Another open wheel talent wasted in NASCAR
AJ Allmendinger believed he had the best opportunity of his NASCAR career when he signed with Penske Racing last December.
|Struggling AJ Allmendinger feeling no pressure from Penske brass|
He still believes he has a career opportunity, and he is still looking for consistent results as he sits 24th in the Sprint Cup standings 15 races into the season. But Allmendinger said he is the one putting pressure on himself more than Penske management.
“I’ve learned in this sport you never say, ‘I have got all the time in the world,’ but I’ve also had no pressure put on by them to say ‘OK, you have a month more or we’re going to have to start looking,’” Allmendinger said Thursday.
Allmendinger, who has a one-year contract with Penske, spent Thursday afternoon doing an appearance for the Sonoma track, where the Sprint Cup Series races this weekend. Not only is he a California native, but he also will drive the Penske car that won last year’s race.
That car was driven by Kurt Busch, who was released in December by Penske after a series of outbursts both inside and outside the car and a difference in opinion on the direction of the team.
Penske scrambled and signed Allmendinger away from Richard Petty Motorsports. The team also has a rookie crew chief in Todd Gordon, who was brought up from Penske’s Nationwide Series team to replace Steve Addington, who left to work with Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Despite being hired at the last minute, Allmendinger said he feels good about his place at Penske.
The 30-year-old driver has had some good runs — he led 54 laps at Bristol, won the pole and led 44 laps at Kansas and finished a career-high second at Martinsville. But unscheduled pit stops for mechanical issues ended his hopes at Bristol and Kansas. He has only one lead-lap finish in his last five races.
“Every time you go to a new team, you have to see how you fit in there and see what’s different and conform a little bit to what they’re used to,” Allmendinger said. “At the same time, talking to Roger and the heads of the team, I feel good about where I’m at inside the race team.
“We just have to run better. … I don’t have Roger on my back every weekend saying, ‘Hey you have to pick it up.’”
Allmendinger, a former Champ Car driver, is in his sixth Cup season after two years at Red Bull Racing and then three with Richard Petty Motorsports.
“I love being a part of the team,” Allmendinger said. “I just want to run better. I want to finish better. We have the speed. We’re lacking something on Sunday.
“There’s times on Sunday when we’ve had the speed and … something breaks.” Sporting News