NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger

2011 Ride: No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
2011 Primary Sponsors: Best Buy, Valvoline, Nautica, U.S. Air Force, STP, Medallion Financial, WIX Filters, AdvoCare
2011 Owner: Richard Petty
2011 Crew Chiefs: Mike Shiplett, Greg Erwin
2011 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 10 top 10s, 1 DNF, 15th in points

High Point: Allmendinger and the No. 43 team had a number of real nice runs in 2011. The best finish for the team came in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May, a fifth-place result. One week after watching a great opportunity slip away at Dover (see below), the team bounced back with another strong race. Allmendinger started second, and over the course of 600 miles, they never ran outside the top 20.

Low Point: The spring race at Dover was the only DNF for Allmendinger and the No. 43 team for the year and it was a particularly disappointing result. Allmendinger was running in the top five the entire race until a blown engine on lap 166 ended the day.

Summary: The future of the No. 43 team looked to be in doubt as 2010 concluded; unpaid debts piled up under the team’s former management. But over the offseason, Richard Petty retook full control of his team and found new investors, allowing the organization to continue. Allmendinger rode out the financial difficulties at RPM and returned for this third full season behind the wheel of the famed No. 43 in 2011.

Given the chaos over the offseason, the team performed surprisingly well. The biggest problem is consistency. Allmendinger had 10 top 10s over 36 races, only one DNF and managed to finish 15th on the season, but had too many mediocre finishes. Ultimately, that’s what kept them out of the Chase.

Allmendinger started the season with Mike Shiplett as crew chief, but a change was made midseason when Greg Erwin left the No. 16 team of Roush Fenway Racing in July. Clearly, there was chemistry between the duo; they had six top 10s together over the second half of the season while building for 2012.

Team Ranking: First. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose both had strong seasons, with Ambrose making it to victory lane at Watkins Glen. But the ‘Dinger wound up higher in the points standings, which takes top honors in my book.

2012 Outlook: Allmendinger has yet to break through for that first Sprint Cup Series victory, but after a number of impressive runs in 2011, paired with a victory for teammate Ambrose, that proves the team is capable of winning. He’s widely regarded as the most likely next first-time winner. Allmendinger will again have Erwin as crew chief. If they can address the inconsistency issue, they have a shot at not only a victory but making the Chase, something they were oh so close to doing in 2011.

2007 Frontstretch Grade: D+
2008 Grade: C+
2009 Grade: B
2010 Grade: B
2011 Grade: B

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