February 8, 2012 12:03 PM
It’s been seven weeks now since A.J. Allmendinger’s
life was forever changed.
It was just before Christmas – December 21st to be exact
– that the man they call “The Dinger” was hired
by NASCAR’s Penske Racing team to become the driver of the
No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T for the 2012 Sprint Cup
Allmendinger says those seven weeks have flown by, and he still
can’t believe his good fortune.
"I've always wanted to drive for Mr. Penske,” A.J. said.
“It's something that when the opportunity arose, I jumped
right at it. The last five years, I feel like I've made good
progression throughout each year, and this is hopefully going to
allow me to take the next step in my career and really contend for
race wins and try to make the Chase. That's the ultimate goal, [to]
really contend for a championship. So I'm really looking forward to
"A.J. is a very talented and motivated driver and we believe he
will be a terrific fit with our team," Roger Penske said. "He has
shown great promise and consistent results on the track over the
last few seasons, and working with the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge team
will allow him to take the next step and compete for race wins and
a spot in the Chase in 2012."
Allmendinger is replacing Kurt Busch, who left the Penske team by
mutual agreement on Dec. 5.
The No. 22 Dodge team produced two wins, three poles and 16 top-10
finishes in 2011 as it earned a spot in the Chase and finished 11th
in the series standings. Allmendinger’s Penske Racing
teammate will be Brad Keselowski and his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge
Charger R/T. Keselowski won three times on the Sprint Cup Series in
2011, and finished fifth in the Chase.
Allmendinger enjoyed his best Sprint Cup campaign ever this past
season with a 15th-place points finish, but he has never won a race
at NASCAR's top level.
And, with the start of the new campaign at Daytona just a few weeks
away, “The Dinger” is expected to be a vital cog in a
two-car team for an elite organization that measures success in
race victories and championship bids.