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Allmendenger finishes ninth at Martinsville

Posted Monday, Mar 30, 2009, 9:26 am in Dodge, Employee News

Martinsville Speedway is considered by many the most difficult of the three short tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. Several Dodge drivers will agree after Sunday’s 500-lap battle on the paper clip-shaped .526-mile track. An exception was AJ Allmendinger who drove the No. 44 Charter Communications Dodge Charger to a ninth-place finish.

Qualifying was rained out Friday, and the starting lineup was set by points. Two Dodge drivers started in the top 10, with Kurt Busch rolling off second and Kasey Kahne sixth. Allmendinger started 16th. Rain also forced the cancellation of Saturday’s Sprint Cup practice session, so teams only had Friday’s brief 90-minute session to dial in their racing machines.

Allmendinger raced in the top 20 throughout the first 400 laps before a bit of pit strategy by crew chief Sammy Johns on the last two stops moved the No. 44 Dodge into the top 10. Johns elected to go with quicker two-tire stops instead of four in an effort to improve track position.

“I’m very happy with the Charter Dodge and our team,” said Allmendinger. “We ran top 15, top 10 all day. We just couldn’t get the track position we were looking for, but the last stop Sammy (Johns) made a good call (two tires). I wasn’t sure of it because we had taken two tires the run before that. It was a good call that got us the track position we needed. We were just a little too tight center off. The pit crew did a good job. We’ve got to keep working on that. To be top 10 at Martinsville, I’m pleased.”

The No. 44 team was put together quickly at the start of the season with sponsorship for only eight races. With the success of the team, the number continues to increase, and now Allmendinger will be running all events through the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in May. There have been some changes within the pit crew in a quest for better efficiency on pit road. On Sunday, the over-the-wall crew gave their driver efficient service on each stop.

Busch started second in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger and ran in the top five through the first 200 laps and in the top 10 the next 100 circuits. Getting the car to turn in the corners became a more difficult task for crew chief Pat Tryson and his crew as the race progressed.

“It was just tight all day long and nothing we did made it any better,” said Busch. “We started up front and stayed in the top 10 more than half the race. We wrestled it all we could without crashing. I know we took a hit in the points. Love today, but I’m just glad to get out of here and not be any worse off. We’re off to Texas and the intermediate tracks next weekend. We’re bringing another new car out for this one. This week’s over, and we’ll start focusing on next week now.”

Busch slipped one spot, to third, in the season point standings. He now trails leader Jeff Gordon by 132 points.

“It wasn’t a good day for us,” said Tryson. “We were good early, but then the track rubbered up and our car went away. We just couldn’t seem to do anything right to make it better. We managed to finish on the lead lap. It’s not what we wanted, but we’ll take it, move on and try to get better next week.”

Kahne started sixth in the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger, but had problems from the opening laps and fell off the pace quickly. He managed to keep his Dodge on the lead lap for the entire 500 laps, but was disappointed that the adjustments made during the race failed to help alleviate the handling issues.

“It was just a frustrating day for the Budweiser Dodge team today. We just fought tight all day. I never could get it to turn. We did our best and got the best finish we could with what we had.”

Kahne fell from sixth to ninth in the driver point standings.

Determination paid off for Reed Sorenson and the No. 43 Charter Communications Dodge team. Sorenson was also dealing with a tight handling car and went a lap down near the mid-point of the race. He managed to get that lap back and finish 17th, second best among the seven Dodge teams.

“We fought really hard all day long, and I think we used up all that we could in the No 43 Charter Dodge,” said Sorenson. “We were tight all day and when we got up on the outside, I just couldn’t get it to turn. We overcame a lot and got our lap back there at the end. That’s something we can build on and carry to Texas next week.”

David Stremme finished 22nd in the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger, while Elliott Sadler was 31st in the No. 19 Stanley Tools Dodge. Sam Hornish Jr. cut down a tire early in the race and had to make an unscheduled pit stop which put the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge team at a deficit they could not overcome, finishing 34th.

Driver/ Team /Finished
AJ Allmendinger/ No. 44 Charter Communications Dodge Charger/ 9
Reed Sorenson/ No. 43 Charter Communications Dodge Charger/ 17
Kurt Busch/ No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger/ 18
Kasey Kahne/ No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger /19
David Stremme/ No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger /22
Elliott Sadler/ No. 19 Stanley Tools Dodge Charger /31
Sam Hornish Jr./ No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger /34


(After 6 of 36 Races)
1. Jeff Gordon 959
2. Clint Bowyer -89
3. Kurt Busch -132
4. Jimmie Johnson -142
5. Denny Hamlin -148
6. Kyle Busch -159
7. Tony Stewart -161
8. Carl Edwards -209
9. Kasey Kahne -214
10. Kevin Harvick -245
11. David Reutimann -249
12. Matt Kenseth -255
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