IndyCar Driver Review: AJ Allmendinger

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

P27, Roger Penske reclamation project and part-time IndyCar returnee AJ Allmendinger…

2013 SEASON PREVIEW (POST-FIRST TEST)

AJ Allmendinger

  • Teams: Team Penske
  • 2012: Did Not Participate
  • 2013: 27th Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 1 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 9.3 Avg. Start, 19.2 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: I’m not exactly sure how to quantify Allmendinger’s open-wheel return. Barber was one of the few races I missed on site this year so I can’t properly comment on the buzz there, but at his other races, Long Beach, Indianapolis, Detroit and Fontana, Allmendinger was as much a part of the scenery as the regulars and wasn’t covered too much more as a result. In other words, he didn’t really move the needle as a NASCAR convert returning to his roots. On the track, there was methodical progress through Indy and ultimately an excellent ’500 debut. But his double first-lap disaster in Detroit was one of the year’s biggest disappointments, and while he did well in Fontana after a four-month hiatus, it seemed he was little more than just a token third car since he’ll be doing a full Sprint Cup schedule in 2014.

Estrada says: Cranking out a Top-10 finish in his first Indianapolis 500 was a nice accomplishment for Allmendinger, but in the rest of his limited open-wheel return for Team Penske, the results weren’t there. Gearbox issues stopped him early at Long Beach, but his back-to-back, Lap 1 wrecks on Belle Isle were especially crushing. He was brought in again at Fontana to provide support for title contender Helio Castroneves and looked good until he found the wall with 61 laps to go. Unfortunately, for the reason Tony mentions above, that may be the last image we’ll have of ‘Dinger in an IndyCar for a while.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”