IndyCar » 8 March 2013
Penske confirms Allmendinger Indy 500 entry
"Everyone at IZOD is proud to continue the brand's sponsorship of Team Penske in 2013 and we look forward to working with AJ as he makes his return to open-wheel racing," said Mike Kelly, the executive vice president of IZOD's parent company The PVH Marketing Group. "AJ is a great fit for the brand as he embodies IZOD's youthful and competitive American spirit.
"We hope to see the #2 IZOD Team Penske car take the checkered flag at Barber, and on racing's biggest stage at the Indianapolis 500 where we'd all love a storybook ending with AJ drinking the milk in Victory Lane," Kelly added.
Before he can do that, Allmendinger will need to complete the mandatory three-phase Rookie Orientation Program on the 2.5-mile speedway on April 11 before he can move into a week of practice sessions ahead of the Indy 500's unique qualifying system run over a full weekend on May 18/19.
The starting grid for the race is capped at 33 cars, so it's not a completely foregone conclusion that Allmendinger will actually make it onto the track for the green flag for the race. However, it's unlikely that more than 32 other cars will enter this year's event, so any completed qualifying laps should be enough to see him into the race itself.
"There aren't enough adjectives to describe how I feel: anxious, exciting, nervous," Allmendinger told the news conference. "I'm not going to lie, I'm going to be nervous as hell."
Allmendinger's last open wheel race was on October 21 2006 at Surfers Paradise in Australia, at the end of a Champ Car World Series season that saw him win five events in a partial nine-race season with Forsythe Racing, ultimately finishing in third place in that year's championship.
"He's easy to get along with. When I raced him, he was very fast," said Will Power, who also competed in Champ Cars that season and who will now be Allmendinger's team mate at Penske. "That year, had he started with Forsythe, he probably would have won the championship."
Although this year will see Allmendinger make his debut entry in the Indy 500, it's actually not the first time he will have competed at the Speedway: he has competed in four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the Brickyard, with a best finish of 10th.
Even so, on his first outing at IMS in a stock car in 2007 his instinctive thought was to wonder, 'I wonder what it's like in an IndyCar?' - and now he's going to find out. "I've been told I'm not to hit the brakes when I get to the end of the front straightaway: the first challenge is going to be holding my foot down!"
The #2 car was driven in 2012 by Ryan Briscoe, who has now parted company with the team because of a lack of sponsorship funding for the entry for an entire season. Briscoe won pole position for last year's Indy 500 in the car and went on to finish in fifth place. For 2013, Allmendinger's race engineer will be Ron Ruzewski who is the team's technical director.
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