Is A.J. Allmendinger on The Hot Seat?
Photo by Wesley Daniel / TheRacingExperts.Com
Allmendinger's main 2012 paint scheme. Allmendinger has managed to lead 99 laps in three events this season.  

By Dominic Aragon
TheRacingExperts.Com Reporter

A.J. Allmendinger might be wishing he could take a mulligan on 2012.

Twelve races into 2012, Allmendinger is currently mired back to 24th in points.  What began as a season of high hopes and the potential for a breakout season has turned into a year full of unfortunate circumstances.

When Allmendinger took over the No. 22 car after Kurt Busch “mutually” parted ways from Pensek Racing, he was signed to a one year contract with Todd Gordon moving up from the Nationwide Series to crew chief the team.

The Daytona 500 quickly dashed the hopes of a decent start to the season due to a pit road incident with Ryan Newman. Issues with fuel pressure in Las Vegas put the No. 22 car 37th on the leaderboard and 29th in points after three races.

As one-third of the season is complete, Allmendinger’s highlights include a second place run at Martinsville and starting on pole at Kansas. Although he led the first 44 laps of the race in Kansas, his overall performance overshadowed that race day. Another internal car problem relegated his team to 32nd, ten laps down.

A tangle with driver Jamie McMurray at Darlington and brake/front end problems in last Sunday’s Coca Cola 600 have left the California native with two consecutive 33rd place showings.

Coming into Sunday’s race at Dover, Allmendinger has just one top-10 run on the season. Although he has not DNF’d in any race thus far and has managed to complete 97% of the 3,880 total laps run in Sprint Cup competition, he only has four lead lap finishes, his lowest amount since 2008 after twelve races.

After this Sunday’s race, the Sprint Cup Series is halfway to the Chase cutoff. Allmendinger may be over 100 points behind 10th in points Carl Edwards, but there is still a window of opportunity for the No. 22 team to rebound and make the Chase.

Last year at this time, Brad Keselowski was 25th in points before his team won three races en route to qualifying for the Chase via the wildcard.

Despite not having the finishes to show for it, Allmendinger has historically run decent at Dover, showing muscle by leading 152 total laps on three separate occasions. A solid top-5 effort may in fact roll some much needed momentum into a team that was 6th in points at this point last season.

The fact that Allmendinger is only signed on to a one year deal draws more attention to the uncertainty of job security. Details of Allmendinger’s contract have not been disclosed publicly, but one might assume that there is a possible performance clause written in it.

While many of Allmendinger’s 2012 finishes certainly do not reflect the potential he has shown, he definitely has his work cut out for him to recover from a season that has produced mixed results.

Photo by Wesley Daniel / TheRacingExperts.Com
Allmendinger running on the lead lap in the early stages of the 2012 Coca Cola 600.