCAR led Allmendinger to join and successfully complete the NASCAR Road to Recovery program.
Allmendinger returned to run select races for Phoenix Racing at the end of 2012, and has continued to run on a limited basis.
Through the adversity, one man can be credited with giving Allmendinger a true second chance.
Roger Penske stated in 2012 that he would be willing to give Allmendinger a second chance. Although nothing has been worked out for Cup races, Allmendinger attempted the Indianapolis 500, and led laps as a rookie in the race, in a fully-funded effort with Team Penske.
Allmendinger was also tabbed to run the No. 22 Nationwide Series car for Penske at the road course races that don’t share the same weekend with the Cup Series.
Allmendinger wasted no time with his limited opportunity behind the Discount Tire No. 22 machine, winning the pole for Saturday’s race. Allmendinger led a race high 29 laps to score his first win on fuel strategy in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions. Allmendinger’s victory lane interview with ESPN, holding back tears, shows the reality of the hardships Allmendinger has faced in the last year. But, with the victory, Allmendinger’s unfortunate circumstances from the past might finally be behind him.
With at least one more opportunity in the Nationwide Series for Penske, fans could say the near future looks bright for Allmendinger. He is also scheduled to run more races for Phoenix Racing, and four guaranteed starts with JTG-Daugherty Racing scheduled in the Sprint Cup Series. With continued consistency this season, it may be possible to see Allmendinger back full-time in NASCAR or IndyCar, but, only time will tell.