The opening three races of the 2012 season have not exactly been what A.J. Allmendinger and his new Penske team were hoping for. Coming into the year, expectations were certainly higher for the sixth year driver after his off season move to the #22 Dodge. In December, Allmendinger asked for and was granted his release from his ride at Richard Petty Motorsports so that he could take over for the embattled Kurt Busch. But following Las Vegas, a race marred by fuel system problems for both Penske drivers, Allmendinger and the 22 crew currently sit 30th in the standings, 81 points out of the lead, and 53 points out of 10th.
Because of the aforementioned fuel issues at Las Vegas, and incidents at Daytona and Phoenix, Allmendinger has yet to finish on the lead lap in a race this season. These results are a far cry from the start of the 2011 season, when Allmendinger sat ninth in the points through three races.
The lone bright spot for Allmendinger, if it can be called that, is that the cause of the bad finishes to this point has just been straight bad luck. At Daytona, Allmendinger was the victim of a freak accident when he damaged his car’s cooling system after hitting a tire that came off Ryan Newman’s car on pit road. The following week at Phoenix, Allmendinger was caught up in a wreck not of his own doing. And Las Vegas was ruined by the fuel issues.
Moving forward, Allmendinger and company need to start finding ways to finish races. They won’t be stuck outside the top 25 in points all season, but climbing out of a 53 point hole won’t be easy. You can never count a Penske car out (see Brad K.’s late season march last year), but the 22 needs to start turning things around quickly.