PREVIEW: RPM and Penske Teams Ready for ‘True Test’ @ Auto Club 500


FONTANA, Calif. – By placing four Dodge Chargers in the top 10 at last weekend’s Daytona 500, the ‘Dodge Boys’ raised plenty of eyebrows while making a definitive racing statement to its competitors: “We’re back!”

With early proven success and high-horse-powered momentum with them, Richard Petty Motorsports and Penske Racing lead a seven-car Dodge Charger contingent to the West Coast for this weekend’s Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Charter Communications Dodge Charger) was determined to race in last weekend’s Daytona 500. Without a guaranteed starting spot in the field of 43, Allmendinger did it the ‘old fashioned way’. He earned it. His 10th-place finish in the second Gatorade Duel at historic Daytona International Speedway earned him one of two automatic transfers to the Great American Race.

“I was tired of being on the sidelines watching 200, 000 race fans cheer for other drivers other than me, ” said a determined Allmendinger. “It’s our biggest race of the year and I wanted to be a part of it.”

This weekend will be no exception. The long trip out West is as much a reality check for team and drivers as anything. With only a handful of restrictor plate races on the 36-race schedule, Allmendinger and the Dodge Boys know that California will be a true litmus test.

“This is where the season really begins, ” said Allmendinger. “We only run four restrictor plate races, but we race a lot on the two-mile and mile-and-a-half tracks. The teams that do well on tracks like this are the teams that are going to be fighting for a place in The Chase.”

Dodge veteran Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger) had destiny on his finger tips last weekend as he led the Daytona 500 field with only 60 laps to go and ominous weather approaching. However, fate would intervene and take away any chance of sending the Virginia-native to Victory Lane. Sadler was passed by Matt Kenseth, with drafting help from Kevin Harvick, on the final green-flag lap of the race that ended with 152 of the scheduled 200 laps completed.
“It was emotional for me, ” said Sadler. “It’s was raining on the radar and not on the track…just my luck. The end of the Daytona 500 was a tough one to swallow. But I can honestly say that now it’s time to focus on the positive. I had a top-five finish, led more laps in one race than I did in all of 2008 and I’m in a great position to start the season.”

Riding the momentum of his fifth-place finish at Daytona last weekend keeps Sadler focused on the ‘marathon’ and not the ‘sprint’. Sadler’s Auto Club Speedway career statistics include one win, one top-five and two top-10s in 15 career starts.

“It’s a long season, ” Sadler added. “Last week we led laps. We were in position to win the race, came up a bit short but still finished in the top-five. We are tied for fourth in points. We are on track after the first race of the season to accomplish those goals. We just have to go to Fontana and prove that we’re just as strong at the two-mile tracks as we were on (restrictor) plate tracks.”

Other Notes:
• Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) holds the Auto Club Speedway record for most pole positions earned (three). Busch has posted top-20 starts in all 10 of his races at Auto Club Speedway.
• Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Charter Communications Dodge Charger) currently sits ninth in NSCS driver points. Sorenson’s career-best at ACS is 21st – which he has accomplished three times.
• Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) has the lone Dodge victory at ACS. With an impressive seven top-10s in 10 career starts at ACS, Kahne’s driver rating of 99.2 is fifth-best.
• David Stremme (No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger) will be making only his third start at the spring event in Fontana. He has one top-20 finish.
• Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 77 AAA of California Dodge Charger) was caught up in an early on-track incident in last year’s spring event at Fontana where he finished 43rd.

(Top 12 after 1 of 36 races)

1. Matt Kenseth 190
2. Kevin Harvick -20
3. AJ Allmendinger -25
4. Clint Bowyer -30
5. Elliott Sadler -30
6. David Ragan -40
7. Tony Stewart -43
8. Michael Waltrip -44
9. Reed Sorenson -52
10. Martin Truex Jr. -55
11. Kurt Busch -56
12. Jeff Gordon -61

What You Need To Know

The Race: Auto Club 500
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Sunday, February 22
The Time: 6:15 p.m. (ET)
The Track: 2-mile oval
The Distance: 250 laps
Television: FOX, Pre-Race begins at 5:00 p.m. (ET)

Dodge Weekend Motorsports on TV, Radio
(All Times Eastern)
Friday, Feb. 20
12:00 p.m. – NASCAR Live (SPEED)
3:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Practice (SPEED)
4:30 p.m. – NCWTS Pole Qualifying (SPEED)
6:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup Pole Qualifying (SPEED)
8:30 p.m. – Nationwide Series Final Practice (SPEED)
10:00 p.m. – Trackside (SPEED)
11:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Qualifying (re-air) (SPEED)

Saturday, Feb. 21
11:00 a.m. – Trackside (SPEED)
12:00 p.m. – NASCAR Live (SPEED)
12:30 p.m. – Nationwide Qualifying (SPEED)
3:00 p.m. – NCWTS Race (FOX)
5:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Final Practice (SPEED)
7:00 p.m. – Nationwide Series Countdown (ESPN2)
7:45 p.m. – Nationwide Series Race (ESPN2)

Sunday, Feb. 22
10:00 a.m. – NASCAR Now (ESPN2)
3:30 p.m. – NASCAR RaceDay (SPEED)
5:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Pre-Race Show (FOX)
6:00 p.m. – Sprint Cup Race (FOX)
7:00 p.m. – SPEED Report (SPEED)
9:00 p.m. – Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain (SPEED)
10:00 p.m. – NASCAR Victory Lane (SPEED)

— 30 —

Source: Chrysler Media Services Release, Motorsports


  • bwbike
    Posted February 21, 2009 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see NASCAR run Challengers instead of the Charger. 🙂

  • Mike
    Posted February 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    They will start running challengers in the Nationwide series in 2010 . i beleive it will be phased in like the COT was.

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