LONG POND, Pa. – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger started 19th and finished 31st in today’s Pocono 400 Presented by #NASCAR after a hard crash in the “Tunnel Turn” ended his day. Allmendinger had endured getting innocently caught up in a first lap incident and had overcome two speeding penalties before the Lap 64 crash relegated him to the garage for good.
“I’m just a little sore, had the wind knocked out of me,” Dinger said after getting checked out in the infield medical center. “It’s kind of one of those, it seems like it took forever to get there. That was pretty hard, that might be one of the hardest hits I’ve had. Everybody at NASCAR, everybody at Penske, they do a good job with safety so I’m okay. I’ll be a little sore tomorrow but I’ll be fine.”
“I’m not sure what happened,” Dinger said. “I think we blew a right-front. After we got in that accident at the start of the race, I think we had something knocked off just a little bit in the right-front. The toe was out just a little bit and the car was really tight. Unfortunately, it’s one of those I said ‘we need to pit soon, I think the right-front is going away’ and it went away.”
“It’s slick out there,” Dinger said when asked about the track conditions. “It’s slicker than its been for five days here. You could see that the track is really dirty and guys on the start being a little crazy. It’s hard to pass. You get aero-tight behind guys and you start getting desperate. You get a late-race yellow; it’ll be fun to watch.”
Today’s race produced the “Double-Deuce” team’s first DNF of the season, but it accounted for the sixth finish of 30th or worse in the first 14 races of the 2012 Sprint Cup schedule.
“No, there are no words to explain it,” Dinger said of his team’s incredible run of bad luck. “In my worst nightmare, I didn’t think the season would go this bad. You’ve got two options: you quit or you keep working harder. I’ve been six years in this. I’ve experienced bad stuff before in NASCAR, so I ain’t going to quit. We’ll just keep working harder. We’ve got to figure out how to turn it around. It’s tough. I definitely don’t want to be in this position, nobody does. Everybody does better on this race team but nobody is a quitter, so we’ll just keep working hard.”
Allmendinger started 19th on the grid here this afternoon. Coming through Turn 3 on the first lap, Landon Cassil and Martin Truex Jr. collided and both cars spun wildly. Almendinger tried an evasive move to the low side of the track but couldn’t avoid contact.
Although the damage appeared to be mostly cosmetic, the car’s front “toe” was knocked out of kilter. While the team worked on repairing the damage on separate pit stops, NASCAR officials slapped them with a speeding penalty. Adding insult to injury, the team was assessed a stop-and-go penalty during their pass-through punishment on Lap 7. Dinger was already a lap down only nine laps into the race, but when J.J. Yeley smacked the Turn 3 wall on Lap 13, the 22 team received the “lucky dog” free pass back onto the lead lap.
AJ was shown in the 37th position for the Lap 20 restart. He climbed as high in the running order as 17th before the incident in the Tunnel Turn ended his day.
Joey Logano became the first Coors Light Pole Award winner to go on and win the race this afternoon at Pocono. Logano passed Mark Martin for the lead with four laps to go and held him off for a 0.997-second victory, the second win of his career.
Tony Stewart finished third, with Jimmie Johnson fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth. Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top-10 finishers here this afternoon.
Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski overcame speeding penalties, ignition problems and brake issues to come home 18th.
After 14 races have been placed into the 2012 record book, Allmendinger stands 25th in the Sprint Cup point standings with 305 points. He trails 10th-place Keselowski (moves up with 426 points) by 121 points. He is 93 points behind 15th-place Logano and trails 20th-place Aric Almirola by 40 points.
The Cup Series now heads to the repaved high-speed 2.0-mile Michigan International Speedway for the next event along the tour. The MIS action gets under way on Thursday with testing sessions from 8:00 a.m. till 11:00 a.m. and from 1:00 p.m. till 4:00 p.m. Friday’s schedule calls for practices from 12:30 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 3:30 p.m. till 4:50 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Saturday at 1:10 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 (200 laps, 400 miles) on the 2.0-mile track is scheduled to get the green flag just after 1:00 p.m. EDT. Race No. 15 of 36 points-paying events on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.