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Allmendinger could make maiden Indy 500 appearance

Allmendinger started off his professional motorsports career in open wheel racing, winning the 2003 Atlantic Championship and then moving to the Champ Car World Series in 2004 with RuSport. His best season was in 2006 when a move to Forsythe rewarded him with five wins and third place in the championship.

After that, Allmendinger moved to NASCAR - initially with Red Bull. He ran a total of 173 race over the course of six years, during which time he clinched two pole positions and claimed his best race result last year with Penske at Martinsville in April, when he finished just behind race winner Kasey Kahne in second place.

Allmendinger also co-drove the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley to victory in the 2011 Daytona 24 Hours, and duly re-teamed with Justin Wilson, Oswaldo Negri Jr, John Pew and new addition Marcos Ambrose to take the car to third place in this year's event - despite having to come back from eight laps down with early technical trouble.

However, even though Allmendinger stayed close with Penske, his prospects for an immediate return to either NASCAR or IndyCar with his old boss looked slim. In his absence, Penske had gone on to win the 2012 Cup championship with Brad Keselowski and then confirmed Joey Logano as the long-term replacement in Allmendinger's former race seat in the #22.

Over in IndyCar, it looked as though Penske was downsizing from three to two full-time cars after letting Ryan Briscoe go while holding on to Will Power and Helio Castroneves.

But if the Sebring test goes well, it's expected that Allmendinger will make his IndyCar début with Penske in the second race of the year at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on April 7. It's understood that the team would also like to enter him in the Long Beach race a fortnight later, as preparation for the Indy 500 itself.

“Just getting back in a Roger Penske car after everything that happened means the world to me," he said. "That he put his faith back in me is amazing ... I can't begin to explain what it means that he believes in me enough to give me another chance."

The news got the thumbs up from Michael Shank, who himself still seeks to set up an IndyCar team in the future in partnership with Allmendinger.

“There will be a lot of pressure on [AJ], but if he manages it well and keeps expectations in check and focus on every task, he'll be fine," said Shank, who added that his respect for Penske had shot up with today's news. "It takes a lot to re-hire somebody after you've fired them, in any business."

But Allmendinger knows that he needs to put aide the circumstances that led to the moment, and just seize the opportunity in front of him with both hands without any distractions.

"There's no pressure with this test, but I'll put the pressure on myself," he added.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Will Power #12 Verizon Team Penske during practice for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. 12-27 May, 2012, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. (c) 2012 Dan R. Boyd LAT Photo USA (Photo credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Helio Castroneves #3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske during practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 12-17 May, 2012, Indianapolis, Indiana USA. (c) 2012 Dan R. Boyd LAT Photo USA. (Photo credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Ryan Briscoe with team boss Roger Penske. [Picture credit: IndyCar Media]
Roger Penske talks with Helio Castroneves during Friday practice on the streets of Baltimore - September 2011. [Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Team owners Chip Ganassi (middle) and Roger Penske (right) talk at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Mike Hull (left.) [Picture credit: IndyCar Media]
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 26, 2012 in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Scott Dixon Road America
Scott Dixon - Chip Ganassi Indy Car [credit: IndyCar TV Twitter]
Will Power Texas
Charlie Kimball
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones
Ed Jones feature
Ed Jones feature
IndyCar, Dallara 2018 chassis, [Credit: IndyCar]
Graham Rahal Detroit celebration
Detroit IndyCar race start

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