Red Bull No. 83 Brian Vickers and Red Bull No. 84 AJ Allmendinger During his 2007 rookie season, AJ Allmendinger missed the chance to show off his road racing ability in the last visit to Infineon Raceway. "Last year was one of the most ...
During his 2007 rookie season, AJ Allmendinger missed the chance to show off his road racing ability in the last visit to Infineon Raceway.
"Last year was one of the most disappointing to miss just because it was a home race and it was one of the road course races," AJ said. "I was bummed."
His hometown of Los Gatos, Calif., is only 100 miles away. At Infineon, AJ's the local boy. "I'll see my family and friends. They always come out," he said. "It's a busy weekend for sure, and there's so much to do around Sonoma. But to me, it's just another race and I'll be focused on getting the job done."
AJ is coming off his third top-20 finish in the past four races Sunday at Michigan. The 19-place run helped the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota pick up 30 points on the top 35 while remaining 37th in the car owner standings.
Brian Vickers won the second round of the HP Tee Shot Tour on Thursday at The Grande Golf Club in Jackson, Mich. On the lighted 395-yard par 4 first hole, Brian proved he can drive more than a race car when he won the driver and team categories.
Brian once fired a 79 on the high school golf team and claims his longest drive ever is 300- plus (with some roll).
He was paired with Kevin Bullard, who's a regular in the power golf series with long drive professionals and NASCAR drivers that include Marcos Ambrose, Stephen Leicht, Kyle Petty, David Ragan, Elliott and Hermie Sadler and J.J. Yeley. The winning cumulative score at the end of six events will have $25,000 donated in their name to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
In the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, Brian led 44 laps and finished fourth Sunday at Michigan the team's second-straight top five and third of the season after a runner-up effort at Pocono. He moved up one spot in the standings to 16th and gained 15 points in the race to the Chase. He's 97 points out of the 12th.
Brian, quietly, has put up solid numbers at Infineon. His average finish is 23.3, and he won a 2006 NASCAR West Series race the day before running 14th in the No. 25 Chevrolet.
Infineon 2007 still stings technical director John Probst. Here's why: Brian's No. 83 and AJ's No. 84 were in the bottom seven and combined for only 20 laps in opening practice. Then the cars were 42nd and 43rd in qualifying and went home two days early.
"We had some struggles," Probst said. "We weren't mature enough as a team to overcome some of the problems and adversity that hit us at Sonoma last year. This year, we're more prepared and more mature as a race team. We're in pretty good shape to perform well there."
During a recent string of testing at Virginia International Raceway - a road course with similar characteristics as 1.99-mile, 12-turn Infineon - Red Bull Racing Team and the R&D bunch logged 560 miles. Each driver spent three days at VIR, with Brian totaling 319 miles, AJ 241. The team also spent two days before the season testing at Sebring, where Probst said AJ "beat up brakes and gear boxes" for 340 miles on the bumpy central Florida road course.
And to prepare for the August race at Watkins Glen, the team will spend two days at Road Atlanta in mid-July and another at VIR.
"We have to prioritize things. The majority of our races are intermediate and short track races with a few superspeedway and road course events - six races a year," Probst noted. "We have to keep that in mind, but we also view that, with AJ in the car, that should be one of our strengths. We want to take every opportunity we can to run well on the road courses."
AJ Allmendinger, driver, No. 84: "There used to be a clear separation in NASCAR road racing. There are a handful of NASCAR guys who are really, really good at it. And then there are the road course ringers. It used to be that you could plug those guys in and you knew they'd be top five. But they don't have as much success anymore. Now there are so many guys that are good at it."
"It takes a different skill to get a Cup car around a road course. The biggest thing is downshifting. In open wheel, you're so used to braking as late as you can, just slam through the gears. It's a sequential gear box - boom, boom, boom, boom - sixth to first in literally three seconds. In these, with the H-pattern four speed, they're real sensitive. If you downshift incorrectly you can lock up the rear wheels and chatter them. Heck, Jeff Gordon at Watkins Glen (in August 2007). That's exactly what happened to him leading the race. Even the pros, they have trouble getting these things around."