84 runs clean, but just shyFebruary 14, 2008
Although AJ and his No. 84 Camry had qualified 7th for today’s first Gatorade 150 Duel, a pre-qualifying engine change forced Allmendinger to slip back and take the green for the 60-lap race in 23rd. AJ got off to a clean start and by Lap 6, had moved up to 15th.
The 27 car field settled into a rhythm and the two lines of cars shuffled back and forth, with AJ moving between 9th and 13th. On Lap 36, the 84 made its first stop and made only minor adjustments, taking 4 tires and fuel. When the stops finished, AJ was in 16th. By Lap 40, Allmendinger was in 12th and 3rd of the group needing to race their way in.
For the next few laps, AJ was left with no help on the track and running on his own around mid-pack. With just five laps to go, a caution came out and the 84 joined a bunch coming in for a last stop for the final shoot out. The team had called for some big adjustments after AJ radioed in about a vibration. Sure enough, the 84 had some damage from minor contact and a blistered right-front tire.
The two lap shoot out started on Lap 58 with AJ in 17th. The 84 picked up some momentum, but not quite enough to secure one of the top two spots needed to race his way in. AJ finished 13th and 3rd of the group. Kenny Wallace and Brian Vickers were the two to make it on to Sunday’s Daytona 500.
“We deserved to be in,” said AJ. “We have worked so hard and we had a strong, clean race, but we just weren’t where we needed to be at the end. I’m happy Red Bull has a car in Sunday, but it does hurt…I won’t lie. I guess, though, we need to look at where we were last year at this time compared to now and go get in the next four races.”