AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 22 Pennzoil Dodge, points to Las Vegas Motor Speedway as one of his most difficult tracks. But in an uncanny way, his record on the demanding 1.5-mile “intermediate” track is a true reflection of the consistent progress Dinger has made during his NASCAR Sprint Cup career.
After failing to make the starting field in his first two visits to LVMS, Dinger finished 33rd in his first career start there in 2009. He came back to finish 25th in 2010 and upped his best career finish there to 19th in last year’s edition of the Kobalt Tools 400.
“Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been a struggle for me in the past, but we’re coming in there optimistic that we can improve,” said Dinger, who finished 18th last Sunday at Phoenix and climbed to 25th in the current point standings. “I look to get better on the track and our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team can continue to get stronger overall.
“Penske Racing has historically had a really strong program for the intermediate mile-and-a-half tracks,” Dinger said. “We’ll definitely be tapping into that experience to help out at Vegas. I think you’ll see both Penske Dodge teams working really closely together this weekend and to maximize all the practice time we have on the schedule.
“We look at this as really only our second race together as driver and crew chief,” said Dinger. “We’re learning pretty quickly about how we communicate with each other. Phoenix was the first time for us to work through handling situations and figure out what adjustments to make. Todd (Gordon, crew chief) is learning what I mean when I talk about handling characteristics on the radio. When I say the car is tight, he needs to know just how far to go on the adjustments he makes.
“That is an area where we will get stronger and stronger the more races that we can work together,” said Dinger. “We struggled last Friday and got behind. With nothing but qualifying Saturday and no additional track time, we didn’t have an opportunity to really get stuff sorted out. It’s good to know that this weekend at Vegas, we’ll be back to the regular schedule. We practice and qualify on Friday, then have more practice on Saturday to get our car dialed in for Sunday’s race.
“We just haven’t been able to catch a break so far this season in the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge,” said Dinger. “We had the situation at Daytona on pit road with the 39 car losing the tire and stopping right in front of us. Then last Sunday at Phoenix the 27 car just hooked us and we had the whole rear deck torn off.
“We just had to make the best of bad situations during the first two races of the season. It’ll be great to see how strong our team can be when we can get a solid race under our belt. Hopefully that will come this weekend at Vegas when we can finish without having to fight back from all the crazy stuff happening to us.”
In his three career starts at LVMS, Dinger is still looking for his first top-10 finish. His seventh-place start and 19th-place finish in last year’s Vegas visit rate as his best qualifying and finishing performances to date entering this week’s return to “Sin City.” In his three career Vegas races, he has a 22.0 average start and 25.7 average finish. He has completed 813 of 819 possible laps (99.3%).
Allmendinger, Gordon and the No. 22 Penske Racing Team will be racing their “PRS-812” Pennzoil Dodge Charger in this weekend’s action at Las Vegas. This is a brand new addition to the “Double Deuce” fleet. The “PRS-814” is the backup Dodge Charger for this weekend. It is a new car, also.