BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 13, 2012) - Dale Earnhardt did "it" in 1979 and Rusty Wallace did "it" in 1986. Ernie Irvan did "it" in 1990 and Elliott Sadler did "it" in 2001. Kurt Busch was the most recent driver to do "it" in 2002. Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger would love to be the next driver to do "it" in Sunday's Food City 500.
"It" in this case is scoring their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup career wins in races on the high-banked oval at Bristol Motor Speedway. There certainly is a notable group of first-time series winners at BMS and Allmendinger would cherish being able to add his name to that illustrious list.
"Sure, it'd be a dream come true if we could win our first race this weekend at Bristol; that would be the coolest thing ever for my career," said Allmendinger, who'll be making his 10th career start at BMS this weekend. "It's the track where I started my first Cup race back in 2007, so I think that would make a win even more special.
"But we have to be realistic heading in there this weekend," said Dinger, currently 29th in the Sprint Cup point standings. "The way our first three races have gone this season, I'd look at a solid top-10 run there on Sunday as being a win for us. We've run well and had strong race cars so far, but we haven't been able to put an entire race together yet. We need to get through Sunday's race without having the incredible bad luck we've had so far. It's like we've already had enough setbacks for half a season in just the first three races.
"I've said from the start of the season that you've got to hit the singles before you can knock the home runs," said Dinger, who has a 14.7 average start and 29.7 average finish thus far this season. "That's certainly the situation going into Bristol. We need to hit a single. We need to have a race where we can run strong all day and not have the problems bite us."
In Dinger's nine career starts at BMS entering this weekend, he is still chasing his first top-10 finish. He has an average start of 24.2 and an average start of 28.1. Dinger has completed 94.1 percent (4,240 of 4,507) of possible laps and has been running at the finish in all nine races.
Just as he has done throughout his Sprint Cup career, Dinger has shown steady progress at Bristol. His first career start back in April 2007 reflects a 43rd-place start and a 40th-place finish. He was running at the finish, but was 91 laps down. In the series' most recent visit last August, Dinger started 18th and finished 12th, his best BMS finish to date.
"We got caught up in one of the big crashes that are typical for Bristol in the spring race last year and just had to ride it out," Dinger recalled. "But we came back and had our strongest run yet there last August. It was a situation of being able to stay out of trouble and make some pretty good adjustments overall throughout the race. I remember we went with right-sides only once and that was the wrong thing to do.
"Hopefully, we can come back to Bristol and have another solid run like that this time around," Dinger added. "I know how hard my team has worked this season in preparing us great race cars and strong engines to run in these races. We just need to shake off the last races we've had and get it all headed back in the right direction."
"We just need to put a whole race together," echoed crew chief Todd Gordon. "It's not like we haven't been running well in the races so far; that's not the case at all. We've just been hit by adversity in every race and been forced to try to make bad days into mediocre days. I've learned that life deals you difficult hands and success is determined by how you deal with it. Winners are always the ones who handle the tough times better.
"AJ really likes the high-banked concrete tracks and he's quick to let you know that. Tracks like Bristol and Dover just seem to suit his style. With the 2 car (teammate Brad Keselowski) winning there last fall and AJ coming on really strong there last year, we'll have a good notebook to work off of heading into Bristol this weekend."
Allmendinger, Gordon and the Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be racing their "PRS-815" Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger in this weekend's Food City 500 action at Bristol Motor Speedway. This is a brand new car and Friday's opening practice will be the first time it has been on a race track. The "PRS-807" is the backup Dodge Charger for the "Double-Deuce" team. It was in the transporter serving as the backup at Phoenix, but has never seen any track time.