April 3, 2012
Allmendinger feels worn down
By DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - It is a vacation week for the big three of motorsports racing, with NASCAR Sprint Cup, Formula One and the IZOD IndyCar Series all dark.
And for one particular driver the off time couldn’t have come at a better time.
A.J. Allmendinger started the 2012 season with a huge challenge: Showing NASCAR Sprint Cup that he deserved to be among the top drivers in the world’s best stock car racing loop.
Getting the nod to drive the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge certainly gave him the platform to do just that, but circumstances often throw a curve into the best laid plans.
Allmendinger admitted after finishing second on Sunday to the No. 39 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Newman that the pace of the season so far has taken its toll.
He wants to prove that Penske was right in picking him for the high profile seat and he desperately wants to log his first NASCAR win after five seasons.
In trying to do that, however, Allmendinger has worn himself down.
In fact in the moments before the start of Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway Allmemdinger was in the track’s medical centre being treated for flu-like symptoms.
“I think we all need a rest,” Allmedinger said in a post-race media conference. “I need to get healthy. I’ve been traveling so much doing a lot of fun things for Shell/Pennzoil and for AAA, but I’ve been worn out.
“I think this is the right time to get a weekend off, take some notes that we learned from this weekend and go to Texas and be ready to go.”
He insists, however, that any pressure for him to succeed that is coming from the Penske organization is doubled by his own expectations this season with a new team and a new crew chief in the person of Todd Gordon.
“I’m working so hard, I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself because these guys are used to running up front and deserve to run up front,” Allmendinger said. “I’m trying to learn as quickly as I can just like Todd Gordon is. We’re trying to learn together.”
His second-place finish at Martinsville was unexpected in that as a former open wheel driver it was thought that his first win would likely come on a road course, the way Juan Pablo Montoya got his first victory.
But Allmendinger showed late last season when he was driving the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports that he can race at the front on ovals too.
So he wasn’t that surprised about his finish on Sunday.
“I’m really thrilled with the finish, but I’m happy with how we ran all day,” Allmendinger said.
If there was a criticism of his race it was that when he was on Newman’s bumper on the final lap he didn’t attempt to push him out of the way.
“I knew on that restart to hang on the outside of Ryan but he ran me really clean and I thank him for that,” he said.
All fine and good, but if he wants his first win he might want to remember that if the situation was reversed and Newman was behind him there would have been a bump and run.
Former IndyCar driver Graham Dalziel is back sports car racing in the LMP2 class next week at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach driving the No. 06 CORE Autosport Soloson Import ORECA FLM09 in the American Le Mans Series. The native of Glasgow, Scotland, got his first taste of North American professional racing at Long Beach 10 years ago in the old Atlantic Series ... Britain’s F1 Silverstone Circuit has added a pair of new grandstands that will put another 3,500 fans at the track for this season’s British Grand Prix ... NASCAR hall of famer Junior Johnson is in hospital being treated for a staph infection related to a 2009 back surgery. The 80-year-old Johnson initially was hospitalized near his farm in Wilkes County, N.C. He has since been moved to the Duke University hospital in Charlotte.