DOVER, Del. – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger started 23rd and finished 16th in today’s FedEx 400 here at Dover International Speedway. Although Dinger and his Todd Gordon-led No. 22 Penske Racing Team wanted more, they were able to take some positives out of today’s result. They finished on the lead lap and advanced in the points.
“Wish we could have pulled out a top 15, but we just struggled all weekend,” Allmendinger said. “The guys made some big changes Saturday after qualifying for the start of the race and for those first few laps before the red flag it felt decent but pretty quick into that next run we got tight and the car just felt on top of the track.
“From there we just spent the rest of the race chasing the balance,” Dinger added. “We just couldn’t get both ends of the car working at the same time, kept going from one extreme to the other and didn’t feel like the right rear was ever really in it. It’s frustrating for me, for my guys, everyone. I was looking forward to this weekend since this has been a pretty good track for me in the past and we had a good tire test here so just really disappointed we couldn’t bring home a better finish for the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge.”
Unlike in many of the 13 races so far this season, Allmendinger, Gordon and crew faced only handling issues and did not get hit by major problems. Today’s finish marked the fifth race that they completed all possible laps and was the first time they finished in the lead lap since the May 5 Talladega race. Crew chief Gordon believes his team is on the rebound.
“A tough day for us,” Gordon said. “I think this race track has a lot of swings in it as it rubbers up and comes back. So many teams struggled with their race cars today. I always try to look on the positive side and it was good to finish in the lead lap and move forward in the points. We have some strong tracks coming up, I believe, and I think we can continue to make progress.”
Allmendinger started 23rd here today and was fortunate to be running in front of the pack of cars involved in a Lap 9 multi-car crash coming out of Turn 2. Some 13 cars were involved, including defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ Tony Stewart.
Dinger’s handling woes started out on the tight side, then moved back and forth to loose and tight again. The wedge, track bar and air pressure adjustments seemed to offer only temporary relief. Even removing a spring rubber late in the race offered little long-term help.
Jimmie Johnson got around AJ to put him a lap down on Lap 107, but David Reutimann’s blown engine four laps later allowed the 22 team to get the “lucky dog” free pass back onto the lead lap. Two other occasions during the race saw Dinger running only a few seconds in front of the leader when the team got cautions they needed to stay in the lead lap.
The final caution of the race came out on Lap 364 for Jeff Burton’s blown engine. During this yellow, the team went with fresh tires, the wedge adjustment and the spring rubber taken out.
Allmendinger lined up 18th for the restart and was able to advance to 16th when the laps ran out.
Up front, it was a dominant Jimmie Johnson taking a 2.550-second victory over Kevin Harvick. It was Johnson’s 57th career win and seventh Dover win in 21 starts. Matt Kenseth finished third, with Dale Earnhardt fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth. Aric Almirola, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-10 finishers. Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski brought the Miller Lite Dodge home in the 12th finishing position.
After 13 races have been placed in the 2012 NASCAR record book, Allmendinger is 23rd in the point standings with 292 points.. He trails 10th-place Clint Bowyer by 113 points and is 72 points behind 15th-place Paul Menard. AJ trails 20th-place Juan Pablo Montoya by 20 points.
The Sprint Cup tour now heads to the newly repaved “Tricky Triangle” Pocono Raceway for next weekend’s Pocono 400. This week’s Pocono Raceway action gets under way with open testing set for Wednesday from 12:00 noon till 4:00 p.m. and on Thursday from 9:00 a.m. till 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. till 3:30 p.m. Friday’s practices are set from 12:30 p.m. till 1:55 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Saturday at 11:10 a.m. (live on Speed-TV & MRN Radio). Sunday’s Pocono 400 (160 laps, 400 miles) is scheduled to get the green flag at approximately 1:00 p.m. EDT. Race No. 14 of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.