By admin | February 16, 2009
By Richard Allen
At the start of the 2008 season A.J. Allmendinger had a full time ride with Team Red Bull. Then, veteran driver Mike Skinner was brought in by that team and Allmendinger was replaced. A few races later, he got his job back and put together a string of good runs, seemingly securing his place with the team. However, he lost that ride near the end of the season.
Not to worry, he soon landed another ride with Gillett- Evernham Motorsports in the #10 car. Then, GEM went through some internal trouble and it appeared as though the #10 car was to be eliminated. However, Allmendinger was suddenly slated to replace Elliott Sadler in GEM‘s #19. That fell apart when legal action was alleged to have been threatened. Again, Allmendinger found himself on the outside looking in.
At last, Allmendinger was named the driver of car #44 for the newly named Richard Petty Motorsports, the combination of GEM and Petty Enterprises.
Whew! That’s a lot for one driver to go through in the space of just over one year.
The driver who has been through so much made the most of his opportunity during the 2009 version of Daytona’s Speedweeks. He began just over one week ago by grabbing a 5th place finish in the season opening race, the Bud Shootout. Allmendinger was the highest finishing RPM driver in that all star event.
The former open wheel driver did not stop there. In Sunday’s Daytona 500 Allmendinger scored another Top 5 when he seized 3rd place in the sport’s biggest race. Again, he was the highest finishing RPM driver.
Allmendinger’s runs were not the only high notes for RPM in Daytona.
The previously mentioned Elliott Sadler, who himself had a tumultuous off season, also added to the RPM surge. He finished 5th in the 500, but came very close to the most prestigious win of his career.
With less than one lap of green flag racing to go Sadler led the pack. He was passed by eventual winner Matt Kenseth just before the final caution flag waved. That 5th place run may very well be the biggest surprise of Speedweeks, if not the finish of Allmendinger.
RPM had one more unexpected trick up its sleeve. Reed Sorenson, driver of the famed car #43, also captured a Top 10 in the Daytona 500 with his 9th place finish.
Sorenson, too, had an up and down off season. He departed Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of 2008. He was originally signed to drive for GEM. After the events detailed above he ultimately found himself driving the most famous number in NASCAR. Like his teammates, he was able to steer clear of the troubles of the day on his way to his surprising finish.
Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of RPM’s time in Daytona was that the company’s one driver to not have had a crazy off season, Kasey Kahne, was the lowest finishing team driver. Being caught up in one of the late race dust ups relegated the #9 car to a 29th place finish.
If asked before the race which team had the best chance of placing multiple cars in the Top 10 many would have mentioned the likes of Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing or Roush Fenway Racing. Very few would have even considered Richard Petty Motorsports.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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