Devastation for ‘Dinger in Detroit

1 Comment

Devastation. That’s the only word to describe the weekend in Detroit for Roger Penske’s open-wheel reclamation project, AJ Allmendinger.

Allmendinger starred in his Indianapolis 500 debut, but a week later on the streets of The Raceway on Belle Isle, Allmendinger may have had his worst ever weekend as a professional driver.

Attempting to thread the needle between Scott Dixon and Justin Wilson on the first lap on Saturday ended with Allmendinger instead going airborne, launching over Dixon’s rear wheel guard and into the concrete barrier at Turn 4.

Sunday was worse. With a sore thumb after the first incident, Allmendinger, in a backup car, got loose on exit of the left-handed Turn 2 and smacked the wall. That ended the race on the first lap for the second day running.

Allmendinger had the extra pressure of running the No. 2 Quicken Loans-sponsored Chevrolet for Penske. His owner promoted the race, and his sponsor was the presenting race sponsor.

“I can’t say sorry enough to @penskeracing and @quickenloans for this weekend… my mistakes are embarrassing and that is an understatement,” Allmendinger wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “I’m grateful for Roger and @penskeracing for their trust and support of me. I never want to repay them like this. Sorry to all my crew guys for making them work so hard for nothing. I’m so sorry. Not sure where to go from here. Feel like I just need to get away for a few weeks.

“Thank you to my family, friends and fans for the support and kind words. @detroitgp was a great event. Nothing more I can say. Also a congrats to my teammate @h3lio being tied for the points lead and sorry for @12WillPower he had an awesome drive till he was wrecked.”

Allmendinger doesn’t have any more scheduled open-wheel starts for Penske. Besides Indianapolis, he also raced at Barber and Long Beach earlier this year. They marked his first open-wheel races since 2006.

On Saturday, Penske announced he’d run Allmendinger in a handful of NASCAR Nationwide Series road course events.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
Leave a comment

Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski