A.J. Allmendinger to Drive the No. 22 Penske Dodge in 2012

Chad Robb@@MrFantasyNASCARCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2011

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 11:  Kurt Busch, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, leads Bobby Labonte, driver of the #47 Wounded Warrior Project/Clorox Toyota, during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 11, 2011 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Penske Racing announced today the driver taking the place of Kurt Busch in the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in 2012 will be A.J. Allmendinger.

Last season, Allmendinger drove the No. 43 Best Buy Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Allmendinger finished No. 15 in the points, with 10 top-10 and 22 top-15 finishes.

Allmendinger is still looking for his first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, and the move to the No. 22 car should greatly increase his chances.

Allmendinger will be teammates with the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Penske Dodge, Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski is one of the brightest stars in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup division. He went from a Nationwide Series success story to one of the top competitors in the Sprint Cup series in only two full seasons. Keselowski and Allmendinger will provide Penske racing a dynamic duo of young drivers.

It will be fun to watch how Allmendinger performs in the No. 22 car compared to how Kurt Busch performed in the car in 2011.

In 2011 Kurt Busch was able to keep the No. 22 near the top of the points standings and won two races (Dover and Infineon), while winning three straight poles (Michigan, Pocono and Kansas).

Allmendinger is not as experienced as the former NASCAR champion Busch, but he does have the skills to keep the No. 22 car in the chase.

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JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 16:  A.J. Allmendinger, driver of the #43 Best Buy Ford, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 16, 2011 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Gett
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Allmendinger has been competing in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup division for five seasons. Each year he has increased his place in the final standings. Allmendinger’s final places in the standings over those five years are: 2007 No. 43, 2008 No. 36, 2009 No. 24, 2010 No. 19 and 2011 No. 15. I think Allmendinger with finish in the top 12 in 2012.

With Allmendinger moving from Penske Racing in 2012, a new driver will have to take his place in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports car. According to Jayski's.com, the driver rumored to be taking the keys is David Ragan.

Ragan was released from his contract at Roush Fenway Racing at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Roush Fenway Racing is moving from a four-team organization to three teams in 2012. Ragan was the odd man out.

The other driver who could possibly fill the seat in the No. 43 car is the former driver of the No. 22, Kurt Busch.

NASCAR’s Silly Season still has over a month to go. There will be other drivers swapping teams before the cars are started in Daytona. Luckily for Allmendinger, he can focus on Daytona and not have to worry about what car he will be driving in 2012.

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