DOVER Del. – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger doesn’t hesitate in naming Dover International Speedway as his favorite track along the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour. To say that Dinger is looking forward to getting back to the high-banked “Monster Mile” for this weekend’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks would be an understatement.
“I love going to Dover and really look forward to getting back there for this weekend’s race,” said Allmendinger, who will be making his 11th career start on the 1.0-mile concrete oval. “It’s my favorite track on the circuit. It has high banks, it’s really fast and I’ve had a lot of success there over the years.
“It’s always been my favorite track since I started racing in the Cup Series in 2007,” Allmendinger said. “Plus, Dover has one of the greatest trophies of the season, so it’s one I really want to take home.” (Dinger is referring to the “Miles the Monster” trophy, a miniature version of the 46-foot Monster Monument that stands in “Victory Plaza” behind the main grandstand area.
“I think it is a fun race track to drive and I think there are a lot of things you can do on the race track to get around it and run pretty fast,” AJ added. “I have always had a fairly good car there, especially the last couple of years which makes it easier. To me, I just show up to the race track and I am excited to be there. I just genuinely like the race track and think when you are able to do that you can go there and have a good attitude about it and be pretty fast.”
Inasmuch as Allmendinger enjoys racing at Dover, it’s easy to analyze his record there and see that he and the “Monster Mile” have a great relationship going entering this weekend.
Of the 341 total laps Dinger has led in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career, almost half of them (152 or 44.575 percent) have been recorded at Dover. After 164 career race starts entering this weekend, he still points to the September 2010 AAA 400 as the “big one that got away.”
“I led 143 laps in that race and I had a car that was capable of winning until a flat tire took me out of contention on Lap 200,” Dinger recalled. “That was the first race where I really felt like I could easily take the lead and I could run with the big boys. We ended up finishing 10th because of the flat tire, but it was still a great race because it was a sign that I could run with anyone. It was really cool to take the lead and just drive away. It gave me confidence that if we have the car, we can definitely get the job done at Dover.”
Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon is equally as enthusiastic in seeing the Sprint Cup Series head to Dover.
“AJ has identified Dover as his personal favorite track ever since our first conversations between driver and crew chief,” Gordon said. “I could tell from the Goodyear test we did there back in April that he loves racing there. When you consider his fondness for racing there and the success the 22 car had there in winning last fall’s race, we’re all hoping for a successful race weekend there.
“Based on the Goodyear testing, I felt like we had a really good balance. We were able to get in several 40-lap runs and I felt like we would have a great shot at winning against all those teams there at the test (including Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Marcos Ambrose). The only question mark now would be considering the new skirt package we are working with.
“The bottom line, though, is that Dover is a track where AJ expects to do well on and that’s the feeling of our entire Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team,” said Gordon. “The driver is going in there with a great level of confidence and so is everyone on our No. 22 Penske Racing team.”
In 10 career Sprint Cup starts at Dover, Allmendinger is still looking for his first career win and top-five finish there, but he does have three top-10 finishes to date. He was running at the finish in eight of the races and finished on the lead lap four times. He has completed 83.1 percent of possible laps (3,324 of 4,000). He has led 152 laps at Dover, the most he has led at any track. Overall, Dinger has a 13.7 average start and 23.3 average finish at Dover.
Allmendinger started second and finished 37th in last spring’s Dover race. He came back last October to start seventh and finish seventh.
“When qualifying got rained out and we were second-fastest in practice, we started second in the spring race,” Dinger recalled. “We had a great run going and had a really strong car in the race, but the engine just let go all at once and there was no sign of it happening. We started seventh there last fall and got spun only five laps into the race. We started from the rear, but got all the way back up to the top-five just before the race was half-way. We did a two-tire stop and led some laps and ran top-10 for the rest of the race to finish seventh.”
Allmendinger, Gordon and crew will be racing their “PRS-817″ Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger in this weekend’s FedEx 400. This chassis has been raced only once; in the March 25 Auto Club 400 at Fontana, Calif. Dinger started 25th and finished 15th in the rain-shortened race. The “PRS-807″ will serve as the backup Dodge Charger.
This weekend’s Dover International Speedway action gets under way on Friday with practice set from 11:00 a.m. till 12:25 p.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 2:45 p.m. till 4:15 p.m. Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Saturday at 12:10 p.m. (live on Speed-TV & MRN Radio). Sunday’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks (400 laps, 400 miles) on the “Monster Mile” is scheduled to get the green flag at approximately 1:00 p.m. EDT. Race No. 13 of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.