AJ Allmendinger has won the battle to replace Kurt Busch in the Penske Racing #22 Shell/Pennzoil car, it was announced today.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to join Penske Racing,” said Allmendinger. “I have always admired Roger Penske and the way his teams compete and win in every series where they race."
"AJ is a very talented and motivated driver and we believe he will be a terrific fit with our team,” said team owner Roger Penske. “He has shown great promise and consistent results on the track over the last few seasons."
Allmendinger has been racing in the #43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports since 2009 and had his most successful season in NASCAR so far in 2011, ending the year in 15th position with ten top-ten finishes, but a lack of sponsors for 2012 had left his seat at RPM in the balance after the end of the season.
"It is a privilege for me to represent such iconic and respected brands as Shell and Pennzoil, AAA and Dodge," said Allmendinger of his new team's sponsors. "I am honoured to join Penske Racing and I will do my very best to continue to build on the standard of excellence established across the organization.”
The driver deal also had the backing of the primary car sponsors, who had been growing increasingly unhappy with bad publicity arising from Kurt Busch during 2011.
"Shell and Pennzoil are extremely pleased by Penske Racing's selection of AJ Allmendinger to drive the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge," said the President of Shell Oil Products US, Lisa Davis. "AJ has consistently demonstrated great potential and continuous improvement as a driver, and with Penske's track record, our employees and customers can look forward to seeing him contending for wins and ultimately a championship ... We look forward to a successful 2012 with AJ behind the wheel."
Busch left Penske at the beginning of December "by mutual agreement" after a series of controversial incidents for the driver that culminated with him being caught on video verbally abusing ESPN's pit lane reporter at Homestead-Miami at the season finale in November, following a frustrating technical failure and early retirement from the race after just four laps.
Since Busch exited Penske, several drivers without a confirmed 2012 seat have been keen to take over the #22 car, with the initial favourite seeming to be David Ragan whose time at Roush Fenway Racing similarly came to an end because of lack of sponsorship funds. Brian Vickers, Sam Hornish Jr. and David Reutimann had also been said to be in contention for the ride.