With a first name like A. J. you had darned well better be a race car driver. Even if your real name is “Anthony James” you better be known as A.J. It’s been a tough road for the 31 year-old Driver from Los Gatos, California known affectionately around the pits as “The Dinger” but on May 26th A.J. Allmendinger will fulfill a life-long dream for both himself, and his dad, who named the youngster after A.J. Foyt, when he makes a start in The Indianapolis 500.
— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) May 7, 2013
The trip to the penthouse started in 2004 when AJ Allmendinger hooked up with RuSport in the old Champ Series and won the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year award. He stayed in the Champ Cars for two years, through the 2006 season when he drove for Forsythe Racing. He picked up five wins, two poles, and 14 podiums before chasing a lucrative offer to join Red Bull Racing in NASCAR.
Allmendinger’s NASCAR run included three top tens in the Camping World Truck Series, no wins, poles, or top tens in eight starts in the Nationwide Series, and 29 top tens and two poles in Sprint Cup. In a Sprint Cup career that spans seven years, and 177 races, he has driven for Red Bull, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roger Penske, and recently, Phoenix Racing.
The trip to the outhouse started in October of 2009 when NASCAR placed him on probation after being arrested for drunken driving in Mooresville, North Carolina. He looked to be on the road back after taking over for the ousted Kurt Busch at Penske Racing, getting a seat in the #22 Pennzoil ride after taking the famed #43 to a 15th place Sprint Cup finish in 2011.
In January of the following year the biggest success in his career came at the Rolex 24 Hour endurance that kicks off racing for the new year at Daytona International Speedway. This is one of racing’s most coveted titles.
In July of 2012 Allmendinger was suspended from NASCAR indefinitely for failing a random drug test. He was released by Penske Motorsports after the B Sample was found to contain amphetamines.
The trip back to the penthouse started when Allmendinger completed NASCAR’s Road To Recovery program, and was reinstated. He signed with Phoenix Racing as a part time Sprint Cup Driver and has finished 16th or better in three starts in 2013. In March, he got a call from a totally unlikely source when Roger Penske tapped him on the shoulder to drive the #2 Penske Dallara in the Indianapolis 500.
The Dinger has run two races in the Indy Car Series where he has made starts this season for Michael Shanks Motorsports, a team which he co-owns at The Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in Birmingham, and The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Now that A.J. Allmendinger has made the infamous round trip from the penthouse to the outhouse, and back, let’s hope he learned something along the way about opportunity, and how many times it is likely to knock.
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