AJ Allmendinger didn't just stumble into racing. From the time he was a wee little tyke peddling his bike around, competition was the fire in his NorCal belly. AJ jumped in to competition full-throttle by the ripe old age of 5, racing his BMX bike to the top of each division he entered.
By the time he was 8, AJ made his first foray into four-wheels, getting behind the wheel of a quarter midget on pavement ovals along the West Coast. He truly found his groove in the karting world a few years later. Bolstered by his biggest fans (and sponsors), Mom and Dad Dinger, AJ traveled the country collecting victories and championships. When he hit his early teens, Allmendinger had two IKF Grand National Championships under his belt and was ready for a new challenge.
By 2001, AJ had found a new tiger to tame in the form of open-wheel racing machines. Carving out his place in North American racing, AJ campaigned the Formula Dodge National Championship that year, earning a spot in the Barber Dodge Pro Series for the following season. Winning suited AJ, but it wasn't quite enough. He collected the BDPS Championship and Rookie of the Year honors while breaking track records along the way. Folks started to take note of the personable racer with the funny walk and AJ earned the first of three consecutive RACER Magazine "Most Promising Road Racer" Awards.
That promise was pushed ahead as RuSport tagged AJ for their ambitious Atlantic-Champ Car program.
In 2003 RuSport debuted in the Toyota Atlantic Series with AJ at the helm of their #10 car. It was a storybook season as AJ stormed through each event shattering records set by drivers with names like Villeneueve and Andretti. Allmendinger captured 9 poles and 7 victories in 12 races on the way to nabbing the Toyota Atlantic Championship and Rookie of the Year titles. He became the second- youngest driver to win the championship, just behind Michael Andretti.
The following season both AJ and RuSport stepped up to the Champ Car World Series. The 22 year old again impressed, despite being with a first-year team. Allmendinger delivered 11 top-ten starts and 9 top-ten finishes, including two podium visits. AJ became only the second driver in series history to capture the Rookie of the Year title with a first-year team. The standout season also marked the highest overall finish for an American rookie since Bobby Rahal did it way back in 1982, just a year after AJ was born.
His performance was being noted around the world and he also became the first American to take home the coveted AUTOSPORT International Rookie of the Year trophy. But AJ was more than a pretty face behind the wheel, his easy-going NorCal style and approachability earned him the Greg Moore Legacy Award for his sportsmanship and attitude off the track.
The following two years saw AJ continue to drive his #10 RuSPRT machine as more podiums and top-ten finishes followed.
AJ made an impressive sports car debut at the 2006 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. But in the late spring of that year, Allmendinger's rise to the top hit a snag. RuSport abruptly released AJ from his contract after the opening rounds of the season. Never one to miss a beat, he landed at the Forsythe Championship Racing team just days later.
Feeling ready to bring it on with his renewed attitude, AJ jumped behind the wheel of his new office in Portland and dominated the weekend from pole to victory lane. AJ began popping off wins like 50 cent pops rhymes. By his third race with FCR, AJ had three consecutive victories notched, marking the first time since 1994 and Al Unser Jr. that an American had managed the feat.
The change of scenery had also given AJ the chance to pop out of the open-wheel world and have a look around. Sportscars had been good, so what about stock cars? After some thinking outside the box, the folks at Bill Davis Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series agreed to give the open-wheel hot shoe a test in one of the Toyota Tundra trucks. He was green lighted for a debut at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. After a rough qualifying, AJ started dead last but drove that truck right up the field to 13th. AJ had been bitten with the stock car bug. "Thats great, but you aint seen nothin' yet" was the warning shouted as AJ headed into his next truck race at Talledaga. AJ "got 'er done" and with a fifth- place finish, as stock car fans started to think, "this kid might have some potential..."
AJ headed back to finish the Champ Car season, where he battled for the championship. In the whirlwind of October and November of 2006, Team Red Bull had also decided that the kid might have some potential and since he was already a Red Bull Athlete, he'd fit right in. They were willing to take a chance on him, and he was more than happy to take a chance on them as they set to bring the Red Bull vibe to the stock car paddock.
Racing from out of the top-35 in points saw AJ fighting at every step of the way in his rookie year as he made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup points start at Bristol in 2007. The all-new team with the all-new manufacturer His sophomore season was another challenge, but AJ eventually raced his car into the top 35 in car points and even scored his first top ten.
AJ Allmendinger had what could be called a "dynamic" sophomore season of racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup ranks in 2008. After a tough start to the year with Red Bull Racing, AJ raced the #84 up into the top 35 in NASCAR Owner Points before moving to the Gillett Evernham #10 entry and doing the same with a different car as he scored four top-15's in five races with the Dodge team to close out the 2008 season.
AJ was signed to a partial season in 2009 with the newly-merged Richard Petty Motorsports, and the 2009 Daytona 500 got things off to a fast start as AJ finished third, allowing him to extend the number of races for the 2009 season as Harrah's and Hunt Brothers Pizza also signed on as sponsors.
Those efforts saw AJ score 24th in the final points standings, ahead of several fully-funded teams as he powered to the close of the season with six top-ten finishes including two in the final three races of the season after making the move to Ford at Phoenix, AJ once again closed the year out with strength.
In 2010, AJ continued to make the most of the opportunity, taking his first Sprint Cup pole position and showing race-winning form with a run of 143 laps up front at Dover before being felled by a washer cutting the tire. Once again, AJ had a strong close to the year and once again improved his career-best figure in the season standings with a run to 19th in the final order while collecting 7 top-10 starts and 8 top-10 finishes.
A return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2011 saw Allmendinger once again continue to show strong form in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition. Bringing the famed No. 43 its best championship points position finish in years, Allmendinger’s 2011 season was highlighted by one top-five finish as well as 10 top-10 and 22 top-15 results as a late-season pairing with crew chief Greg Irwin proved fruitful.
Driving for the King, Allmendinger’s strong performances didn’t go unnoticed by just one motorsports icon as Roger Penske moved quickly to make the most of the vacancy in the No. 22 Dodge Pennzoil machine to sign Allmendinger for the 2012 campaign. The move will see Allmendinger look to go from strength to strength as he joins a race-winning organization that knows how to make championship caliber runs.