Driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43, Anthony James Allmendinger, went out 30th to qualify for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in the Valley of the Sun. He ended up in the pole position for the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
Allmendinger just edged out Red Bull Racing’s Scott Speed for the pole with a speed of 134.68 mph and a time of 26.731 seconds around Phoenix International Raceway.
“The Valvoline Ford has been good all day,” Allmendinger said. “Qualifying has been our hindrance all year and we knew we needed to step it up.”
Allmendinger said that he “gave it all he had” and that “someone else could have the pole if they could beat that.”
“Just a great job to everybody,” Allmendinger said. “It’s been a good day, and we just need to keep having good days like this, and go have a great race tomorrow.”
Allmendinger, who was named in honor of AJ Foyt, was especially proud to have not only wife Dr. Lynne, a well-known chiropractor, with him, but also his parents, who proudly witnessed their son’s first career pole.
“To get our first pole and get that monkey off our back is great,” Allmendinger said. “More importantly, we get to see the green flag drop, lead it to the green, and go to the front.”
This is the first time that the No. 43 has been on the pole since November 1999.
Although he finally reached the pinnacle of the best qualifying position ever, Allmendinger has most certainly experienced his share of ups and downs in NASCAR racing. After making the switch from open wheel to stock car racing, Allmendinger has admittedly struggled, making only 17 races in 2007 while driving for Red Bull Racing.
In 2008, Allmendinger was actually pulled from the car to shadow and learn from veteran driver Mike Skinner. While he did make 27 starts in 2008, he only completed 86.2 percent of the laps in 2007 and 89.5 percent of the laps he raced in 2008.
In spite of his improvement, he was then let go by Red Bull before the 2008 season was over. Although he had hinted that he would be leaving anyway, Allmendinger’s career was in limbo until getting a part-time ride with limited sponsorship with the King’s team, Richard Petty Motorsports.
Allmendinger went on to have a fairly good year in 2009. He finished third in the Daytona 500, his only top-five finish that year. He did, however, complete 97.3 percent of the laps in the 36 races run, and finished one position ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the points standings.
Robbie Loomis, Competition Director for Richard Petty Motorsports, has always believed in Allmendinger. “AJ’s really matured a lot,” Loomis said. “Richard (Petty) spends a little time with him, and every now and then some of that wisdom sinks in.”
Indeed, Allmendinger credits the King with not only giving him a chance at a racing career, but having faith in him when many others did not.
“Being part of the King’s race team at RPM is something where I fall asleep every night feeling lucky to be a part of,” Allmendinger said. “Now, to be inside the race car with the 43 on the side of it is something that means so much to me.”
Allmendinger will proudly lead the field to green, as well as leading the pack of former open wheelers to the start of the Subway Fresh Fit 600. In addition to Speed on the outside pole, former open wheelers Sam Hornish Jr. and Marcos Ambrose will start in third and fourth, respectively.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevy, rounds out the top five. Joey Logano will start sixth, Juan Pablo Montoya will follow in seventh, while Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, and Jeff Gordon comprise the rest of the top 10 starting lineup.
While Allmendinger was celebrating his first ever career pole with his wife and family, he also put it all in perspective.
“I don’t do this for the fame and glory,” Allmendinger said. “I just love being a race car driver.”
“It’s all about just going out there and trying to win—and having fun while you’re doing it,” Allmendinger said. “There are a lot of people in this world who don’t get to go out and do something they love every day, and I get to do that.”
“Hopefully people see that on my face.”