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Allmendinger happy to be back in an IndyCar
Allmendinger struggled a bit on Tuesday trying to match the pace of his two Penske teammates
A.J. Allmendinger's time behind the microphone had not quite begun Monday at Barber Motorsports Park. but the native Californian felt compelled to jump in.

An IndyCar staffer noted that rookie orientation will be April 11 and the 31-year-old enthusiastically endorsed that bit of scheduling.

"I demanded it," he said laughing. "I need as much time as I can get."

Allmendinger has returned. He is back on the circuit where he established himself as a championship contender.

Team Penske announced last week that Allmendinger will join its IZOD IndyCar Series program this season. Allmendinger, who rose up through the ranks of open-wheel racing before transitioning to NASCAR, will compete in at least two IndyCar events for Team Penske this season.

The Indianapolis 500 is one. The other is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 5-7 at Barber. Toward that end, Allmendinger is taking laps in open testing today and Wednesday as he tries to recapture his feel of the open wheel road.

The Charlotte, N.C., resident thus assumes dual citizenship in two worlds. In one, he's with Team Penske with Helio Castroneves and Will Power as teammates on the IZOD IndyCar Series. In the other, he's driving a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet SS race car.

The driver said he's quickly learned how different those worlds are.

"It's a lot different than what I've been driving for the last seven years, I can tell you that," he said. "After I drove it at Sebring I was like, 'Maybe it will all come back natural to me.'"

Instead, he compared the feel to "riding a unicycle."

"I almost forget what it feels like to drive a Champ car -- it's been so long," he said. "The cars, they're definitely fun to drive. They have a ton of grip. I think the biggest thing for me is just the braking force of these cars and just everything in general."

Which includes the high G-force that is more apparent.

"In IndyCar obviously, it's physically demanding," he said. "I think for me, that's the biggest thing is trying to get back into that and that kind of mentality of how to train for that and just to get used to that in general again. 

"The car overall once I got up to speed with it, it felt good," Allmendinger said. "The biggest thing is it felt a little heavier in the back so when the thing kind of starts to sway you get in the corner and it gets loose, it almost feels like a little bit of a pendulum kind of swinging behind you."

The driver of the No. 2 Indy vehicle admits that he didn't think he would be back on the open wheel circuit.

"But I love the IndyCar Series," he said. "It's not like I left and stopped watching. I've still got a lot of friends in this series and I think this series has a lot of great things to offer. If it can just get put together the right way and go in the right direction, there's a lot of great things."

Allmendinger doesn't expect to waltz in and dominate. He knows he has a lot of hard work to do.

"These guys are the best for a reason," he said. "I love the challenge and I'm excited to have this opportunity. I'm going to do everything I can to make it right."

Last week's announcement trumpeted a homecoming for Allmendinger. He returns to his roots as he raced in the Champ Car World Series from 2004-2006 when he earned five wins, two poles and 14 podium finishes over a three-year period.

Allmendinger also returns to Penske Racing. He drove for the organization's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team for the first 17 races of the 2012 season before he was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

After successfully completing NASCAR's Road to Recovery program, Allmendinger returned to compete in four Cup Series events for another team at the end of the 2012 season. AL.com

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