AJ (Anthony James) Allmendinger is an American racing driver who currently competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He debuted in NASCAR in 2006, after he scored his best season result in the Champ Car World Series, finishing third in the final classification. Allmendinger also participated eleven times at 24 hours of Daytona, taking the overall victory in 2012 and scoring two more podiums.
Two championship titles early in a career
Anthony James Allmendinger was born on December 16th, 1981, in Los Gatos, California. After few years of competition with karts, AJ switched to single-seaters in 2001, entering the Formula Dodge National Championship. In his debut season, Allmendinger scored two wins in 13 races and finished as runner-up in the championship. He also participated in three races of the Barber Dodge Pro Series.
Between two seasons, during American winter, he went to New Zealand to compete in the Formula Ford Championship, finishing 11th in the standings. In 2002, back in the USA, he competed full season in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and he took the title, winning six of ten races. The next step at the racing ladder was the Toyota Atlantic Championship and he won the title in his rookie season, winning eight of 12 races. He was driving for RuSport team.
Rookie of the Year in the 2004 Champ Car World Series
Carl Russo hired Allmendinger to drive for RuSport in the 2004 Champ Car World Series. Allmendinger has won the Rookie of the Year award, finishing 6th in the points, with two podiums. In 2005, the second-best rookie Justin Wilson joined AJ in the team. While Wilson succeeds to win two races and finished third in the championship, Allmendinger was still missing the Champ Car victory. He was so close four times, finishing in the second place at four races. At the end of the season, Allmendinger was fifth in the points.
The season 2006 was the milestone year in Allmendinger's career because he had a diverse racing program and achieved some of the best results in the whole career.
Second place for AJ in Daytona 24h debut
The season started with his debut participation at 24 hours of Daytona, in the Michael Shank Racing's #60 Lexus Riley prototype, alongside Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson and his old friend and teammate Justin Wilson. They finished second overall, one lap behind winning Lexus Riley of Chip Ganassi Racing. It was a start of the longstanding partnership with Michael Shank Racing team because since then, Allmendinger competed eleven times at Daytona 24-hour race in their cars.
Champ Car runner-up with five wins
The next big thing in 2006 was Allmendinger's first Champ Car victory, at Portland Grand Prix in June. He started the season with RuSport but after four races switched to Forsythe Championship Racing and immediately won the first race with the new team. In a fact, he won three races in a row at Portland, Cleveland and Toronto, becoming one of the title contenders.
Until the end of the season, he won two more races, in Denver and Road America, but it wasn't enough for the title. Sebastien Bourdais has won seven times and took his third consecutive title. Justin Wilson has won just one time and finished second in the standings, thirteen points ahead of Allmendinger.
AJ moved to Red Bull Racing Team in 2006
Allmendinger had a chance to finish second in the 2006 Champ Car season, but he missed the last race of the season because of his new deal. He accepted the offer from NASCAR's Red Bull Racing Team to compete in the Nextel Cup Series. He immediately jumped into #84 Red Bull Dodge Charger and tried to qualify for races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, but failed in both attempts.
NASCAR debut in the Truck Series
He was more successful in his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut, entering three races in the Bill Davis Racing's #24 Toyota Tundra. His first ever NASCAR race was the Truck Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway on September 16th, 2006. In his second Truck Series race, at Talladega Superspeedway, he finished fifth.
The season 2007 started at Daytona. In his second endurance race for Michael Shank Racing, Allmendinger partnered Henry Zogaib, Ian James and Paul Tracy in the #6 Lexus Riley and they finished 26th.
Sixteen qualifying fails in 2007 season
In 2007, Allmendinger had the tough beginning of his first full NASCAR season with #84 Red Bull Toyota Camry. He failed to qualify at first four events. The first race he entered was the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. During the season, he recorded fifteen more DNQ attempts. His best result was 15th place at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
In his transition from single-seaters to stock cars, he also participated in nine races of the Craftsman Truck Series driving #00 Toyota for the Darrell Waltrip Motorsports and seven races in the Busch Series for Chip Ganassi Racing. His best result was second place in the Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The similar schedule of races repeated in 2008. The season again started with Daytona 24-hour race. AJ was driving the #6 Ford Riley alongside John Pew, Ian James and Burt Frisselle. They finished 14th overall.
Victory in the Sprint Showdown
In the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Allmendinger again failed to qualify the season-opening Daytona 500 and two more races. After three failures, he was replaced by veteran driver Mike Skinner at five events. Allmendinger returned at Talladega. On May 17, he won the Sprint Showdown at Lowe's Motor Speedway and qualified for the annual All-Star weekend. In the All-Star race, he finished 17th. The best result so far followed at Kansas Speedway, where he finished ninth. Despite that, he was replaced for the rest of the season by Scott Speed and Mike Skinner.
Allmendinger drove one race for Michael Waltrip Racing and then five races for Gillett Evernham Motorsports in the #10 Dodge. During 2008, Allmendinger participated in just one Nationwide Series and one Truck Series race.
In January 2009, AJ's teammates in the #6 Riley-Ford at 24 hours of Daytona were Michael Valiante, Ian James and John Pew. They didn't finish the race.
In 2009, Allmendinger joined Richard Petty Motorsports
In 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Allmendinger moved into the #44 Valvoline-sponsored Dodge of Richard Petty Motorsports. He finally qualified for Daytona 500 and scored his best ever finish at the biggest Cup Series race, finishing third. Later in the season his best result was seventh place at Sonoma and Dover.
On October 29, 2009, Allmendinger was arrested for drunk driving in Mooresville, North Carolina. NASCAR placed him on probation for the rest of the season. At the last three races, he was driving a Ford Fusion, as a part of team's transition from Dodge to Ford for 2010 season.
AJ gets Petty's famous number 43
Before he started the 2010 NASCAR season in the Richard Petty's Ford with famous number 43, Allmendinger raced with Michael Shank's #6 Ford Riley at Daytona 24-hour race. His co-drivers were Mark Patterson, Michael Valiante and Brian Frisselle. They didn't finish the race but were classified in the 7th place.
In the #43 Ford, Allmendinger scored eight Top 5 finishes to ended the season in the 19th place. It was his career-best result to date. He improved in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, finishing 15th in the points, after nine races in the Top 10.
At 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger's partners were Justin Wilson and Michael McDowell. Except new co-drivers, the car was also new. They were driving Ford-powered Dallara DP01 to seventh place finish.
Daytona victory with 5 seconds gap after 24 hours of racing
At 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona, in January 2012, Allmendinger and Justin Wilson were partners again, alongside John Pew and Oswaldo Negri. It was the winning combination in the #60 Ford-Riley and they won the race, with just five seconds gap ahead of second-placed Starworks Motorsport car.
After great victory at Daytona 24hours, Allmendinger returned to the circuit for the NASCAR season-opening Daytona 500 as the new driver of Penske Racing's #22 Dodge. He participated in 17 races, with second place at Martinsville as the best result.
Positive drug test interrupted AJ's career
And then, on July 7, he didn't pass a random drug test before Coke Zero 400 race at Daytona. He was suspended and had an opportunity to request a B sample test. After the second test was also positive for a banned stimulant, Allmendinger was suspended indefinitely. He was released from contract by Penske Racing.
AJ was participating in the Road to Recovery program and he was reinstated by NASCAR after completing the program in September. In October, Allmendinger returned to the cockpit of the race car, driving the #51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway and three more races after that.
Third place at 2013 Daytona 24-hour race
In 2013, one more exciting season with a diverse racing program followed. Allmendinger participated in four different series with four different cars. All started, of course, at Daytona International Speedway with his eighth consecutive appearance at the 24-hour race. His teammates in the #60 Ford Riley were John Pew, Oswaldo Negri, Justin Wilson and Marcos Ambrose. They finished third, which was Allmendinger's third podium finish. Later in the season, AJ participated in one more race with Michael Shank's #6 car, alongside Gustavo Yacaman at Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis.
Maiden NASCAR victory at Road America
In the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Allmendinger drove part-time for Phoenix Racing in the #51 Chevrolet. Besides eight races with Phoenix Racing, Allmendinger was participating in nine races with # 47 Toyota of JTG Daugherty Racing. In September, it was confirmed that that Allmendinger would be the full-time driver for JTG Daugherty Racing in 2014.
In the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series, Allmendinger participated in two races with Penske Racing's #22 Ford, winning both. AJ's maiden NASCAR victory came at Road America circuit on June 22. The second victory followed at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August.
Seventh place at only Indianapolis 500 race
The last but not least, Allmendinger returned to IndyCar Series in 2013. After he participated in winter testing with Team Penske, he was invited to compete in six races during the season, including Indianapolis 500. It was AJ's first participation in the America's biggest race. He showed strong performance, securing fifth starting position and finishing in the seventh place.
At 2014 Rolex 24 Daytona, Allmendinger's car was again the #60 Ford Riley of Michael Shank Racing and his co-drivers were again Justin Wilson, John Pew and Oswaldo Negri. It was the race to forget because they finished 47th.
First and only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Watkins Glen
In 2014 NASCAR season, Allmendinger focused only on driving the #47 Chevrolet for JTG JTG Daugherty Racing. After three Top 10 finishes, the maiden Cup Series victory in AJ's career came at Watkins Glen on August 10. In the rest of the season, Allmendinger scored one more Top 10 result (ninth place at Martinsville) to finish 13th in the points, which was his career-best Cup Series finish.
The relatively good NASCAR season followed in 2015, still with #47 Chevrolet. Allmendinger was in the Top 10 three times, including the season-best sixth place at Las Vegas, to finish 22nd in the points.
Retirement at 2015 Daytona race after 705 laps
At Daytona 24-hour race, two retirements followed with Michael Shank Racing's new car, the #60 Honda-powered Ligier JS P2. In 2015, the team started from pole but retired after 705 laps. Despite the retirement, they were classified as ninth in the classification. Allmendinger's co-drivers were John Pew, Oswaldo Negri and Matt McMurry. In 2016, Olivier Pla joined Allmendinger, Pew and Negri. This time, the race lasted 285 laps before retirement.
In the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, AJ Allmendinger was competing for the third year in a row with JTG Daugherty Racing #47 Chevrolet SS. He finished 19th in the points, finishing best in the second place at Martinsville.