Former open-wheel racer AJ Allmendinger will make his debut in NASCAR's Budweiser Shootout this weekend as he seeks to secure a full-time campaign in the Sprint Cup.
Allmendinger was confirmed as part of the Richard Petty Motorsports line-up for 2009 last month, but the team currently only has sponsorship for the #44 Dodge for the Shootout and the opening eight races of the campaign – as well as the Daytona event in July.
During Speedweeks, Allmendinger will sport a Valvoline paint scheme on his car similar to the one used by Kyle Petty en-route to victory in the 1978 ARCA race at Daytona and he said he was honoured to run in the colour-scheme for the biggest week on the NASCAR calendar.
“The Valvoline paint scheme is pretty cool,” he said. “I love the retro vibe and that it's commemorating what Kyle and Valvoline did 30 years ago is an honour. Hopefully we can do Valvoline and the Petty name proud here again. The King has been awesome and supportive and obviously has a lot of experiences we can learn from. You don't win 200 races without knowing what you are doing. He's been someone I have always admired and it will be neat to have him in our meetings. When he speaks you listen.”
With the need to secure backing for the remainder of the campaign, Allmendinger said he was looking for a good result to kick-start his season to try and bring new backers onboard for the rest of his programme.
“Sure I'm excited about racing Saturday night,” he said. “It's kind of nice to be able to go into this Daytona and know that I can focus on racing and not stress about how the car will be rolling off the hauler and if I'll get the chance to race. This is one of the most exciting races of the season and a great way to get everything started. It's cool that all four Richard Petty Motorsports cars will be in the Shootout. It gives us a jump on Speedweeks and good momentum for the new season. Hopefully we learn a lot Saturday night and we transfer that to next weekend's performance as well.
“Richard Petty Motorsports is looking pretty good now. Kasey, Elliott, Reed and myself are going to work really hard this year to get all of us there in the points and hopefully the Chase. I'm really hoping we can run well early in the season and get the attention of a company looking to get into the sport. We have a lot to offer any sponsor both on and off the track.”