AJ Allmendinger is still buzzing from his success in last weekend's Sprint Showdown, but admits that, despite the glory of giving the Red Bull Toyota team its first win, it is business as usual ahead of Sunday's Coca Cola 600.

The Red Bull team actually enjoyed double success at Lowe's last weekend, capturing the 2008 Sprint Pit Crew Challenge as well as earning a berth in the All-Star race courtesy of Allmendinger's victory, but all involved know that getting the Champ Car convert into the field for the longest race of the year is not automatic.

"It all starts again," AJ acknowledged, "Got to qualify to get in the show."

Allmendinger's #84 Toyota sits 40th in the latest owner standings, some 170 points out of the top 35. But he's clearly taken a liking to 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway, where his career-best Cup Series finish of 15th came in the autumn of 2007, and he's going to take all the momentum he can into qualifying for the Coca Cola 600.

Allmendinger never needed the go-for-broke attitude in the Showdown, the #84 Toyota was that good - and so too, on the night, was the driver. With a berth into Saturday night's All-Star Race on the line, he was at his best, fighting double-file restarts to lead the final 19 laps of the second 20-lap segment to earn Red Bull Racing's first victory of any kind at Cup level.

"I feel like I won the Daytona 500," Allmendinger admitted afterwards, "Nobody understands how much this means to me after what we went through as a team. These guys - everybody at Red Bull Racing Team and Toyota - they've stuck behind me [and], man, I wanted to win.

"I thought if [Sam Hornish] gets there and gets under you, don't be stupid and try to race him hard and possibly wreck - but don't just give in to him. He was really cool and could have forced the issue."

The two Red Bull Toyotas dominated the Showdown, as AJ's #84, after starting fourth, led 21 laps and maintained decisive track position when opting not to pit between segments, and Brian Vickers' #83 paced the other 19 laps before finishing fourth.

"I wish both Red Bull cars could have advanced, but I'm happy for AJ and the #84 team," Vickers commented, "They raced a great race and deserved to be in the All-Star race. It's been a pretty big weekend for Red Bull Racing Team, with my pit crew winning the Pit Crew Challenge on Thursday and AJ winning the Showdown, so we should have lots of momentum as a team moving into the 600 next weekend."

Mike Skinner - the self-proclaimed 'king of the non-points races' who replaced Allmendinger in the #84 while the team sorted the car out - knows exactly what a win on All-Star night can do for a driver's confidence., as he won a heat race before the 1999 Winston Open.

"It's still a Sprint Cup race - it doesn't matter if it pays points or not, you still had to race some really good guys," he said, referring to AJ's victory, "The thing that impressed me the most about that win was his maturity, where [crew chief] Ricky [Viers] put it on him if they wanted to pit or stay out. The kid made the choice to stay out, knowing his car wasn't perfect, but that clean air was very important. That showed a lot of maturity."

The All-Star Race was a bonus, and Allmendinger finished 17th in an uneventful, caution-free race. But bigger things were at stake - like this week's 600-mile marathon - and the LMS notebook is a little heavier now that the #84 has seen day and night in the month of May.

"We definitely learned a lot about what the race track might do," AJ said, "We'll assess what we learned and make those adjustments coming back for the 600. Like I said, it all starts again, we've got to qualify to get in the show. And it's a long race."



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