Quest for the Shootout
AJ Allmendinger isn’t racing to the Chase. He does, however, have plenty at stake in the final 12 races.
Priority No. 1 is securing the No. 84 a spot in the top 35. He’s 13 points from that mark entering 500 long miles Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. No. 2 is gaining eligibility in the season-opening Shootout at Daytona.
Under format changes that NASCAR announced Tuesday, the top six teams from each manufacturer in the final 2008 car owner standings will run in the annual all-star race. It used to be that only the previous season’s pole winners and past event champions qualified, which rendered obsolete Brian Vickers’ recent Michigan pole. (It’s still a heck of an achievement.)
At 17th, Brian’s No. 83 is the fourth Toyota in line — safe and sound for the Shootout and well ahead of the No. 44 in 28th. AJ’s No. 84 is 36th — eighth of the Toyotas and only 52 points behind the No. 55 in sixth place.
AJ appears to be on his way to reaching both goals. He was third in Friday’s opening practice, with qualifying set for 6:40 p.m. ET. Brian was fifth on the sheet.