In a news conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Team Penske has formally announced that it will field an entry for NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and former Champ Car World Series racer AJ Allmendinger in this year's Indianapolis 500 race.
Allmendinger will drive the #2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet entry and attempt to qualify for the 97th running of the race, scheduled for May 26. Prior to this, Penske will also enter Allmendinger into the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park at the start of April, in order to give Allmendinger some valuable extra current race experience in an open-wheel car.
"I think it's every driver's dream to race for Team Penske at the Indy 500 and that experience is going to be incredible," said the 31-year-old. "I also have to thank IZOD for their support and for giving me a chance to show what I can do. I definitely intend to make the most of it."
Allmendinger has already taken part in one pre-season test session with the team when he turned out at Sebring International Raceway in February, in what was his first turn in a open-wheel car since 2006. He'll get another chance behind the wheel at next week's IZOD IndyCar Series spring training test sessions at Barber, and will likely test for the first time on an oval at either Texas Motor Speedway or Auto Club Speedway, Fontana in late April.
Allmendinger has been competing in stock cars for the past six seasons, and in 2012 secured a seat with Roger Penske's NASCAR Sprint Cup operation. The team and driver parted company last summer after Allmendinger failed a random drugs test and was suspended from competition. He's since been reinstated after completing a mandatory rehabilitation program, and was back in competition again last weekend at Phoenix. However he's still to find a full-time Cup ride of the same calibre he enjoyed for the first part of last year.
More importantly, Roger Penske has continually been on Allmendinger's side and stood by the driver throughout, and he and team president Tim Cindric have been keen to give him a second chance even though there is no longer a spare seat in the NASCAR squad, which has led to this sideways step for Allmendinger into a début in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2013.
“I have to thank Roger, Tim and everyone at Team Penske for this opportunity," said Allmendinger. "I'm really looking forward to getting back to my roots and racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series."
"It is exciting to welcome AJ back to Penske Racing," declared Roger Penske. "He obviously went through a tough time last year but he has done everything he needed to in order to get back to racing at the top level of the sport.
"We have always believed in AJ and his ability and he deserves this opportunity," he continued. "We think he will be a strong competitor this season in the IZOD IndyCar Series for Team Penske and we look forward to racing with him in the IZOD car at Barber and at the Indianapolis 500."