Allmendinger Looks to Join the Club

AJ Allmendinger

"We’ve got the horsepower we’ll need from our FR9 engine, but we’ll have to work around the fuel mileage part of it some." (Photo: Getty Images)

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A.J. Allmendinger hopes he’ll be the next driver to become a first time Sprint Cup Series winner this season.

After his Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose became the fifth driver to pick up their initial Cup win in 2011 with his victory at Watkins Glen on Monday, Allmendinger is anxious to put his name on the list.

He had a solid day himself at The Glen battling back from an early race altercation with Kurt Busch to post a Top 10 finish.

“It’s great to see Marcos in Victory Lane and it’s great for the team,” said Allmendinger after his eighth place finish. “I’m happy for those guys. I’m really proud of my guys and proud of the way we fought back all day.”

Now Allmendinger will turn his attention to Michigan International Speedway and Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, the Sprint Cup Series’ second visit of the year to the two-mile superspeedway.

Allmendinger has made eight career Sprint Cup starts at Michigan. He drove his No. 43 Ford to a 13th place finish at MIS back in June but Allmendinger believes his team learned enough that afternoon to have a better run on Sunday.

“We’re excited to be headed to Michigan for the second time,” said Allmendinger, who has a career best 11th place finish at Michigan in 2010. “Our Best Buy Ford was decent there when we were there a couple of months ago and I know that (Crew chief) Greg Erwin has a lot of really good ideas on how to improve our performance there.

“It’s a great track to race on. It's big, fast and has a wide racing groove. We’ve got the horsepower we’ll need from our FR9 engine, but we’ll have to work around the fuel mileage part of it some. I’m looking forward to getting back there. Greg has brought a lot to this team in the short time he’s been here and I think we could really have a good weekend in our Best Buy Ford.”

Veteran crew chief Erwin is confident he’ll have a car capable of competing for a win on Sunday but understands there will be challenges to face in the circuit’s return trip to Michigan.”

“The key to Michigan is not to get too caught up in what you did there a couple of months ago because that track tends to have a little different characteristic later in the summer than it did earlier in the year,” Erwin said. “You spend a lot of time trying to make the front end turn, while working to keep the rear tires on it. It’s a pretty aggressive, fairly abusive place on tires and you see a lot of tire fall off.”

After a stretch of races on a wide variety of unique tracks, Erwin welcomes a return to a facility with a layout like Michigan.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to a more standardized racetrack,” he said. “If you exclude Indy and Pocono, this is a place a little more conventional that we run at. Looking at how well AJ was able to run there a couple of months ago, that has certainly helped his confidence some and he knows he can run in the top five or top six there and that’s what we need to shoot for. That track always seems to give you a little different flavor in the fall than it does in the earlier part of the summer.”

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