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Tag:A.J. Allmendinger
Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Up to Allmendinger to perform

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Can Allmendinger perform as well as Kurt Busch did last year with two victories and a berth in the Chase?)


Now that the music has stopped and A.J. Allmendinger finds himself in the Penske Racing seat, the former open wheel star can enjoy his Christmas break knowing his 2012 plans. 

But it won’t be too long before the honeymoon period will end and Allmendinger is forced to face the reality of the matter. 

He needs to perform well next season for there to be a second season in the Penske stable. 

Allmendinger didn’t ink a long-term contract to take the wheel of the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. Rather he’s locked into the coming year with no guarantees beyond 2012. 

Roger Penske and team General Manager Tim Cindric are happy they got their man but made it clear what their expectations are going forward. 

“Within every organization I think you set up gates and different areas that you have to get through from a performance perspective,” said Cindric. “We're not going to get into exactly what all those gates are, but his program is certainly set up for the long‑term, and if we realize our potential, I think he'll be our driver for more than one year.” 

Allmendinger understands he’ll need to step up to fulfill the promise the organization sees and knows the 2012 effort will be important in not just his future with Penske but as a viable Sprint Cup Series driver. 

“I think it gives me a great chance to make myself better,” he said.  “I know for me I'm coming into a race team that's got a lot of momentum, an organization that's got a lot of momentum from a great solid year.  

“And really when the season starts, you've just got to be solid to start the season.  You can't put yourself in a hole.  So I think that's going to be a big thing for us is just to try to gel together as quick as possible.”

Allmendinger will have a giant learning curve ahead of him moving into a new organization with a different manufacturer and a brand new crew chief in Todd Gordon, who makes his Sprint Cup debut after a successful Nationwide Series career with the team. 

The question is can he adapt to so many changes in such a relatively short period of time and continue the momentum he had after finishing fifteenth in the standings last year as well as the performance of the No. 22 ride? 

Allmendinger steps into a car that won twice last season and along with its sister ride driven by Brad Keselowski made the Chase. 

The bar is set pretty high and Allmendinger will have his work cut out just trying to match what was accomplished in 2011. 

That’s a pretty tall order considering the season’s first official green flag is less than two months away. 

There’s a good chance should Allmendinger not win a race, failing to qualify for the playoffs or at the very least match his finishing in the standings last year this could be a one and done proposition. 

Penske has shown patience in the past with others who have come through the organization most recently with David Stremme, who had a couple of years in the Sprint Cup program before finally being replaced by Keselowski.

Sam Hornish Jr. is back and waiting in the wings, ready to run for the Nationwide Series championship next season after making positive strides last year including his first career NASCAR win. 

Penske’s relationship with Hornish dates back to their Indy Car days and the team owner’s loyalty with the former Indy 500 winner is very deep. A solid Nationwide campaign will be a definite help for Hornish to return to the Cup level, possibly at Allmendinger’s expense should 2012 not go as well as the team hopes.

Allmendinger has the talent to succeed and for the first time in his stock car career the resources and perhaps more importantly the stability of the organization as support.

But as this current volatile state of NASCAR has shown time and again during this hectic off-season the pressure to perform has never been greater.

In fact even reaching the ultimate of success is no guarantee for anyone’s future.

Just ask Darian Grubb.


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Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:31 pm
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Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:59 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 6:16 am
 

Allmendinger wins while Ragan hopes for the best

By Pete Pistone



Image Detail
(Allmendinger's future is set with Penske Racing but what lies ahead for the iconic No. 43 car is still very unclear)

The wildest NASCAR off-season in recent history continued with Penske Racing naming A.J. Allmendinger the new driver of the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge.

The announcement capped off a wild month for the team that found itself in need of a new driver and crew chief only days after the checkered flag flew on the season finale at Homestead. 

Crew chief Steve Addington bolted to join championship-winning Tony Stewart’s entry and Stewart-Haas Racing. Then the team decided to part ways with Kurt Busch in the aftermath of a season-long string of behavior issues that boiled over with the driver’s emotional outburst with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch and his television crew. 

The turn of events left team owner Roger Penske and General Manager Tim Cindric with the daunting task of basically rebuilding the team in about four weeks time. 

Todd Gordon was tabbed as crew chief, getting a promotion from Penske’s successful Nationwide Series program, where he led the No. 22 team to six wins a year ago. Much like his counterpart at Penske’s other ride Paul Wolfe, who helped guide Brad Keselowski to a Chase berth and three Cup wins last season, after being elevated from the Nationwide effort, Gordon has a chance to shine at the top level of the sport. 

But until Wednesday Gordon did not know whom he’d be working with as a driver. 

Despite several sources confirming early on that David Ragan was the heir apparent to Busch in the ride, Penske stayed mum on what the plans were to fill the open seat. 

When Richard Petty Motorsports got word that Best Buy would leave the team in favor of a scaled down program with Roush Fenway Racing, it put Allmendinger on the open market.

And in short order the Penske organization pounced.

On paper the stats between Allmendinger and Ragan are pretty equal. 

Allmendinger has made 152 starts and has gone winless with an average finish of 21.2 while Ragan has 182 starts with his Daytona win last summer to go along with a 21.2 average finish. 

However Allmendinger has had a somewhat rocky go of it during his transition from open wheel racing, where he was considered a phenom during his Champ Car days, to stock car racing. 

He started his NASCAR career with Red Bull Racing in 2007 but struggled to the point of finally being replaced the following year. 

From there he landed at what was known as Gillett-Evernham Motorsports, which eventually evolved into RPM.

Allmendinger finally showed the promise many expected from him last season when he came close to winning several times and finished seventeenth in the final Sprint Cup Series standings. 

It appeared Allmendinger was set to build on that success along with teammate Marcos Ambrose, who scored a win for the team at Watkins Glen in 2011, and head into the new campaign to bring RPM to the next level. 

But that plan went out the window quickly when Best Buy’s decision started the dominoes falling. 

Now Penske has its line-up set, Allmendinger has a new ride, RPM is down to only one fully sponsored team and Ragan is back in the unemployment line. 

A year ago Richard Petty’s team was struggling to keep its doors open after funding from controversial then team co-owner George Gillett dried up and led to legal action being taken. 

Petty was able to bring in new investors in the form of Medallion Financial Corp and DGB Investments. The team regrouped bringing Ambrose in from JTG Daugherty to pair with Allmendinger and set off into a 2011 season that for the most part was encouraging and impressive, especially in light of what had transpired around the organization. 

RPM insists the loss of Best Buy and release of Allmendinger is not a deadly blow and plans to again field a pair of entries next season. 

Ironically Ragan could fill the now open seat of the No. 43. 

Shuffled out of Roush due to sponsor UPS scaling back its program and forcing the operation to shrink from four to three cars next season, Ragan was one of the prime free agents on the market, a list that included David Reutimann and Brian Vickers who both lost their rides at Michael Waltrip Racing and Red Bull respectively. 

He seemed the perfect choice to replace the tempestuous Busch with Penske particularly from the marketing side of the sport. Ragan’s low key demeanor and friendly personality served former sponsor UPS well at Roush and appeared to give him the leg up to join Penske and represent Shell/Pennzoil, who was looking for less controversy than what at times surrounded Busch’s tenure. 

The cards did not fall that way for Ragan with Penske but with RPM aligned with Ford and RFR, he would be the perfect fit to more or less remain in the family with the 43 ride. 

That is if one key element can be found – sponsorship. 

The tough economy and financial pressures from corporate America that continue to take its toll on NASCAR teams in need of precious sponsorship dollars will make that a difficult mission for RPM – especially at this late date. 

Preseason testing is only three weeks away and the start of the season comes less than a month after that wraps up. Prepping for 2012 without a driver or sponsor the week of Christmas is not the gift RPM expected this holiday season.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:18 am
Edited on: December 21, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Allmendinger replaces Kurt Busch at Penske

By Pete Pistone

The saga of the Penske Racing Shell/Pennzoil ride took a somewhat surprising turn on Wednesday when A.J. Allmendinger was named the new driver.

Allmendinger was released by Richard Petty Motorsports on Tuesday in the aftermath of the team losing sponsor Best Buy to Roush Fenway Racing.

He replaces Kurt Busch, who mutually left the team at the end of the 2011 season.

Allmendinger just completed his best campaign of his Sprint Cup career when he finished fifteenth in the final Sprint Cup Series standings.

The 30-year-old native of Los Gatos, Calif., earned one top-five, 10 top-10 and 22 top-15 results in 2011 while driving the No. 43 car for RPM.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to join Penske Racing and drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in 2012,” said Allmendinger. “I have always admired Roger Penske and the way his teams compete and win in every series where they race. It is a privilege for me to represent such iconic and respected brands as Shell and Pennzoil, AAA and Dodge. I am honored to join Penske Racing and I will do my very best to continue to build on the standard of excellence established across the organization.”

Team owner Roger Penske was pleased to bring Allmendinger into the fold to work with new crew chief Todd Gordon, who was promoted from the organization's Nationwide Series program.

"AJ is a very talented and motivated driver and we believe he will be a terrific fit with our team,” Penske. “He has shown great promise and consistent results on the track over the last few seasons and working with Todd and the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge team will allow him to take the next step and compete for race wins and a spot in the Chase in 2012.” 

David Ragan, who several sources confirmed was all but announced as the new Penske driver, is now rumored to be in the mix at RPM if the team can find backing for the No. 43 ride. Ragan was also in talks with Phoenix Racing for 2012 as well.

RPM released a statement in the wake of Wednesday's moves:

"Richard Petty Motorsports has released AJ Allmendinger to pursue other opportunities within the sport,” stated team Chief Executive Officer Brian Moffitt. “AJ is a talented driver whom we all enjoyed working with and we wish him the best.”

“Our plan remains to run a two-car team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2012 and we are continuing down that path,” said Moffitt. “We believe there are several very talented drivers who are still available and would embrace the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the legendary No. 43 Ford Fusion.  We continue to move forward and are optimistic about the future of this race team.”

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Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 5:38 pm
 

Report: Petty team considering Kurt Busch

By Pete Pistone

UPDATED - 12/13/2011

Sirius XM NASCAR Radio's
 "Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody" has learned that in an effort to retain sponsor Best Buy, Richard Petty Motorsports has proposed replacing AJ Allmendinger as driver of the legendary #43 Ford with Kurt Busch.

RPM struggled to re-sign Best Buy a year ago, negotiating until early January before inking a one-year contract. The electronics retailer served as major sponsor of the #43 team in 26 events this season.

Richard Petty Motorsports Chief Operating Officer Robbie Loomis confirmed today that discussions regarding Busch have been held, saying, "Best Buy has been a great partner for a long time, and AJ Allmendinger has done a fantastic job for us. He's coming off his best season yet, but I can tell you there is a lot of interest on our part in having Kurt Busch in the fold. It makes sense to have Kurt with our team, if we can make it work.

"Our main focus is to continue building on what we finished the season with last year," said Loomis. "But right now, I feel like I'm running down two different sets of train tracks. From a personal standpoint, nothing has excited me more than when I heard Kurt had become available. I'm excited about the opportunity to add a driver like Kurt Busch to Richard Petty Motorsports. I would mortgage my house to make Kurt a part of this team. We value what he has done on the race track. He has won a (Sprint Cup) championship and worked for a first-class operation like Penske Racing. Guys like that don't come along every day." 

RPM did not release an official statement on the speculation that either Allmendinger had been released or if Best Buy was ready to remain with the team for 2012. The possibility of adding Busch as a third entry has also been discussed but contingent on finding additional sponsorship.

 
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Posted on: April 13, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: April 13, 2011 11:25 am
 

STP back to NASCAR

Posted by Pete Pistone

STP's long and storied history in auto racing will continue when the company returns to NASCAR this season in a multi-faceted marketing program that includes sponsorship of a Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series race as well as A.J. Allmendinger flying the iconic color scheme later this summer:

From News Release

When STP and Richard Petty first signed a deal in 1972, it forever changed the sponsorship landscape within the sport of auto racing. To mark its 39 year history in racing, the STP brand is building its presence in the sport through multiple series’ including NASCAR, NHRA, World of Outlaws, Infineon Speedway, and at several International Speedway Corporation (ISC) tracks.

STP’s racing portfolio includes:

  • Multi-year title sponsorship of the Nationwide and Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway and Kansas Speedway, respectively. This year, the STP 300 Nationwide Series race will take place on June 4 and the STP 400 Cup race will run on June 5.  
  • The STP-branded No. 43 car will make its return to the track driven by Richard Petty Motorsports driver, AJ Allmendinger, during the STP 400. The No. 43 STP Ford Fusion will be a modern replica of the 1972 paint scheme featuring the original Petty Blue and STP Day-Glo Red.
  • Primary sponsor of two-time NHRA Full Throttle Nitro Funny Car Champion Tony Pedregon for three races (Las Vegas, Houston and Infineon) and an associate sponsorship for the balance of the season.
  • Multi-year track sponsorships with a number of ISC properties including Daytona, Talladega, Richmond, Darlington, Michigan, Chicagoland and Kansas.
  • Multi-year track sponsorship of Infineon Raceway and title sponsor of Wednesday Night Drags and Bracket Drags.
  • Continued sponsorship of Tony Stewart Racing and four-time World of Outlaws Champion Donny Schatz and the World of Outlaws Series.

“Since our initial sponsorship with Richard Petty almost 40 years ago, we’ve understood the power of racing and the ability to connect with our consumers through the sport,” said Dave Lundstedt, CEO of Armored AutoGroup Inc. “We are excited to be continuing that relationship with the fans and adding another chapter to our storied racing history with a diverse stable of sponsorships.”

Added Guy Andrysick, Armored AutoGroup EVP of Sales and Marketing, “Just like the teams, drivers and tracks that we are sponsoring, the STP brand stands for quality and performance. So as we look to grow the STP brand in a competitive marketplace and create new and exciting activation opportunities for our retail partners, a renewed presence in motorsports is an important part of our strategy.”

Part of what made STP an iconic brand within the sport was the No. 43 race car that dawned the classic Petty Blue and STP Day-Glo Red. Richard Petty proudly drove the No. 43 STP car for 200 wins during his racing career – 100 more than any other driver. STP’s winning relationship with Petty shows that STP truly has “The Racer’s Edge®” in the sport. 

“Since `72, I’ve been an STP man, so I’m thrilled to see one of the RPM cars out on the track with the STP paint scheme,” said Richard Petty, team owner of Richard Petty Motorsports and legendary driver of the No. 43 STP car. “It’s exciting to see such an iconic brand build upon its heritage in the sport at this level.”

“We are extremely proud to announce this multi-year partnership with STP at several ISC tracks,” said Daryl Q. Wolfe, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at ISC.  “It is always great to see iconic sponsors like STP take a renewed interest in the sport, especially given STP’s long and rich history in NASCAR and motorsports as a whole.  We take pride in developing strong promotional platforms for our partners and we look forward to working closely with STP in the future to meet and exceed their marketing objectives.”



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