Solid Start to 2011 as Allmendinger leads early at Daytona on the way to 11th
10th in championship standings as AJ is already ready for Phoenix
21 February 2011 (Daytona Beach, FL)-- AJ Allmendinger got the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season off to a fast start on Sunday as the Richard Petty Motorsports racer finished the Daytona 500 11th with the No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion. Allmendinger led four laps, avoided a big accident early on, and stayed in the lead pack for much the season-opening race before late-race contact compromised his pace in the final stages of the race.
After starting from 15th, Allmendinger and Daytona Dance partner Mark Martin bolted to the front with AJ taking the lead just four laps in as he once again led at Daytona, having also run at the front of the pack in January's Rolex 24.
The "Great American Race" provided tons of action with 74 lead changes among 22 different drivers. That action also provided several significant accidents, with AJ narrowly missing out an early "Big One" thanks to his spotter as he weaved his way through the smoke and spinning cars with barely a scratch on the Best Buy Ford.
"What do I say...my head hurts!" said AJ after the race. "It was a tough race, but my spotter Tony Hirschman is the man! He definitely earned his paycheck today. Honestly, I don't know how I wasn't in it. The seas kind of parted and we came out of it with just minor damage, so what I should have been in compared to where we finished was not too bad. And a shout out to Mark Martin for running such a great race with me."
Allmendinger stayed in the hunt through the record sixteen restarts including some eight extra laps for the final green-white-checkered flags. While he had been looking to match or improve on his career-best finish in the big race (3rd, 2009), he was still happy to see the Blue Oval take the checkered flag and is ready to get the NASCAR season going in earnest with Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"It's cool for Ford to get their 600th win at the Daytona 500," said Allmendinger. "I'm not going to lie though, I'm a little jealous it wasn't me getting Fords 600th win. We got caught up in the last two wrecks and that hurt a little. But it could have been a lot worse, especially if we hadn't avoided that first one. So this result wasn't exactly what we wanted with the Best Buy Ford, but we'll take a solid points finish and move on to the rest of the season. I'm already looking forward to Phoenix."
Allmendinger has good reason to look forward to the Phoenix round, having qualified on the front row in both NASCAR Sprint Cup visits to the track last year.
-source: walldinger racing