Watkins Glen: Red Bull Racing race report

THE DRIVE TO 35 Life's pretty good these days for gamer/driver AJ Allmendinger. Madden NFL 09 went on sale Tuesday at midnight, AJ's man crush, Brett Favre, graces the game's cover and then there's that career hurdle called the top 35. AJ's No.

THE DRIVE TO 35

Life's pretty good these days for gamer/driver AJ Allmendinger. Madden NFL 09 went on sale Tuesday at midnight, AJ's man crush, Brett Favre, graces the game's cover and then there's that career hurdle called the top 35.

AJ's No. 84 Red Bull Toyota finished 11th in Sunday's race at Watkins Glen, moving up two spots to the elusive 35th position in the car owner standings and eight points out of the red. It was AJ's fourth consecutive finish inside the top 20, and finally, for the first time in nearly two seasons, he can have a stress-free qualifying day.

"When we get to Michigan I'll be a lot happier when we don't have to qualify on time," AJ said. "Right now, I'm a little disappointed because I wanted that top 10 and to finish off strong, but 11th … I'll take it."

Crew chief Jimmy Elledge's pit strategy again propelled AJ toward the front. After starting 37th, he was the first car to pit on lap 16. He returned to the track in 43rd, but by the time competitors' stops cycled through on lap 30 he was 19th. Another pit sequence sent AJ to 12th, and he just missed a top-10 finish on the final lap.

"We're in the top 35 and that's been our big deal," AJ said, "and I know once we get in we're not going to fall back out. The car was good. Jimmy, like usual, used awesome strategy."

Teammate Brian Vickers is still within striking distance of the Chase, mostly because the No. 83 team performed major surgery after the car was slow in Saturday practices. The crew changed the transmission, shocks, springs and much more, and an 18th-place finish has Brian 17th in points -- 210 out of the top 12 with four races remaining before the Chase begins Sept. 14 at New Hampshire.

Michigan is one of the team's better tracks. Brian led 44 laps and finished fourth in Red Bull Racing Team's last visit there in June. He has four top 10s in nine Michigan starts.

UP NEXT

3M Performance 400, Michigan International Speedway, Sunday, Aug. 17

QUOTES

Brian Vickers, driver, No. 83: "It was a decent day although I would have liked to have finished top 15. The guys did a great job improving this car from where it was in practice yesterday. All their hard work paid off -- it definitely felt like a different car. I'm looking forward to returning to Michigan next week."

AJ Allmendinger, driver, No. 84: "Jimmy (Elledge, crew chief) has done a great job just coming over here and all the additions that Jay (Frye, general manager) has added to the team. We have been running well, and we just needed some luck on our side and some good strategy. Jimmy has brought that along. Even at Pocono we wanted a better run than 19th, but we did a good job to get that out of it. All we have to do is keep continuing now that we're in (the top 35) and no reason to fall out."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Brian Vickers
Teams Red Bull Racing