A.J. Allmendinger gets his second chance

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Following his suspension and release from Roger Penske’s Sprint Cup team last summer due to failing a drug test, A.J. Allmendinger didn’t fret over whether or not the next opportunity would come. Instead, he focused on himself.

“I had to be happier first before I got into a race car,” he said on Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I always looked at it, if racing is going well, that will make everything else happy. Well, for me, it’s the total opposite. When you get in the race car, you’re totally focused — physically, mentally, everything that goes with it.

“I wasn’t worried about a phone call from anybody, getting a chance. I had to make sure if I got the chance, if and when, I was ready to go. That time period, going through that, is what I focused on. There’s no secrets. Nobody’s perfect in life. Unfortunately, mine was played out on TV over one dumb mistake. But with that mistake, you can do two things: You can keep making those mistakes or learn from them and be a lot better.”

It appears that the American has certainly done the latter, and now he has the opportunity to bring Penske a 16th Indianapolis 500 victory this May in the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet alongside regulars Helio Castroneves and Will Power. Allmendinger will tune up for the ‘500’ by competing in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 7 at Barber Motorsports Park.

In addition to getting a chance to repay Penske’s faith in him, Allmendinger will also experience the Month of May for the first time as a driver. He’s made four Brickyard 400 starts at IMS, but he was previously unable to compete in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” as a result of the chaotic open-wheel split between Champ Car, where he raced from 2004-2006, and the Indy Racing League (now the IZOD IndyCar Series).

“I felt like obviously with the split, it took away from the prestige of the Indy 500 because the best of the best weren’t there the whole time,” Allmendinger said. “So for me, honestly, it was like I kind of lost a little bit of the concept of what Indy really was until I got here for the first time in a stock car and pulled out in pit lane and realized, ‘God, this is what Indy is all about,’ coming down the front straightaway for the first time.

“My mind immediately went back to, ‘What’s it like in an IndyCar, coming down at 240 [miles per hour] and turn into Turn 1?'”

It won’t be long before he finds out.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III