|Dec, 16, 1981||5'6"||IZOD|
|Los Gatos, CA||155||Dallara/Chevrolet|
|Charlotte, NC||Ron Ruzewski|
AJ Allmendinger returns to his roots in 2013 after promising results in both open-wheel racing and in the NASCAR stock car ranks. Allmendinger will drive the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet in select races this season, including an opportunity for “Dinger” to shine on racing's biggest stage as he competes in the Indianapolis 500 for the most successful team in the history of the legendary race.
The hard-charging 31-year old American driver is certainly deserving of the opportunity to return to open-wheel competition and the Penske Racing organization after a tumultuous 2012 season. Allmendinger began last year behind the wheel of Penske Racing’s No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in the NASCAR Cup Series but midway through the season he was suspended for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy. After parting ways with the Penske team to focus on completing the NASCAR "Road to Recovery" program, Allmendinger returned to action with another team late in the 2012 Cup Series season.
As the opportunity arose during the offseason at Team Penske to field a third car at select IZOD IndyCar Series races, the team turned to Allmendinger, a familiar force who was anxious for the opportunity to return to open-wheel racing to show what he can do.
Allmendinger’s hope is to replicate his previous dominance in his return to Indy car racing after a seven-year hiatus. In three seasons competing in CART and the Champ Car World Series beginning in 2004, “Dinger” posted five wins, two poles and 14 podium finishes. His most successful season was 2006 which saw him register five race victories (Portland, Cleveland, Toronto, Denver, Elkhart Lake), one pole (Cleveland) and seven podiums in just 14 races while racing against current IndyCar veterans Sebastien Bourdais, Oriol Servia, Justin Wilson, Alex Tagliani and current Team Penske teammate Will Power.
Allmendinger first emerged as a rising open-wheel star in 2001. Carving out his place in North American racing, he competed for the Formula Dodge National Championship that year, earning a spot in the Barber Dodge Pro Series (BDPS) the following season. Winning suited Allmendinger, but it wasn’t quite enough. He collected the BDPS Championship and Rookie of the Year honors while breaking track records along the way. Racing insiders started to take note of the personable racer with the quirky walk and Allmendinger earned the first of three consecutive RACER Magazine “Most Promising Road Racer” Awards.
That promise was advanced as the RuSPORT team tagged Allmendinger for their growing Atlantic/Champ Car program. In 2003 RuSPORT debuted in the Toyota Atlantic Series with Allmendinger at the helm of its No.10 car. It was a storybook season as “Dinger” stormed through each event shattering records set by such established racing stars like Jacques Villeneueve, Bobby Rahal and Michael Andretti. Allmendinger captured nine poles and seven victories in 12 races on the way to winning the Toyota Atlantic Championship and Rookie-of-the-Year titles. He became the second-youngest driver to win the prestigious championship, just behind Andretti.
The following season both Allmendinger and RuSPORT stepped up to the Champ Car World Series. The then 22-year-old again impressed, despite being with a first-year team. He delivered 11 top-10 starts and nine top-10 finishes, including two podium results. Allmendinger became only the second driver in series history to capture the Rookie-of-the-Year title with a first-year team. The standout season also marked the highest overall finish for an American rookie since Rahal’s 1982 season.
Allmendinger’s performance was being noted around the world as he also became the first American to take home the coveted AUTOSPORT International Rookie-of-the-Year trophy. But he was more than a fierce competitor behind the wheel. His easy-going style and approachability earned him the Greg Moore Legacy Award for his sportsmanship and attitude off the track.
In 2006, Allmendinger joined the Forsythe Championship Racing team and he continued to soar. He enjoyed a dominant stretch of three consecutive wins and five victories overall as he battled for the Champ Car title. Following the breakout season, Allmendinger opted to switch racing gears and focus on NASCAR as he joined the Red Bull team and began his rapid development as a stock car driver.
After several promising NASCAR seasons, Allmendinger joined Penske Racing as he was named driver the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Cup Series entry in December of 2011.
He earned the opportunity to prove what he could for one of the top teams in all of motorsports by being a true model of consistency. In the past six seasons competing on the Cup Series circuit, Allmendinger posted two pole wins (Phoenix in 2010 and Kansas in 2012) while starting a total of 175 races over three full-time and three partial seasons. His five top-five finishes are indicative of his capabilities on all configurations and sizes of race tracks. “Dinger” finished third in the 2009 Daytona 500 (2.5-mile superspeedway restrictor-plate race), fourth in the August 2010 Watkins Glen race (2.45-mile road course), fourth in the November 2010 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5-mile progressive-banked oval), fifth in 2011’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad-oval) and a runner-up performance last year at Martinsville (half-mile oval). Allmendinger also posted 29 top-10 finishes, with 21 of them coming during the last three seasons.
Much of Allmendinger’s success can be traced to an impressive strengthening ability to finish races. He became one of NASCAR’s most proficient competitors when it came to running at the conclusion of races. In 2011, Allmendinger was running at the finish in 35 of the 36 races. It was an impressive feat, especially considering that only two drivers that finished ahead of him in points were running at the finish in more races (Chase drivers Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman were running at the finish in all 36 races.) Allmendinger finished more races than seven of the 12 Chase drivers that season.
In addition to his races competing for Team Penske in 2013, Allmendinger will also compete in select NASCAR Cup Series events for Phoenix Racing this season.
Allmendinger started early as a racer, by racing his BMX bike to the top of each division he entered starting at the age of five. By the time he was eight, Allmendinger made his first venture into four wheels, driving a quarter midget on pavement ovals along the West Coast. He truly found his groove in the karting world a few years later. Bolstered by his biggest fans (and sponsors), Mom and Dad, Allmendinger traveled the country collecting victories and championships. When he hit his early teens, he had two IKF Grand National Championships under his belt and was ready for a new challenge.
Allmendinger, who resides in Charlotte, NC, enjoys racing go karts in his spare time.
Fan Cam - Andrea Mueller - Andrea Mueller, Race Engineer for the NASCAR Nationwide Series No. 22 Ford Mustang reflects on the 2013 season as we approach the season finale in Homestead.