This year, it's been a different story. Though he didn't race in February's Daytona 500, Allmendinger made his season debut last weekend at Phoenix and finished 11th. He spoke Friday with passion and showed the excitement of a rookie driver who couldn't wait to get started.
The new job gives him a chance to return to his open-wheel roots where he was once considered the hottest young star. From 2004 to 2006, he had 14 podium finishes in the now-defunct Champ Car Series, winning five times and finishing third in points in 2006. Back then, when America's top open-wheel drivers were competing in separate series, Allmendinger wanted to compete at Indy.
He only got that chance by moving to NASCAR where he competed in the Brickyard 400.
But all along, the driver named after four-time Indy winner A.J. Fort wanted to race in the 500. And he'll get to do that with the most dominant team in track history.
"As a kid growing up when I was 10, 12 years old, I loved the Indy 500. The split took away from the prestige of the Indy 500 because the best of the best weren't here, so I kind of forgot what some of the prestige here was like until I came back in a stock car," Allmendinger said. "Then immediately, I thought I wonder what it would be like to run an Indy car here. ... It's still the biggest race, I think, on this planet."
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