AJ Allmendinger is embracing the challenge of working with new team Penske Racing, following his move from Richard Petty Motorsports. The 30 year old Californian will be entering his sixth season in NASCAR in 2012 following his move from Champ Cars, where on his day he could beat the dynamic combination of Sebastian Bourdais and Newman-Haas Racing. Although he is still yet to win a race in NASCAR, he believes that his move to replace the sacked Kurt Busch will give him his best shot yet.
“This is a challenge that I welcome and look forward to,” Allmendinger said. “The two Penske teams were strong enough to both win races and make the Chase last year, and we're looking for that same level of success this season. It'll be important to start off the season on a positive note.
“Testing proved to each of us that, even though we haven’t had much time together, we all have the same goal and are really excited to get going. Testing also showed, though, that the drafting and NASCAR making changes to try and put forth the best racing possible, makes the Daytona 500 just about anybody’s game. I think we’ve got one of the best shots out there, and definitely a team capable of winning at any of the 36 races.”
Allmendinger was a career best 15th in points last season, and will be hoping to continue his steady upward progression since finishing 24th in 2009 and 19th in 2010.
“I think it is a very realistic goal to win races and make the Chase this season,” he said. “I think Penske Racing proved last season that working with Dodge as only a two-car effort isn't necessarily a bad situation. They proved that a smaller group with a strong common goal and clear way of doing things can be just as strong, maybe stronger.
“This is my second time around working with Dodge, and I've seen how dedicated they are to our sport. We're really looking forward to taking them to victory lane this season.”
Allmendinger is aware of the scrutiny he will be under that comes with the promotion to a top drive – his new team-mate Brad Keselowski endured similarly rough treatment following a lamentable first year with the team before his breakthrough year in 2011 saw him finish fifth in the Chase with three wins. The Dinger is confident that he will cope with the pressure.
“We have spent most of our time in NASCAR just trying to survive,” he said. “Getting this opportunity to drive the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing is truly like a double blessing. I am finally getting the stability I have needed to do my best, but I am also realizing a dream in driving for Mr. Penske.
“Coming from my open-wheel background, Roger Penske and his organization and race teams are just the best of the best. I am committed to representing Penske Racing, Shell-Pennzoil, Dodge and all the other great partners the best I can on and off the track.”