A.J. Allmendinger hasn’t enjoyed many NASCAR weekends as successful as the one he just completed in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
The Los Gatos, Calif., native was highly successful in the Champ Car World Series, but the Sprint Cup Series has been a struggle since he joined Team Red Bull in 2007 and Richard Petty Motorsports in 2009. Allmendinger, 28, finished 24th in the 2009 Sprint Cup point standings and currently is in 22nd place.
Just days after Petty and Foster Gillett of RPM announced that Allmendinger’s contract as driver of the No. 43 Ford had been extended, he celebrated by finishing fourth in the Heluva Good at the Glen. His career best, by the way, was third in the 2009 Daytona 500.
"We are definitely not where we want to be ... right now, but I see the potential and want to keep building a team around me that continues to get better," Allmendinger said. "We want to reach a point where we compete for a win every weekend and hopefully, eventually, get a championship. That is the goal."
A championship is certainly a long way off, but Allmendinger doesn’t shy away from the task at hand. He said he talked to other teams, but decided to remain at RPM, in part, because of Kasey Kahne’s departure at season’s end.
Allmendinger said he wants to be "the guy."
"Yeah, that was a big selling point," he said. "I am ready to be a leader of this race team. It’s something that I thrive on and excites me every day to know that I can be the guy. I have the confidence in myself to know I can lead this team and represent it to the best of its abilities."
After finishing fourth at Watkins Glen, Allmendinger said, "The car was really strong all day. We didn’t have anything for the 42 (Juan Montoya). He was on another planet. But for the others (runner-up Kurt Busch and third-place Marcos Ambrose), I felt like maybe we had something for them.
"It was a solid day. It was a good day in the pits. We need to build on this. It’s really cool to sign a multi-year deal and have a great weekend."
Dutton has covered motorsports for the Gaston Gazette in North Carolina since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog, http://nascar.rbma.com, features his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Dutton at firstname.lastname@example.org.