Monday, April 02, 2012

Allmendinger Rings The Bell With Runnerup Martinsville Finish

Sunday had all the makings of a lousy day for AJ Allmendinger.

Career-best second for Allmendinger  at Martinsville

His first season with Penske Racing was off to a rocky start, with a best finish of 15th at Auto Club Speedway, his only lead-lap finish in five starts. His Shell/Pennzoil Dodge struggled all weekend at Martinsville Speedway, qualifying 27th at a venue where track position reigns supreme. Adding insult to injury, he awakened Sunday morning with a nasty case of the flu.

Not exactly cause for confidence.
And yet, with the stars seemingly aligned for another disappointing run, there was Allmendinger at race’s end, standing next to a virtually unscathed No. 22 Dodge, attempting to describe a bizarre series of events that resulted in a career-best runner-up finish, behind only race winner Ryan Newman.
“I was going to be happy because we had a Top-10 car,” said Allmendinger. “If the (final) yellow hadn’t come out, we would have finished eighth. We worked our way up front and did all the right things. I was going to be happy with that.
“Then, at the end, you get a little lucky on a restart and you have a chance.”
Flu? What flu?
Allmendinger made the most of his “lucky break,” dodging a multi-car tangle triggered when Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson clashed while racing three-wide for the win on a green-white-checkered flag restart. His escape-artist maneuver placed him alongside Newman with just two laps remaining, and while he was unable to outrun Newman’s Chevrolet in Martinsville’s difficult high groove, he easier outdistanced Dale Earnhardt, Jr., for second place.
“He raced me hard,” said Newman in Victory Lane. “I was surprised how long he hung with me on the outside.”  

“Being on the bottom, and as tight as I was on new tires, (I knew) it was going to be tough to get around him,” said Allmendinger, who thanked Newman for using his fair share of the race track, but no more. “He ran me really clean. He didn’t shove me up the race track like he could have. He gave me an opportunity to beat him on the outside, (but) we just were not turning good enough in the center.”
It may have taken longer than expected, but Sunday’s finish has all the makings of a turning point for Allmendinger, crew chief Todd Gordon and the Shell/Pennzoil team. “It’s great to have this team behind me,” he said Sunday. “We haven’t had the kind of start everyone hoped for, but these guys never questioned the decision to put me in the car. It’s nice to have a team that is 100-percent in your corner, even when times are tough.
“We had a shot,” he said, “and that’s all you can ask for.”
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