Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger is looking forward to getting back to short-track racing at Richmond International Raceway this weekend. Take a look at his recent record on the .750-mile D-shaped track and it’s easy to understand why.
Allmendinger has scored two top-10 finishes in his 10 career races at RIR and both of them came during the last three battles there. Dinger finished eighth in the fall race of 2010 and bounced back to finish seventh (his best finish to date on the track) in last year’s spring race. He was close to making it three consecutive top-10s last September, but had to settle with an 11th-place tally.
“Richmond is such a unique track,” said Dinger, who has an 11.3 average start and 10.8 average finish over the last two seasons at RIR. “We don’t really race anywhere else quite like it. It's fun because it’s such tight racing and you are always full on.
“It's also really cool to do Saturday night short track racing under the lights,” Dinger added. “The crowd is so awesome. It gets me really pumped up to race.”
Allmendinger and his Todd Gordon-led No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge Team are coming off a bittersweet weekend last Saturday and Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Dinger claimed his second career Coors Light Pole Award and first for Penske in Saturday’s qualifying session. In Sunday’s STP 400, he impressively led the first 44 laps. His potentially strong run and finish was derailed by “secondary linkage” issues. He finished 32nd, completing 257 of the 267 laps.
“It was actually the secondary throttle-body linkage that failed,” crew chief Gordon said on Monday night. “Just like a carburetor works, with two linkages – one that initiates the two-barrel function and a secondary that sets in the four-barrel – it was the secondary linkage that failed.
“We have such a precise check-list for our pre-race preparation here at Penske Racing that the (No.) 2 team (Paul Wolfe-led Brad Keselowski’s Miller Lite Dodge) actually replaced theirs before the race. So, it was definitely identified as something to look closely at. We had three of our guys give it their okay, so we have no doubt that it was a parts failure.
“It was a big thrill to win the pole at Kansas last weekend, but like I told them there, we don’t need to get all wrapped up in that,” Gordon said. “It’s what you have accomplished at the end of the race day that really matters. The pole was nice, but seeing how strong we can be there at the beginning of the Kansas race is what I’m thrilled about. We led the entire first fuel run and AJ showed that he is ready to run up front. We just have to take it and build on it.”
Allmendinger has now led 99 laps after eight races have been put into the 2012 record book. That ranks him 12th in laps led this season among all drivers and is almost twice as many circuits on the point as he had during the entire 2011 season.
“This (weekend’s Richmond race) is a race that AJ and I have talked about quite a bit since getting together,” said Gordon. “He really likes Richmond and his record shows that he can certainly get around the track. We’re looking at Kansas as just a little bump in the road as far as the points go. It’s so tight that we can easily bounce back strong with a good run at Richmond on Saturday night.”
In 10 career starts at Richmond entering this weekend, Allmendinger is still looking for his first win and first top-five finish. He has posted two top-10s, with the most recent coming in the 2011 spring race. That seventh-place finish rates as AJ’s best result to date. He has an 18.2 average start and a 22.4 average finish at RIR. He has a 94.514 lap completion average (3,790 of 4,010 laps) with one DNF.