Allmendinger chasing patience in IndyCar move
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A frustrated AJ Allmendinger climbed out of the car and made a beeline to the fence behind pit road for a chat with teammate Will Power.
Though Allmendinger has an open-wheel background having raced in Champ Cars, his transition to IndyCar, even on a part-time basis, comes with its share of adjustment challenges after seven years driving stock cars in NASCAR. That was evident following a testing session Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park, where he said he went off the track a couple of times.
“You try to live in a dream world and act like maybe it won’t be as hard as you think,” Allmendinger said. “Then you get here and it’s always harder, especially around this place. They keep trying to remind me that they’ve been here for four years, racing and testing and all that. I don’t like excuses though.”
Penske Racing teammates Power and Helio Castroneves don’t really think he needs excuses.
“I think he’s doing a bloody good job for someone who hasn’t been in these cars for seven years or something,” Power said. “He’s been driving a stock car which is so different to an Indy car, especially around this place where downforce plays a big part. The car’s just stuck, and it’s really hard to understand the limit. But he keeps creeping up. He keeps getting closer.
“I think where he is right now, he’s in a good place. He doesn’t need to get frustrated. He just needs to chip away at it, and he’ll get there because he’s been really fast in open wheel cars. He just gets better every time he goes out, so he shouldn’t feel discouraged at all.”
Castroneves pointed out that testing at Sebring, Fla., was easier because Allmendinger was familiar with the track.
“It takes a while, especially going to places that he doesn’t know,” Castroneves said. “Here, for example.”
Allmendinger, who will also run some NASCAR races with Phoenix Racing, has a deal to race April 7 in Birmingham and May 26 in the Indianapolis 500.
He does have the benefit of two top IndyCar drivers in his corner. Power has won the last two races at Barber Motorsports and Castroneves took the first three years ago. Another benefit, he said, is that he’s starting ahead of the curve with a fast car.
“They’re being the best teammates right now, because they’ve obviously got this place nailed,” Allmendinger said. “The cars are fast, and I’m a decent bit behind trying to get there. They’re helping me as much as they can. They’re great teammates. They could help me a little bit and just kind of do their own thing because they’ve got to focus on that, but they’re definitely helping me.
“The cars are fast. We show it, so it’s good and bad. It means that I don’t have to worry about the car being that fast. I have to go out there and find it. I always try to have realistic expectations but then my race car driving takes over and those expectations get a lot higher.”