Tuesday, April 3, 2012

AJ Allmendinger Earns Career-Best Finish at Martinsville

AJ Allmendinger approaches the finish line next to
Ryan Newman on the final restart of Sunday's race at Martinsville.
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
AJ Allmendinger finished second in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville in a career-best and season-high finish.

The final laps of the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 and sixth race of the season came down to Allmendinger (driver of the No. 22 Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing) and Ryan Newman (driver of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing) - both of whom may have had top-10 cars, but certainly not racing-winning cars. Unable to get by Newman, Allmendinger took home second place, but the driver is mostly happy about the team’s consistency throughout the day.

"We're getting better together," Allmendinger said following the race. "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.”

Since replacing Kurt Busch in the famous No. 22 Dodge for Penske, Allmendinger has had several rough weeks, finishing 37th at Las Vegas after dealing with fuel system problems. Leading up to Sunday’s race, things started looking up for the driver who earned a 17th-place finish at Bristol and 15th place at Fontana.

Allmendinger’s successful finish in Sunday’s race helped him gain 10 spots in the standings. The driver now sits in 20th with one top-five and one top-10 finish so far in 2012. Last season, Allmendinger finished 15th in the standings with one top five and 10 top-10 finishes.

While the driver is now part of a team capable of winning races, Allmendinger is still trying to adjust to his new surroundings and equipment.

"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 (crew chief, Gordon) is. We're trying to learn together."

The Sprint Cup Series will have a break for Easter before heading to Texas on April 14 for the Samsung Mobile 500 – Allmendinger is looking forward to some time off.

"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."

In last year’s race, Allmendinger finished 19th after starting 15th – in eight races at Texas he has two top 10s and a best finish of 10th.

Also notable is Aric Almirola’s eighth-place finish. The driver of the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports earned his third career top-10 on Sunday in his 41st start in the series. Almirola is currently 19th in the standings.
Rookie Jeb Burton races against drivers Matt Crafton and
James Buescher in the NASCAR Truck Series at

In the NASCAR Camping Wold Truck Series, Jeb Burton made his debut in Saturday’s Kroger 250 at Martinsville, finishing 13th after starting 7th. Burton, driver of the No. 27 State Water Heaters Chevy, finished ahead of some of the series’ top drivers like Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Crafton and Todd Bodine. Jeb, the 17-year old son of NASCAR veteran Ward Burton, was the highest finishing rookie in Saturday’s race.


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