AJ Allmendinger was back in NASCAR Sprint Cup action this weekend, making his first Cup start since June. Returning to work after completing the NASCAR Road To Recovery program, Allmendinger joined Phoenix Racing in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
After the team rallied to make last minute adjustments and outfit the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet to fit the new driver, Allmendinger was back in the swing of things as he showed encouraging pace in the opening practice sessions.
While his enthusiasm for entry speed cost him on his Thursday night qualifying run and he had to settle for 38th on the grid, Allmendinger knew he had a solid car underneath him. With 500 miles to run and a clear focus on just getting the most out of the weekend, Allmendinger approached the Bank of America 500 as a chance to get back into the grove over the course of a long race on his adopted home track.
After starting 38th, Allmendinger quickly worked his way up to the mid-twenties, staying on the lead lap with his Smiley-Faced Phoenix Construction Chevrolet deep into the night. A late-race pit road procedural penalty saw him losing time to the leaders as he had to make the long, slow way down pit lane at a crawling penalty pace before returning to the pack at full speed.
But despite all the variables that come with working with a new car, a new crew chief, and a whole lot of new faces, Allmendinger focused on his job to bring the Phoenix Construction car home in 24th place.
"It was great to get back into a Cup car, and I just want to thank James Finch and everyone at Phoenix Racing for giving me this opportunity--I'm really grateful," said Allmendinger. "I was hoping I could have repaid that favor with a little bit stronger finish. But it was great to get back in the car and compete again. It was a solid weekend all around despite everything coming together so quickly. I want to also thank everyone who has been so supportive through this entire process. It meant a lot, and now we are all focused on building on this and looking forward to whatever comes next."
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