AJ Allmendinger just missed a top finish in his last scheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in Richmond, before he ramps up preparation for his Indianapolis 500 debut for the month of May.
Allmendinger, who last raced in NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway more than a month ago, once again made something out of almost nothing in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.
Had it not been for the late caution that jumbled the field, brought most of the field to pit road for fresher tires and bunched the field together for a green-white-checkered finish, Allmendinger could have cracked the top five.
Instead, he posted a 14th-place result from 24th on the grid. Allmendinger has finished between 11th and 16th in each of his four starts for Phoenix this year, respectable if underwhelming by his own wishes.
“I suck in qualifying this year. Need to work on it. Drive hard tomorrow,” Allmendinger tweeted after qualifying on Friday.
Come the race on Saturday: “Hard fought day by my guys @stevo511 @PhoenixRacing51 proud of their effort as always. Not sure why we struggled so bad on last green run. Great call by CC Nick Harrison to stay out on GWC finish. Did all I could with old tires. Wish I could have gotten the team a better finish.”
Allmendinger’s focus shifts back to IndyCar with Team Penske after a frustrating Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, where his gearbox broke in Turn 5. Rookie orientation for the 500 occurs May 11-12, on opening weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.