AJ Allmendinger Finishes 8th In Thursday's Duel

February 24, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2012) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger was in the thick of the battle during the entire running of today’s first Gatorade 150 here at Daytona International Speedway and came home with a solid eighth-place finish.  The strong performance in today’s qualifying race earned him the 15th starting position for Sunday’s 54th Annual Daytona 500.

“We’ve got a little bit of work to do,” Allmendinger said of his car’s performance here this afternoon.  “I don’t think we have the speed yet.  The car drives really well.  It’s slick out there.  You can see the track is getting slicker and slicker.  I thought the car drove okay.  We needed to tighten it up a little, but still pretty good.

“I feel like coming up through the gears and when we’re trying to get up to speed, we still need a little more steam,” Dinger assessed.  “We can’t quite stay attached.  Overall, it was pretty good.  It’s our first race we come out with the car looking normal, so that’s better than a lot of guys can say out there right now.  It was a good day.  I thought we had a chance at it again and in these races, it’s all you can ask for.  Hopefully, we can get through the 500 clean one more time.”

Allmendinger started 10th in today’s 60-lap battle.  He was in the lead draft throughout the race and ran as high as fourth.  The two Penske Dodge teams had discussed earlier about playing the same strategy as they applied in last Saturday night’s Bud Shootout.  Dinger said he just ran a race where he felt comfortable.

Unlike the shootout, it appeared that drivers were a little bit more conservative in today’s 150-mile qualifying races.  Allmendinger says that he thinks Sunday’s 500-miler will present a similar scenario.

“(The Duel was) a little bit more tame and I think that’s how the 500 is going to be,” Dinger offered.  “You’re going to have moments where guys get kind of antsy and they break out and they’ve got to go for the lead and then you’re going to see guys settle down.  I think that’s kind of how the 500 has always been, so I felt it was about right.  Guys early in the race kind of getting after it and then in the middle of the race, everybody kind of gets that lull and then that late-race yellow comes out and it’s chaos.  We’ll just keep working on it.  I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but we are putting ourselves in position to win the last two races and that’s all you can ask for.  You just hope everything works out.”

Defending Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart came home the winner in the first 150-mile qualifier.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, with Marcos Ambrose third, Jeff Burton fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.  Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick, Dinger (8th), Robby Gordon and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Matt Kenseth won the second 150-mile qualifying race.  Regan Smith was second, with Jimmie Johnson third, Elliott Sadler fourth and Greg Biffle fifth.  Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Crew chief Todd Gordon was already thinking strategy for Sunday’s 500 immediately after today’s qualifying race.

“I think survival and getting people to have confidence in you to go,” Gordon said.  “We made a couple of moves today that I thought were really good moves, but got nobody to follow with us.  You can’t do this thing on your own.  Just making sure we build some faith with some partners.  Hopefully, we can get with our own teammate and work that way together.  We’re back to pack drafting and you’ve got to have faith through the whole field to be able to make that move because you can’t always count on having your teammate with you.  Just getting people to have confidence in what we’re able to do.” 

The Speed Weeks 2012 schedule continues here on Friday with Cup practices scheduled from 11:00 a.m. till 12:00 noon and from 12:30 p.m. till 1:30 p.m.  Saturday’s final Cup practice is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. until 12:00 noon.  The Sunday, Feb. 26 Daytona 500 has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. ET starting time here at Daytona International Speedway.  FOX-TV, MRN Radio and Sirius-XM NASCAR Channel 90 will provide live coverage of all the action.