Tag:AJ Allmendinger
Posted on: January 3, 2012 5:08 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 11:17 am

2012 Sprint Cup Series driver changes

By Pete Pistone

Fans won't be able to tell the players - or in this case drivers - without a scorecard this coming Sprint Cup Series season. There have been numerous driver changes, swaps and movement since the final checkered flag of 2011 flew at Homestead last November.

You can keep up with all the new faces in new places right here, which will be updated regularly as more changes take place:

No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

In: Kasey Kahne comes over after a one year run at Red Bull Racing to take the reigns of the No. 5 Chevy, which will sport Farmer’s Insurance as its primary sponsor. Kahne signed the deal in 2010 but with nowhere to go in his four-car stable, team owner Rick Hendrick brokered a deal with Red Bull for last season. 

Out: Mark Martin ended his Hendrick tenure at the end of last season with a disappointing performance. Martin has moved on to Michael Waltrip Racing for 2012. 

Our Take: Kahne comes to Hendrick with Kenny Francis and the duo has become one of the best driver-crew chief combos in the Sprint Cup Series. They ended their Red Bull careers on a hot streak and bring that same momentum and confidence to the potent Hendrick organization.

No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

In: Clint Bowyer joins MWR after his successful career at Richard Childress Racing. Sponsor 5-Hour Energy will back the entry for the majority of the season and talented crew chief Brian Pattie comes on board to call the shots after leaving Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. 

Out: Waltrip has added a third entry to his stable to join incumbent Martin Truex Jr. as well as newcomer Mark Martin who takes David Reutimann’s spot with the team. 

Our Take: Bowyer brings MWR’s talent level up considerably and seemed ready for a fresh start after his contract talks at RCR stalled. He was in the enviable position of having a sponsor in hand and chose Waltrip’s operation as the place for the next phase of his Cup career. Getting off to a fast start will be key for the new team’s success.

No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge

In: A.J. Allmendinger slides into the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge in a move from Richard Petty Motorsports. The stars aligned for Allmendinger to get a shot at taking over a car that won twice last season and made the Chase and he seems an ideal fit for team owner Roger Penske’s style.

Out: Kurt Busch “mutually parted ways” with Penske after his tumultuous 2011 season and will drive for Phoenix Racing this season.  The infamous incident with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch at the Homestead season finale was the tipping point for Busch to end his tenure with Penske Racing. 

Our Take: Allmendinger has been able to perform under tense conditions at both Red Bull and RPM when financial issues played a big part in each team’s day to day operation. He now can rest assured that there will be stability at Penske and can concentrate on trying to elevate his game. There is some pressure taking over the wheel of a successful entry like the No. 22 and trying to win with a rookie Sprint Cup crew chief in Todd Gordon.

No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford

In: David Ragan lands with Front Row Motorsports after being squeezed out of Roush Fenway Racing due to sponsorship issues and not getting the call for open seats at Penske Racing or Richard Petty Motorsports. Ragan stays in the Ford camp with the move.

Out: Travis Kvapil is the odd man out at this poont although team officials haven't ruled out the possibility of a third entry at selected races with Kvapil splitting time with J.J. Yeley and Michael McDowell. A former truck series champ, Kvapil joins the list of drivers impacted by sponsorship issues in 2012.

Our Take: Ragan is a Sprint Cup Series race winner with his Daytona victory last July and has the talent to potentially bring this team up a notch or two in the performance department. But make no mistake, Front Row is by no means anywhere close to having the resources of a Roush Fenway Racing and Ragan will have a challenging season ahead trying to be success with a much smaller and less funded race team.

No. 35 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet

In: David Reutimann has landed with the upstart independent team after his release from Michael Waltrip Racing. The popular driver will pair with Dave Blaney in what TBR hopes will be a two-car effort for at least 26 races with sponsorship dictating the complete schedule. 

Out: TBR ran a handful of races with the car last season that saw the likes of Stephen Leicht, Geoffrey Bodine and Steve Park behind the wheel. 

Our Take: TBR was the quintessential David vs. Goliath story last season and scored some much needed exposure with a number of solid runs particularly at Daytona and Talladega. The team will face another uphill battle this season but the addition of Reutimann and his marketability could bring in additional sponsorship dollars that will in turn help the organization became more competitive.

No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

In: Aric Almirola was the somewhat surprising choice to take the wheel of the famed No. 43 entry at RPM. Almirola spent last year driving for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and after running a handful of Cup races for RPM in 2010 was tabbed to fill the seat of the iconic ride for 2012. 

Out: A.J. Allmendinger was granted his release from the team after primary sponsor Best Buy opted to leave for Roush Fenway Racing. Allmendinger then signed on to drive the No. 22 Dodge at Penske Racing. 

Our Take: The good news is RPM remains a two-car effort and that the No. 43 stays on track for 2012. But the team once again faces a rebuilding process taking on a new driver in Almirola to pair with Marcos Ambrose. Allmendinger had made strides to bring the organization up to the next level and seemed to be knocking on the door for his first career Sprint Cup win last season. There will be pressure on Almirola to continue that upward trend.

No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

In: Kurt Busch takes his much-publicized leap from Penske Racing to James Finch’s operation in hopes of “putting the fun” back into his racing career. The team once again continues its relationship with Hendrick Motorsports ensuring quality cars and potent engines for its 2012 effort. 

Out: Landon Cassill piloted the ride for the bulk of the 2011 season when the 51 entry wound up finishing 30<sup>th</sup> in the final owner point standings. 

Our Take: Right out of the box look for Busch to be a factor at Daytona as Finch’s teams always perform well at restrictor plate tracks. The former series champion’s considerable talents automatically elevates the organization and it won’t hurt having someone of Busch’s stature when hunting down new sponsors. But whether Busch is in for the long haul when tough times inevitably come for the small, one car operation remains to be seen as well as whether he can take the team further up the point standings.

No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

In: Mark Martin signed a two-year deal to drive the former No. 00 Camry with sponsor Aaron’s on board in a 25-race schedule. Team owner Waltrip plans to pilot the entry for five more races at Daytona, Talladega and Kentucky.

Out: David Reutimann was released at the end of last season with Waltrip and sponsor Aaron’s citing a lack of performance as the main reason for the change. 

Our Take: Martin still has the desire to drive and at times showed he could get the job done last year in both his time with Hendrick’s No. 5 Sprint Cup entry as well as some limited starts for Turner Motorsports’ Nationwide program. The 25-race slate should fit perfectly into Martin’s limited schedule desires. Waltrip’s four plate race starts as well as the home date in Kentucky will provide exposure and publicity for the sponsor, the former Daytona 500 winner and spokesperson extraordinaire's specialty.

Dropped teams

No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford

The loss of full-time sponsor UPS forced team owner Jack Roush to shut down his fourth entry for the 2012 season leaving David Ragan on the unmployment line. Despite winning his first career Sprint Cup Series race last July at Daytona, Ragan was forced out of RFR at season's end.

No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Sponsorship issues led to team owner Richard Childress to eliminate this entry from his Sprint Cup stable and to part ways with Clint Bowyer, who left for Michael Waltrip Racing. RCR goes back to three teams for the 2012 season with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard

No. 4 and No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyotas

The departure of Red Bull as both owner and sponsor of this team means two less entries for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series campaign. General Manager Jay Frye was not successful finding new investors to keep the organization's doors open and an official shut down was the aftermath. While Kasey Kahne has landed at Hendrick Motorsports, Brian Vickers does not have a ride lined up for the new season. 


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Posted on: November 29, 2010 11:14 am

Petty back in control of race team

It was announced Monday that the assets of Richard Petty Motorsports have been sold from George Gillett Jr. to an investment group that consists of Richard Petty, Medallion Financial Corp., and DGP Investments.

Medallion Financial is a publicly traded investment company that has Hank Aaron among its key board members.

DGB Investments is a company owned by Douglas Bergeron, the CEO of VeriFone Systems, Inc.

Petty will be the chairman of the new ownership group and participate in day-to-day operations of the team. Under Gillett, Petty had been relegated to a figurehead role more than anything.

The organization will run two full-time teams in 2011 -- the No. 43 with AJ Allmendinger and the No. 9 with Marcos Ambrose .

Posted on: November 22, 2010 6:32 pm

RPM restructures, two teams survive

Richard Petty Motosports says it has completed a restructuring and will run two full-time teams in 2011 -- the No. 43 with AJ Allmendinger and the No. 9 with Marcos Ambrose .

Petty is still working with investors to take over the team from majority owner George Gillett.


Posted on: October 25, 2010 11:00 am

RPM remains a mess; Labbe following Menard to RCR

While Richard Petty Motorsports teams are expected to race at Talladega, nobody is quite sure what will happen following that race.

RPM is reported to be in disarray financially, leaving AJ Allmendinger , who re-signed to drive the No. 43, and Marcos Ambrose , who is set to take over the No. 9 car next season, somewhat concerned about whether those seats are still secure.

Richard Petty told espn.com he has every intention of remaining in the sport. According to multiple reports, he's trying to put together a group of investors to buy back controlling interest from George Gillett.

Meanwhile, Pete Pistone has confirmed that Slugger Labbe will join Paul Menard in his move to Richard Childress Racing in 2011.
Posted on: August 4, 2010 12:02 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2010 12:32 pm

Allmendinger signs extension with RPM

AJ Allmendinger has signed a multi-year contract with Richard Petty Motorsports and will remain the driver of the No. 43 car, the organization announced Friday at Watkins Glen.

Listen to the news conference (18 minutes, 10 seconds) or read the transcript below

Allmendinger made the jump from Champ Car to NASCAR in 2007, spending two seasons at Red Bull Racing before taking the wheel of RPM's No. 44 car in 2009. He took over the 43 car from Reed Sorenson this season and has shown flashes that he can be more than a bit player in NASCAR, though he's still managed only three top 10s and ranks 22nd in points.

But Allmendinger's potential had other teams looking to steal him away, which would have really left RPM in a lurch with Kasey Kahne leaving at the end of the year and Elliott Sadler likely out the door as well.

-- Brian De Los Santos

News conference transcript:

FOSTER GILLETT OPENING REMARKS “We are here to announce that we have re-signed AJ Allmendinger to a multi-year extension to drive the No. 43 Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports. I think this is a wonderful move for the company and we are really excited about it. We really appreciate everyone’s hard work to get this done and we really appreciate all of the support of our wonderful partners to make this possible. AJ has worked really hard on the track and with our sponsors to become an integral part of our family. From Richard’s and my standpoint, any thought of him not driving for us was a difficult one. We are pretty excited about this and believe AJ is a big part of what we currently do and going to be a bigger part of what we do in the future.” 

AJ ALLMENDINGER OPENING REMARKS  “It has been an exciting year for me. It is the first time in my career that I could say I have been at a place that I could build off of. That was something that between all the partners, as Foster said, especially with Best Buy and Valvoline, I have had more fun than I have ever had in my race career.  To be able to drive the No. 43 has been a huge honor that I really enjoy. With the partnership with Ford, there are a lot of really great things happening at Richard Petty Motorsports. We looked at a lot of places and went through a lot of things and Tara, my manager; she asked a lot of hard questions. In the end, we got the answers that we wanted to. I feel like this is a place that I can just keep building on. We are definitely not where we want to be when it comes to where we are at right now, but I see the potential and want to keep building a team around me that continues to get better and go out and contend for victories every weekend and hopefully eventually get a championship. That is the goal.” 

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHERE THE ORGANIZATION STANDS NOW AND IF THERE ARE FUTURE ANNOUNCEMENTS COMING?  “When you are in a process like this, you are going to look around at all the options. Tara wasn’t easy on these guys. She asked the questions that I needed to know to feel comfortable about making the decision to stay here. It came down to the fact that I see the potential. They gave the answers that I needed to hear. To know that this is a stable place and a place we can really build on. For me, that is all I needed to know. For me it is all about going out there and trying to win races. Anybody that has been around me knows that is all I care about. I think that a lot of it had to do with Jamie Allison, the head of Ford Racing, and Ford in general being huge supporters of this race team and huge supporters of me. Between RPM and Ford in general, they really made me feel like they wanted me to stay and be a part of this company as a whole. In the end, it made the decision easy. I look at the race teams that are out there, the 48’s, 24’s and 11’s, they have had huge success, and a lot of it is because they have been together for so long.  I feel like we started something great here and we just need to build on it now.” 

GILLETT CONTINUED: “I think that AJ and I have a great friendship and a mutual appreciation for what we are trying to do. I think we have accomplished a lot together since we have both been here. I think we have been open with each other through this process. In an athlete’s career, one of the great moments in your life is having the chance to choose what team or organization you are going to be with. It is your chance to put your own stamp on things. I think through many years of trying to get to this level you have to compromise. You finally arrive and get a chance to choose. We wanted AJ to choose for the right reason to be here. There are no secrets between us. We are all teammates here. We have a lot more good news coming as an organization. We have a base of which we believe we can propel cars to victory on a regular basis. I think drivers and partners want to be a part of that and we look forward to rolling that out in the future. We are excited to start with AJ and the No. 43 car because it is important to all of us. We are going to go down a path here for a few weeks and hopefully have a lot more news as we go. It is exciting times here at Richard Petty Motorsports.” 

RICHARD PETTY:  “We have some announcements in our pocket. We like to have press conferences, so we wanted to spread it out a little bit (laughter).” 

ALLMENDINGER CONTINUED: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SPECIFIC THINGS YOU SAW THAT ALLOWED YOU TO MAKE THIS DECISION AND DID YOU ACTUALLY TALK WITH ANY OTHER TEAMS?  “Yeah, I am not going to sit here and lie. We talked to a lot of teams, which for me with everything I have been through the last three years in NASCAR, to have a lot of big team owners coming up to me about the opportunity to drive for them is pretty special. It is similar to last year with the King starting a fourth car with me with the Gillett family. They saw that I am passionate about it and want to go out there to win. For anything, that just made me feel good and know that I am doing the right things on and off the race track for people to want to talk to me. In the end, it is the relationship with Ford. They give us all the tools we could ask for to go out there with a chance to win every weekend. The new motor is getting a lot better and we are building on that. It was great to see Ford back in victory lane last week with the new motor. In general at RPM, the team is a lot of fun to be around. Everything at the race shop is a good energy and that is always fun to be around. The race cars are getting better every weekend. Like I said before, I am not where I want to be at when it comes to points and trying to contend to win races, but we are getting there. For me, it was tough to go out there and know everything we have built up here and go to a different team and have to start all over again. If you look at the great teams in NASCAR, they are not one and two year teams; they are teams that have been around for five or six years together. We have potential here and that is all I needed to see. We needed the right answers from Foster and Richard and those guys to know that this was a stable place. Tara fought hard to get those answers and Foster and Richard have been completely open and honest. We got the right answers and it made it very easy to know this was a place we could build on.” 

PETTY CONTINUED: WHEN WE TALKED EARLY THIS YEAR YOU WERE HAVING SPONSORSHIP ISSUES, DO YOU FEEL THAT IS STARTING TO TURN AROUND FOR AUTO RACING?  “I don’t know that it has turned around everywhere, but the partners we have had before have been really good to work with. We have a couple of new people that I think are coming on board, so really from an overall view it has not been easy by any means. I think it has come down better than what I thought it would. I see the deal of people tightening up, but they are loosening up in the deal of knowing they need to be advertising and be out in front of the people. It is coming together pretty good for us right now.” 

GILLETT CONTINUED:  “If I could elaborate on that, I think because of what we went through in the past with Dodge I think we were forced into the marketplace at a time it was at its worst. I don’t know many other teams that have added sponsorship and changed manufacturer affiliation like we have. We have a realistic idea of what the marketplace holds and run our race team to that. I think other race owners are going to have to look at how they do their business as they go in the marketplace and try to understand what partners are willing to do. I think things have changed and it is changing. I think Richard Petty Motorsports is at the spearhead of that. I think we’ve been through it and come out the other side. I think we understand what our partners need to be successful and others in this garage are going to have to do that. I feel proud that we have gotten through it and we are going to see others go in our wake. We are excited about that.” 

I HEAR A LOT OF BUZZ WORDS LIKE STABILITY AND COMMITMENT, BUT WHAT DOES YOUR SPONSOR LINEUP LOOK LIKE FOR NEXT YEAR AND HOW MANY TEAMS DO YOU ANTICIPATE TO RUN IN 2011?  “Obviously we have an opportunity we are seeking and things we have already done that we are waiting to talk about. It starts here and we will see over the coming weeks as we roll out or driving roster and partner roster we will have answers as we go along. Things are very good here. Richard and I were talking last weekend in Pocono and you saw a smile on both of our faces because it felt positive with what we were going through and what we had ahead.”  

ALLMENDINGER CONTINUED: LOOKING AT WHO IS DEPARTING RPM AT THE END OF THIS YEAR, ARE YOU PREPARED TO BE A LEADER OF THIS TEAM DEPENDING ON WHO IS COMING IN AND SECONDLY CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR ROAD COURSE SUCCESS?  “Yeah, that was a big selling point. I am ready to be a leader of this race team. It is 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. Hopefully, when people think about Richard Petty Motorsports, they think about me as the guy and the leader. It pumps me up to think about the opportunity to be the spearhead to take this team to a lot of victories and eventually a championship. As far as the road course racing goes, it is what I grew up doing. I grew up in Indy car and it is different with different techniques that you have to use, but now in the Sprint Cup series, everyone seems really good at road course racing. In the past you had a few guys, road course ringers that would really stand out, but now there are a lot better road course drivers than guys that are struggling at it. I don’t think anybody has an advantage now when you show up to these places, but I still love road course racing and wish we did a little bit more of it.” 

GILLETT CONTINUED: DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE SILENCED YOUR CRITICS A LITTLE BIT CONSIDERING WHERE YOU WERE AT SIX MONTHS AGO AND WHAT DID YOU TELL AJ AND TARA TO CONVINCE HIM THAT HE SHOULD STAY?  “I think in this sport it is wonderful because the talking happens on the track and I think that AJ and Tara see our commitment to getting better. I think some of that is through our partners that have continued to support us and our unbelievable partnership with Ford. Since day one that we walked through the door they have been excited about us being there and wanted AJ to stay. I understand the criticism because it is part of life and part of sports. It is what churns the pot and keeps everything going. We do this for ourselves, our partners and our own success. We are our hardest critics. I think we hold ourselves to high standards and try our best. We look forward to winning races and progressing to championships and try to do everything we thought we could do. I met AJ at my bus in Talladega after he had separated from Red Bull and there were six races to go in the season and we talked about putting him in our car. I told him that he made the right decision to come to RPM because this was going to be a long term relationship that we were going to work on. I am proud that those five races turned into a season and a second season and then a long term relationship. We are excited about that and we all want to win together. We are a family and we are pretty excited.” 

CAN YOU ADDRESS HOW YOU SEE AJ AS A LEADER IN THIS ORGANIZATION GOING FORWARD?  “I think AJ’s passion for this sport is obvious. I think the way he works with our partners and our people is phenomenal. I think there are some drivers on different teams that call in and are around, but AJ is in our shop daily and knows every single person on our race team. Our guys root for him a lot because last year and in previous years, every person has felt a part of AJ and what he is doing. When I told the guys in the shop, it was great news for them. We are looking forward to AJ being that and stepping to the forefront, blazing the way and other people trying to catch him on our team and we encourage him to do that. We like the way he drives and how he handles our partners and so we think that is the future, which is why we have done this.”

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com