AJ Allmendinger says that he plans to embrace a new role as team leader at Richard Petty Motorsports.
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Allmendinger confirmed Friday at Watkins Glen International that he had signed a multiyear contract with the organization to continue to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, a signing first reported by FOXSports.com on Wednesday. With Kasey Kahne already announcing plans to leave the organization and Elliott Sadler saying that he is looking for a team for next season, it leaves Allmendinger as the senior member of the team.
FOXSports.com has also reported that teammate Paul Menard could be moving to Richard Childress Racing, which could make Allmendinger the only member of the 2011 lineup at this time.
Allmendinger debuted in NASCAR in 2007, competing for the fledgling Red Bull Racing organization that struggled to make races at times. He spent most of the 2008 season with Red Bull before moving over to what is now Richard Petty Motorsports late that year.
He’s been with the group since that time.
For Allmendinger, a former CART competitor, this offers the chance to build on something and have a stable future.
“It has been an exciting year for me,” Allmendinger said. “It is the first time in my career that I could say I have been at a place that I could build off of. … To be able to drive the No. 43 has been a huge honor that I really enjoy. With the partnership with Ford, there are a lot of really great things happening at Richard Petty Motorsports.”
Allmendinger said that he and his manager looked at a lot of places and asked a lot of questions. But he ultimately felt that this offered him the best opportunity to date.
“We are definitely not where we want to be when it comes to where we are at right now, but I see the potential and want to keep building a team around me that continues to get better and go out and contend for victories every weekend and hopefully eventually get a championship,” he said. “That is the goal.”
As to sponsorship or other news, team co-owner Richard Petty didn’t offer any firm details.
“We have some announcements in our pocket,” he said. “We like to have press conferences, so we wanted to spread it out a little bit.”
One of the alluring details for Allmendinger, though, is that chance to step into a team leader role.
“I am ready to be a leader of this race team,” he said. “It is something that I thrive on and excites me every day to know that I can be the guy. I have the confidence in myself to know I can lead this team and represent it to the best of its abilities. Hopefully, when people think about Richard Petty Motorsports, they think about me as the guy and the leader. It pumps me up to think about the opportunity to be the spearhead to take this team to a lot of victories and eventually a championship.”
Team managing partner Foster Gillett agrees. He says that Allmendinger’s work ethic and talent will help the organization as it attempts to make the next step.
“I think there are some drivers on different teams that call in and are around, but AJ is in our shop daily and knows every single person on our race team,” Gillett said. “Our guys root for him a lot because last year and in previous years, every person has felt a part of AJ and what he is doing. When I told the guys in the shop, it was great news for them.
“We are looking forward to AJ being that and stepping to the forefront, blazing the way and other people trying to catch him on our team and we encourage him to do that. We like the way he drives and how he handles our partners and so we think that is the future, which is why we have done this.”