Fresh from a fifth-place finish in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, AJ Allmendinger was as fast as he thought he'd be in Sunday's Daytona 500 time trials.

By posting the 35th-best qualifying speed, Allmendinger must race his #44 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge into the 500 in the second of two Gatorade 150 Duel qualifiers scheduled for next Thursday, but having to make the field is nothing new to the third-year driver, although this year he vows to maintain a more even keel.

"The last two years, I put so much pressure on myself that, for three days [prior to the Duels], I was on a knife's edge of emotions," Allmendinger revealed, "Over the last two years, I learned that all I can do is go out and race as hard as I can, run my race and drive the wheels off the racecar like I always do - leave everything on the racetrack."

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In the 2007 Speedweeks, he crashed and finished 29th, while, in 2008, he finished 13th, but still failed to qualify for the 500 each time.

"I'm just going to go try and relax for a couple days and focus on the good things that we did Saturday night and come back Thursday and try to race our way into the 500," Allmendinger concluded.

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service