Allmendinger in at PIR for Phoenix Racing

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A.J. Allmendinger will strap back into a stock car this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

The California native tested an IndyCar for Team Penske at Sebring International Raceway last week, and may be up for at least a part-time run this season for the IZOD IndyCar Series powerhouse. But on Sunday, he’ll be driving the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet in the Subway Fresh Fit 500k at PIR.

It’s the first of four NASCAR Sprint Cup events that Allmendinger will compete in for Phoenix Racing. He’ll also run at Bristol Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) next month, as well as at Martinsville Speedway in April.

“This will be good,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “It’s been a few months since I’ve been in a stock car. I haven’t been in one of the Gen 6 cars yet, so I think it will take a little time to get acclimated to it. Phoenix International Raceway is a great place for me to get back behind the wheel. I’ve always enjoyed the race track. It will definitely feel different, but I’ll be ready to go.”

After Allmendinger was suspended and subsequently released from his drive at Penske Racing last summer due to failing a drug test, he joined up with Phoenix Racing following his completion of NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program (he was reinstated by NASCAR in mid-September). The former Champ Car standout drove in four of the final six Sprint Cup events of 2012 for the James Finch-led operation.

He has made eight Sprint Cup starts at PIR, with one pole and two top-10 finishes to his credit.

As for Allmendinger’s potential open-wheel duties, he may return for next month’s IndyCar “Spring Training” test sessions at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

“That’s our goal,” Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said last week to SPEEDTV.com’s Marshall Pruett. “Our goal is to try and put that together. We’re probably a week or two away from knowing whether that’s reality or not. That’s where we’d like to see him next.”

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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