In the News:Allmendinger's Super Bowl ruinedFebruary 2, 2008
By Sporting News Wire Service
February 2, 2008
12:18 PM EST
Sunday's telecast of the Super Bowl may attract as many as 100 million viewers, but there's at least one regular on the NASCAR circuit who won't be watching.
A California native, but an ardent cheesehead when it comes to NFL football, Sprint Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger has seen his last pro football game of the season, after watching his beloved Green Bay Packers lose to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game.
Allmendinger was in Austria at the time, on a promotional trip for the Red Bull Racing team that fields his Toyotas in the Cup Series. The 2004 Champ Car rookie of the year stayed awake into the wee hours, only to see his favorite team lose.
So when the Giants take the field against the New England Patriots on Sunday, Allmendinger swears he won't be in front of his television.
"I'm boycotting the Super Bowl, because my Packers lost last week," Allmendinger said. "I don't give a crap. I hope they both lose somehow. I'm not watching it.
"It was bad enough watching them lose, but to have to watch them lose at 4 in the morning, in German, and then having to catch a 10-hour flight, it's ruined the rest of my year. I'm still mad. The only thing I'm happy about is that I'm pretty sure Brett Favre won't end his career on an interception, so at least we'll get another year of watching Brett."
Despite the Packers loss, however, Allmendinger's load is lighter this year. After struggling through a baptism by fire in his rookie campaign last season, Allmendinger's comfort level in a Sprint Cup car has improved immeasurably.
So has his performance. His No. 84 Camry was quick at the Las Vegas test, and in the first test session of the year at Daytona International Speedway in early January, he ran consistently in the top five. Though testing is a far cry from racing against 42 other cars, the results have been encouraging -- a sharp contrast to his frustrating first season.
His propensity for contact with the SAFER barriers earned him a variety of nicknames, all with a similar theme: "A.J. Wallmendinger," "A.J. Wallbanger." You get the idea. And if the walls at the Cup racetracks took a beating, Allmendinger says you should see the interior of his motorhome.
"If you look at the inside of it, there's a lot of damage to it," he said.
Allmendinger failed to qualify for 19 of the 36 points races last year, but the team stuck with him.
"Honestly, a lot of credit goes to the guys standing behind me," Allmendinger said, motioning toward his crew. "I was ready to commit suicide multiple times last year. Probably the biggest thing that happened was at Indy, when we hit the wall [during qualifying for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard].
"We were probably going to make the race, but I hit the wall in Turn 4, didn't make the race. I was ready to go home. I was ready to retire, quit, jump off a bridge, whatever. I was going to leave the racetrack. They wanted me to stay for media stuff, but I didn't care. I was ready to leave.
"And right as I went to step outside my bus, I looked out my window, and the whole 84 team was standing outside my bus, and they said, 'You're not leaving. We're here to party tonight.'"
Allmendinger is realistic enough to know that the proof of his improvement, and that of his team, will have to wait until the green flag for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. That doesn't mean, however, that he can't be sanguine about his prospects for 2008.
"I'm very comfortable in what I feel in the racecar," he said. "At this point last year, I was just hanging on -- and wasn't hanging on very well, obviously. I'm very comfortable with what I feel, what I can feed back to the team. I'm comfortable with the changes that they're making.
"Through most of [last] year, up to the end of the year, I was just kind of telling them, 'All right, fix it; I don't know how. I don't know what I want to feel, but this doesn't feel good.' Now I know what I want to feel, and I can relay that back to Ricky [Viers], my crew chief, and all the engineers."
As far as his temperament goes, Allmendinger says he'll be a kinder, gentler driver this season. And he promises to stop breaking things. His computer bit the dust after he failed to qualify for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"At Homestead, I finished the laptop off last year, and my wife cussed me out because we had all of our files on there," Allmendinger said. "So, no more breaking anything.
"I'm calling myself 'Triple C' this year -- cool, calm and collected. So, hopefully, we can continue that throughout the year, even in tough times. Everybody's just calling me 'T.C.,' and if I start to get frustrated, they say, 'T.C., calm down.'"