Allmendinger hoping to find his groove at Sonoma 

click to enlarge AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #22 Pennzoil Dodge. - SCOTT HALLERAN
  • Scott Halleran
  • AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #22 Pennzoil Dodge.

For a moment, AJ Allmendinger thought that maybe God was in his ear.

“That’s a good corner,” the voice told the Los Gatos native while he was driving the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger at the Daytona 500 in February, kicking off the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Only it wasn’t God. It was the voice of Allmendinger’s usually quiet boss, and renowned race car owner Roger Penske.

A “Thank you ... Roger” was all Allmendinger could muster for the man he’d always wanted to race for.

“He was always the pinnacle,” Allmendinger said of Penske during a news conference in San Francisco on Thursday. “Obviously, we don’t have the results yet that we want, but it’s a strong race team and for me, I’d love to be here for a long time.”

But while the 30-year-old enjoys his current team, the Sprint Cup courses have been unkind. His impacts include those with drivers and walls. And the sum of those crashes has resulted in disappointment — so far.

“For us right now, we’ve got nothing to lose. We gotta go,” Allmendinger said. “We’ve had speed all year, we just gotta get the finishes. Whether it’s a mechanical failure, we don’t quite have the speed on Sunday. We haven’t got the finishes that we need. This is probably the best weekend for to try to turn things around.”

This weekend would be a good start.

The car he’ll rev up on Sunday is the same one Kurt Busch drove to a first-place finish at last year’s race Sonoma race.

“Hopefully, you got the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge from last year that Kurt drove,” Allmendinger said. “Hopefully we got the same setup on it — have the same result.”  

But while it’s impossible to know how Allmendinger will fare, it’s for certain that Greg Allmendinger, AJ’s father will be there — tattoos and all.

“Yeah, that’s the problem,” AJ lightly said of his father, who sports tattoos of his son and his former racing teams. “He keeps getting these tattoos, and they don’t easily come off.”

But AJ’s parents, who mortgaged their house three different times so that their only child could have a racing career, will be there on Sunday. Perhaps they’ll be somewhere near turn six, among the cheering folks of “Allmendinger Hill.”

“It would be special to be able to win the race,” AJ said, “and have my parents here and celebrate with them.”

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