With all the movement of the 2011 off-season, there’s ample opportunity for fresh starts in 2012. It may even pave the way for a breakout star in the mold of Brad Keselowski in 2011. Interestingly enough, 2012’s breakout racer may very well be his new teammate.
He appears to have it all now: he’s got a racer’s name, a racer’s look, a pretty wife at his side, and an improving performance. All he needs now is to to start producing wins, the same way Keselowski did last summer. A.J. Allmendinger now stands in the best position he’s ever been in to have a breakthrough in 2012.
After enduring growing pains at Red Bull, and tumult during a better part of his days at Richard Petty, The ‘Dinger takes over a winning ride for the departed Kurt Busch at Penske Racing. It wasn’t just Keselowski who won for the Captain in 2011, lost in all the fireworks was the fact Kurt Busch had wins, and was a contender- enough of one to make the Chase before the wheels came off the cart.
Not only is A.J. getting a hot ride, he comes in to 2012 with a degree of momentum. Allmendinger finished 15th in the points and registered ten top tens for the season. Every year that he’s raced in the Sprint Cup series, the Californian has improved his place in the standings. With his open wheel background, Allmendinger has raced well on road courses, and possesses no glaring weakness on intermediates, short tracks or superspeedways. His biggest challenges have come- in this opinion- trying to get his career off the ground against a backdrop of uncertainty.
Time will only tell whether or not A.J. Allmendinger will become 2012’s Brad Keselowski or he gets stuck in third gear. It’s up to him now, and he knows it. "I feel like the race cars are going to be pretty good. It’s more about myself and the race team gelling, and the quicker we can do that, the better we can be early on."
A driver who once struggled just to get into the show now scores a ride with one of the best in the business. How he fares with this opportunity is one of the more interesting story lines of the season to come.
Other articles by Jim McCoy include: