Allmendinger Finishes 15th at 'Dega After Late Incident

May 6, 2012

TALLADEGA, Ala. (May 6, 2012) – Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger started today’s Aaron’s 499 here at Talladega Superspeedway from the outside pole and was among the threats for getting the win until a late-race skirmish.  Dinger and his Todd Gordon-led Penske Racing No. 22 team still soldiered on to a 15th-place finish and made it a good day as for the NASCAR Sprint Cup points race.

Allmendinger was running solidly in the top-10 for a restart with only three laps remaining in the scheduled 188-lap battle when he fought for the same space with Denny Hamlin and helped ignite the fifth and final caution.  In typical fashion for the restrictor-plate races here and at Daytona, before the dust had settled, at least 10 cars encountered damage.

Dinger sustained heavy damage to the right-front fender area of his Dodge and was forced to hit pit road lap after lap during the ensuing caution to make repairs.  He lined up 19th for the “overtime” green-white-checkered finish and was able to climb back up to the 15th spot after 194 laps.

“My guys did a good job, fast motor, fast race car,” a dejected Allmendinger said as he walked back to his team transporter.  “I’m happy the 2 car won.  I had a chance to win the race until it all went down the drain.  On the restart, everybody was getting after it.  I tried to block, if Denny (Hamlin) was already there, my apology.  Everybody on the Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge and the Penske organization gave us fast race cars.  We had a chance to win.  I’m happy the 2 car won.”

Dinger was eager to see the replay of the incident that eliminated his chances at winning, yet was proud for his teammate Brad Keselowski.  His impressive victory here this afternoon marked Penske Racing’s first Cup victory here on this massive 2.66-mile Alabama speed plant.

Keselowski managed to shake Kyle Busch out of his draft coming out of the final turn and took a popular 0.304-second win over the No. 18 car.  Matt Kenseth, who led the most laps, finished third, with Kasey Kahne fourth and Greg Biffle fifth.  Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Trevor Bayne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, David Gilliland, Marcos Ambrose, Dinger, Travis Kvapil, Paul Menard, Casey Mears and Michael Waltrip completed the 19 drivers who finished on the lead lap.

“Just typical Talladega racing in trying to survive till the very end,” offered crew chief Gordon.  “I’m not exactly sure what happened on that restart and intend on watching the video as soon as I can.  At the end of the day, it was a 15th and not as good as we wanted. However, with the attrition we had here, we have to think that it will be a good points day for our Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge Team.”

Gordon was correct in that assessment in that Dinger is now up to 20th in the Cup point standings.  He trails leader Biffle by 136 points, but has now closed the gap to 10th to 60 points.  He is currently only 17 points out of 15th.

The Sprint Cup tour now returns to Darlington Raceway for next Saturday night’s battle under the lights on perhaps NASCAR’s most historical track.  This weekend’s Darlington action gets under way on Friday with practice scheduled from 11:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. and from 2:15 p.m. till 3:00 p.m.  Friday’s 5:10 p.m. single round of qualifying will establish Saturday’s 43-car starting field.  Saturday’s Bojangle’s Southern 500 (367 laps, 501.3 miles) has a 7:00 p.m. EDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.