News & Media

Happy Hour: Allmendinger seeking breakthough

May 14, 2011, Dave Rodman,

Admits he wouldn't be shocked if he reached Victory Lane in the No. 43 at track

A.J. Allmendinger spent most of Friday's first Sprint Cup Series practice session at Dover International Speedway near or at the top of the speed chart -- and when the session was over, he'd only just been bumped to second by six-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson.

During Happy Hour, Johnson and Allmendinger were again almost inextricably tied -- though in 23rd and 24th position. But after his 2010 performance here, especially in the fall race when he led more than a third of the 400-lap race, Allmendinger feels like he might be the series' next first-time winner on Sunday.

"It's there -- it's competitive. I've never won a race so I don't know what a race-winning car is, right now. At least we're close enough."

--A.J. Allmendinger

"I know the race tracks that we go to that I have more of a shot [to win] at," Allmendinger said. "Let me put it this way. If we win on Sunday, I won't be shocked, like I would be if we were to win at Charlotte in the [Coca-Cola] 600 -- because I've struggled with those tracks.

"But if we get everything right, we can go win. But we're not consistently there yet, and that's what I look at. We've got to become a consistent top five race team, first, before we get too caught up in thinking about winning."

Allmendinger had that potential here last fall, before a flat tire derailed him. With all of the event's practice on Friday for the first time, the only Cup event Allmendinger will be contemplating Saturday is qualifying just after noon.

"I don't know -- I think it's a fun race track to drive and I think there are a lot of things you can do on this race track to get around it and run pretty fast," Allmendinger said of the 'Monster Mile.' "The way I look at it there are different driving options of how you drive this race track to be fast."

Allmendinger hopes a three-race roll he's been on at Dover -- with finishes of seventh, 14th and 10th in the past three outings -- leads to his first win in 127 career starts.

"I have always had a fairly good car here, especially the last couple of years, which makes it easier," Allmendinger said. "To me, I just show up to this race track and I am excited to be here. I like this race track. I think when you are able to do that you can come here and have a good attitude about it and be pretty fast."

Happy Hour was led by Kurt Busch; Kasey Kahne had the best 10-lap average and Allmendinger finished sixth in the same category.

"It's there -- it's competitive," Allmendinger said of his No. 43 Ford. "I've never won a race so I don't know what a race-winning car is, right now. At least we're close enough.

"We fine-tuned it. We didn't start as close as I would have liked, from where we ended the [April 19] tire test but one good thing was; we kept improving on it. The last two runs in that [Happy Hour] practice were the best the car had been, so that's all you can ask for -- to start the race close, and work from there."

Allmendinger's crew chief, Mike Shiplett , said the high speed and barely-under-control aspect of Dover plays into his driver's strength.


Happy Hour Speeds
3.G. Biffle157.52222.854
4.C. Edwards157.37022.876
5.D. Ragan157.00022.930

"A.J.'s real aggressive on corner entry and this place really highlights that," Shiplett said. "He's got a lot of confidence here and he really likes this place, and we've been working on pretty much the same setup for about a year and a half -- just fine-tuning it and making it better every time we come back."

"It's a fine line between being too aggressive," Allmendinger said. "You can get away with a little bit more and be a little bit more aggressive, set your car up like that and actually have it work for 400 miles. Some of these places you really have to finesse it and I'm learning the finesse part of it -- but I've always been aggressive so it works out for me, here."

Shiplett said the new Dover schedule, which calls for all practice Friday and just a Cup qualifying session on Saturday, wasn't a best-case scenario. But it was bearable.

"It's something different and I'd much rather have a race practice much closer to the race," Shiplett said, "because there would be more rubber put down."

In the end, Allmendinger felt the track was close enough after a two-hour Nationwide Series practice earlier Friday.

"The schedule's something different and it may hurt our team, which doesn't have as deep a notebook as some others, but in the end it's the same for everybody," Allmendinger said. "The good thing is this place was really rubbered-up [Friday] that it was pretty close to where it'll be [Sunday] -- but if it does rain the track will be completely different anyway.

"But that's what this series is all about -- it's always changing."