While delighted with his third place in the Daytona 500, AJ Allmendinger admitted that it could have been an even better result for the Richard Petty Motorsports team.

On a lap 146 restart, and just nine laps before NASCAR officials decided to throw the red flag as rain descended on Daytona International Speedway, Allmendinger's RPM team-mate Elliott Sadler had been leading the race, with the squad's third entry, driven by Reed Sorenson, sitting in third spot and Allmendinger fourth.

However, three laps after the race went green, Matt Kenseth received a push from the fast-charging Kevin Harvick and took the lead. Sorensen, meanwhile, got moved high up the banking by Harvick, dropping him back down the order.

Allmendinger, meanwhile, reacted quickly to the move, ducking in behind Harvick so that, when the caution for Aric Almirola's second spin of the day - and the ensuing red for rain that arrived during the caution - he was sitting pretty in third spot, claiming a podium finish when his first appearance in the blue riband event was finally curtailed 48 laps early.

"I was hoping it was going to rain when Elliott was leading and Reed was second and I was fourth - that would have been a really great result for the team," the Champ Car convert confessed.

"But Kevin had a great run and got under me, [and] that kind of shuffled Reed out. I had to kind of dive down with him because I was going to get really shuffled out if I didn't get back in line."

Allmendinger had special reason for hoping that his two team-mates got the result their showing in the first three-quarters of the race appeared to deserve. Needing to race his way into the 500, the #44 Valvoline Dodge driver received help from both Sadler and Sorenson to make it through his Gatorade Duel.

"I was trying to push Reed and Elliott as much as I could," he revealed, "They are the ones that got me into the race, so ii was my turn to return the favour and try to get them the win.

"Elliott and Reed were a big factor of why I got into this race - that was a lot of teamwork that was involved to get that to happen. Like I said, I wish it would have rained a little bit earlier so we could have had a Cinderella story, had Elliott and all of us in the top five."

While his team ethic may not have been rewarded, Allmendinger admitted that he was delighted to have finished third in the biggest race of the year, and hoped that he would now be given the chance to complete the season instead of having to settle for limited early season outings.

"It's a great result," he conceded, "I kind of wish we could have been able to finish - I think the car was fast, and I would have loved to have had a chance to win the race.

"To be top three with everything we went through in the off-season, hopefully [we can] get some more sponsors on the racecar, keep this thing going after race eight.

"I think it's a big deal. It was a tough off-season for everybody, a long off-season. There's a lot of stuff that went on throughout the team with the merger, but we came here, and I think it shows how strong the team is now.

"The Valvoline Dodge could run up front all day, and it was really consistent. It felt really good to be there and be able to run consistent up front with everybody.

"Everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports is building great cars and, overall, the team's done a lot of work in the off season. Everybody's putting a hundred per cent effort into it. You can see when you go to the shop and at the racetrack just everybody's attitude - even from the five races that I was there last year. Everybody's pumped up and excited to be here.

"I look forward to going to California and just carrying this on."

Allmendinger has more reason than most to celebrate his result at Daytona, having struggled for a year and more to get to grips with NASCAR as part of the Red Bull Toyota team, and then finding himself moving through another couple of teams before being drafted into the merged Petty-GEM line-up for the start of 2009.

"You quickly learn in this sport that it doesn't owe you anything," he pointed out, "I mean, you've got to earn everything that you get. You can sit back and feel bad about yourself or whine about everything that's going on. But there's a lot of people in this world that are a lot less fortunate than I am right now, even after everything I went through.

"For me, it ultimately comes down to two decisions - you can quit or work harder and make something happen. I'm never going to quit, so I'm going to keep working harder. That's my attitude.

"I know, if I can go out there and do everything that I can on and off the racetrack, I can go home, and whether I have a ride, run well, don't run well, I can just go home and feel good about myself and not second guess anything. That's all you can control."

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