Sunday may have marked A.J. Allmendinger’s first open-wheel race since the 2006 season, but that didn’t stop the Team Penske part-timer from being his own worst enemy after his day took a bad turn on pit road.
Allmendinger had done well leading up to his final stop of the afternoon on Lap 63, having ran in the Top 10 for much of the race. But the former Champ Car star stalled his No. 2 IZOD-backed Chevrolet and needed a re-fire before he was able to get back in the fight. Unfortunately, the damage had been done and he was forced to swallow a 19th-place result in the end.
”I’ve got to be a lot better than that; 19th isn’t going to cut it, whether this is my first time or not,” Allmendinger told the Associated Press’ John Zenor afterwards. “Without the stall, we probably should have been about 10th or 11th, which is OK, but we still want to be better than that.”
‘…It’s all about trying to get better. It’s just frustrating. I want to be great right away, whether it’s realistic or not.”
But team owner Roger Penske knows that the learning process is ongoing with ‘Dinger, who has been announced to race at Long Beach in two weeks’ time for additional preparation going into his first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 in May.
”Finish this and just learn, learn, learn,” radioed The Captain to Allmendinger during Sunday’s event. “You are doing fine.”
In addition, Helio Castroneves gave props to Allmendinger and, in particular, his gaining of three positions during the race’s wild and wooly start.
“I thought he did a great job, especially at the start,” Castroneves said according to Matt Weaver of SB Nation. “He was pushing very hard. He did a great job throughout the whole weekend…To come here after seven years, to have only two tests before the first race and be right up here with [the leaders] shows just how talented he is.”