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Allmendinger qualifies 11th for debut race

Long Beach is another street course and will only go so far in preparing Allmendinger for Indianapolis, for which the 31-year-old must successfully complete the mandatory Rookie Orientation Program this coming week.

"It's not an oval, but it's more time in the car with pit stops," explained Allmendinger of the Long Beach opportunity.

Allmendinger has been handed the Indy 500 shot by Roger Penske after the team owner was forced to fire Allmendinger from his seat in Penske's NASCAR Sprint Cup squad following a positive drugs test midway through the 2012 season. Allmendinger completed the necessary rehabilitation program and has since returned to NASCAR competition with a different team, after Penske replaced him by signing Joey Logano.

But Allmendinger said that Penske's continued support and public show of faith in him as a driver had made all the difference to his ability to make a comeback after such a shattering experience last summer.

"Everything I've said about [Roger] probably is the biggest understatement," he explained. "I just feel fortunate to have a guy like that care about me so much. I'm not going to ask him why, because I don't want him to question his own mind, but I feel very lucky."

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