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Move to Cup Paying Off for AJ Allmendinger

by Monte Dutton

AJ Allmendinger is hardly alone. Every driver who migrated into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from IndyCar, ChampCar and/or Formula One has faced difficulties, oft times unanticipated, in moving to stock cars.

The one great success story so far is Juan Pablo Montoya, who made the Chase in his third try.

But Allmendinger, 27, is getting better, and in marked contrast to many others, also is still around.

The driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 44 Dodge, Allmendinger, from Los Gatos, Calif., finished seventh in the recent AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. It was his fifth top-10 finish of the year, and it moved him up two spots to 24 th place in the Sprint Cup point standings. Prior to this season, Allmendinger had only two top-10 finishes in 66 tries.

“I come to the track every weekend trying to be as competitive as I can and win races,” he said earlier this year. “It doesn’t matter if you’re third or 33 rd in points, you have the same objective every weekend, and that’s to win.

“I think the motivation comes from the effort that is put in every week by Richard Petty Motorsports and the people that build the cars for me. I really feel that I’m getting in really good race cars that are fast and competitive. It takes a lot of hard work and sweat to get ready for these races, and you don’t want to let anybody down. You’re motivated to win for yourself, your sponsors, your team…. There’s plenty of reason to get motivated every week.”

Allmendinger took great pride in his Dover finish. Oddly, he qualified seventh for the season’s first race at the Monster Mile and finished seventh in the second.

“Hopefully,” he said, “we can run strong like this in the final eight races to show everyone what kind of team that we have. It was a smooth day…. I’m just proud of everybody.”

Moving from stardom in one major series to mediocrity in another can be tough. “I’m not immune from losing confidence, but I certainly think the equipment that Richard Paetty Motorsports puts me in allows me to stay positive every week,” he said. “I don’t think that you can compete at this level of motorsports without having confidence in your ability as a race-car driver.

“This is a competitive sport. There are very talented teams and drivers in NASCAR all shooting for the same thing: to win…. If you don’t have confidence out here, you better look for another profession.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (http://nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_thisweek@yahoo.com.

(c) 2009 King Features Synd., Inc.

Petty Motorsports driver A.J. Allmendinger has five top-10 finishes this season. (Photo: John Clark/NASCAR This Week)

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