Tires and a Top 10
Buried beneath worn out rubber, tire runners soaked in sweat and a downright debacle of an Allstate 400 was the best finish of AJ Allmendinger’s Sprint Cup career.
The No. 84 driver ended up 10th in Sunday’s so-called race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the last of the 22 Sprint Cup tracks that AJ had yet to conquer in qualifying. Somehow, he survived a chaotic, caution-filled event when Goodyear’s Eagle tire failed to last longer than a measly 10-lap run on Indy’s abrasive, grooved surface.
“It was like the first five or six laps were OK and then there was a one-lap drop off that just killed you,” AJ said. “The last two laps of each run were not fun. You were just hanging on, and I was praying that the right rear was not going to blow out.”
Six of the 11 yellow flags were competition cautions that NASCAR waved to force teams to pit and change tires. The longest green-flag run was 12 laps, and strategy went out the window. But AJ’s crew chief, Jimmy Elledge, strategized just enough to keep his driver near the front.
“You knew everybody was going to have to at least pit, whether they were going to take two or four was the question,” AJ said. “We kind of got in the rhythm where we would do two stops in a row with two tires and then we would do four and then do another two stops with just two.”
The first top-10 finish of AJ’s Sprint Cup career kept his Red Bull Toyota 37th in the car owner standings — 63 points out of the top 35. He led four laps, too.
Teammate Brian Vickers wasn’t so lucky.
The No. 83 team opted to back it down, fade to the back and be gentle on the tires. But the engine in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota — not tires — doomed Brian. He dropped a cylinder, retreated to the garage and returned to the track in 34th with 74 laps to go. The engine eventually expired 20 laps later, and Brian left Indy with a 42nd-place finish.
He slipped to 15th in the race to the Chase and is 132 points out of the top 12.
Listen to Brian and AJ talk about it in our audio section at www.redbullracingusa.com.