The Lugnut Report: A.J. Allmendinger Wrecks Late In Pepsi 500

Patti RodischAnalyst IOctober 11, 2009

DOVER, DE - SEPTEMBER 25: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #44 Super 8 Dodge, stands on pit row during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 25, 2009 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

One year ago at this time, AJ Allmendinger was searching for a ride for 2009. After not getting resigned by Red Bull Racing, Allmendinger's career was at a turning point.

In late December of 2008, it was announced that Allmendinger would take over Elliott Sadler's ride in 2009. The deal quickly fell through when Sadler threatened to take the newly merged Richard Petty Motorsports to court over his contract.

With limited sponsors for the year, Allmendinger signed a deal late in the offseason and drove the No. 44 in the Daytona 500.

With the organization struggling to find sponsors for his car, Allmendinger let his talent do the selling. In a deal that what was suppose to end early in the year when the sponsorship ended, Allmendinger is still racing in October.  

His early season success has given sponsors a reason to sign on for the remainder of the year.

This weekend the team headed into California with some confidence. Allmendinger’s average starting position was ninth at the D-shaped track.  His average finish though was 20th and on Sunday he was starting 12th.

During the first practice on Friday, Allmendinger ran a total of 18 laps. He ran his fastest lap 14, with a lap time of 39.8 seconds. That was good enough for 21st on the speed charts.

After qualifying on Friday, the teams looked toward Saturday and the two practices to work on the car.

Due to lingering fog, the first Cup practice was only 20 minutes. Allmendinger and his team used every minute to work on the handling of the car.

They ran a total of nine laps in the first practice; with fresh tires their first lap was their fastest, with a average time of 40.6 seconds, that time put them 30th on the speed charts.

With final practice around the corner and work to be done on the car, the team focused on the setup for Sunday.

In final practice they began to make some ground on the car, they ran a total of 21 laps and their fastest lap was their first lap once again with a lap time of 40.7 seconds.

That lap time had them sitting 22nd on the charts for the final practice. The team still had work to do though heading to the green on Sunday.

After the first round of green flag pit stops Allmendinger was fighting a tight race car. They came out of the pits in 21st. They were struggling with radio issues, unable to hear Allmendinger.

Before the first caution on lap 59, Allmendinger was still struggling with a tight race car but then word came that his engine was overheating, his crew chief made him aware they missed some tape on the first stop. 

Allmendinger was continuing to struggle with the handling of the car and heating issues. They were mired back in traffic on lap 91 running in 25th.

On the next caution for debris on lap 116, he was way too loose off  the turns and tight in the center of the car. The team made a track bar adjustment, a wedge adjustment, and took four fresh tires.

They entered pit road in the 22nd position and didn’t lose any positions, but also didn’t gain any on pit road.

Allmendinger was mired back in traffic all day long and because of where he was running he got caught up in the multi-car wreck late in the race.

Along with Allmendinger, his teammates were collected in the wreck. It capped what was a very frustrating day for this organization and this team.

They hoped for a better finish but instead ended in 33rd.

One thing that should be noted were the issues with the radio communication. They struggled to hear each other throughout the race.

The team stayed 24th in the standings as they head back east to Charlotte.

Check out Jen Preston's Lugnut Report on Greg Biffle.