ALLMENDINGER KNOWS THE “LADY IN BLACK” IS AS TOUGH AS IT GETSMay 8, 2012
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 8, 2012) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger enters this weekend’s Bojangle’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway knowing what to expect. Saturday’s battle on the historical 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval will mark Dinger’s sixth career Darlington start and he foresees the same test that every trip to Darlington presents.
“This weekend is gonna be a challenge – every race at Darlington is a challenge because it’s such a tough place,” Allmendinger said. “It has historically not been a great race track for me. But the way this season has gone, it’s seems like we’ve had some of our stronger performances on the tracks that haven’t been too kind to me in the past. We’re hoping we can have that kind of ‘flip-flop’ situation again this weekend at Darlington.”
After five career starts at Darlington, Dinger enters this weekend looking for his first notable mark in the NASCAR record book. His best start to date was seventh in last year’s Darlington race. His best career finish, a 17th, came in the 2009 visit. His average start is 20.6 and average finish is 27.4 entering this weekend.
Crew chief Todd Gordon believes that the occurrence of doing well on Allmendinger’s “less-than-favorite” race tracks can and will continue this weekend at Darlington. In fact, he fully embraces the “Flip-Flop Phenomenon.”
“We talked last Friday about how much he didn’t enjoy racing at the Talladega track and it was music to my ears when he said he had the same intense feeling about racing at Darlington,” chuckled Gordon. “There have been so many times this season where we’ve entered the race just hoping to be respectable. Then, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with the way things went during qualifying and in the race.
“I look back at races like Vegas, Bristol – and most recently last weekend at Talladega,” said Gordon. “They were not among AJ’s favorites and he was openly honest in pointing that out. But, during all of those races we showed a lot of strength and had some really fast race cars. We ran top-five or top-10 in all of them and had the potential to finish up there.
“That’s the approach we are taking to this weekend’s race at Darlington,” said Gordon. “We know what AJ and our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team is capable of, so we always come into a race weekend thinking positive and hoping to do well. We know that if we can have a fast car ready for him, AJ will have it up front there on Saturday night.”
Allmendinger can’t forget the first time he ever saw the “Track Too Tough to Tame.”
"I thought they completely messed up the design of the race track when I got there,” Dinger recalled. “I said, ‘This can't possibly be an oval. What's going on here?’ It's insane to me. The race track is awesome with how narrow it is. What's exciting for me, honestly, is the history of the race track. When you roll through the gates and get there, the history behind the track is something that always excites and motivates me about NASCAR in general.
“It is definitely a tough race track, though,” Dinger added. “I drove on it once before it was repaved and it was such a challenge then. Now that it's been repaved, it's demanding in a different way because it's so fast you can't make a mistake. It's a tough place. That's all you can say. There's not a lot more to describe it."
Allmendinger, Gordon and crew will be racing their “PRS-812” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Darlington. This chassis has been raced only once to date; in the March 11 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Dinger started 14th and had moved up to sixth in that race before fuel system issues relegated him to the garage for repairs. The “PRS-814” chassis will serve as the backup. It is a new Dodge Charger and has yet to make it onto a race track.
This weekend’s Darlington action gets under way on Friday with practice scheduled from 11:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. and from 2:15 p.m. till 3:00 p.m. Friday’s 5:10 p.m. single round of qualifying will establish Saturday’s 43-car starting field. Saturday’s Bojangle’s Southern 500 (367 laps, 501.3 miles) has a 7:00 p.m. EDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio (also on Sirius-XM NASCAR Channel 90 and streaming live at www.motorracingnetwork.com.)
# # #