Leeds, Ala. – On a cold, damp and dark day at the Barber Motorsports Park, A. J. Allmendinger was a ray of sunshine as he greeted well-wishers – and there were dozens of them – a day prior to the start of IZOD IndyCar Series practice at the picturesque road course in the suburbs of Birmingham. For Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Allmendinger will make his series debut driving for the vaunted Team Penske, the team that has won the three previous races at Barber.
Leading up to the race, Allmendinger tested at the Sebring International Raceway, Barber and at the Texas Motor Speedway, as the popular driver and Team Penske make preparations for the Indianapolis 500.
“In certain ways I am excited (about the debut), but I am more nervous than anything,” Allmendinger said on the eve of practice. “I have a lot of work to do before this race. Helio (Castroneves) and Will (Power) have given me as many tips as I can handle. They have been great teammates but it is all about going through the process over the weekend to see how it goes.”
While Allmendinger has never raced on the challenging Barber track, he’s looking forward to it and in addition to coaches Power and Castroneves, he will have team owner Roger Penske calling the plays. “RP (Roger Penske) will be in my ear and he will have my attention all weekend. Roger is great and he just tells me to be patient, but I’m not patient. He just tells me, ‘You don’t have to set the world on fire,’ so it is all about going to Indy. He’s typical RP – always patient with me. Indy is the ultimate goal but I want to be as good as I can be here this weekend.”
If enthusiasm and determination can propel Allmendinger forward, he will not only succeed this weekend but at the Indianapolis 500 and beyond. And his presence adds a quality component to the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.