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Kurt Busch to Phoenix Racing, Allmendinger to Penske as silly season continues

 In the latest installment of Kurt Busch burning bridges and running out of opportunities with top level teams, Penske Racing has named A.J. Allmendinger as driver of the team’s No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger for the 2012 season.

Allmendinger, who has competed in the Cup series since 2007, is coming off a strong season that saw him finish 15th in the standings while battling for a position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The 30 year-old from Los Gatos,

California earned one top-five, 10 top-10, and 22 top-15 results in 2011, driving the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to join Penske Racing and drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in 2012,” said Allmendinger. “I have always admired Roger Penske and the way his teams compete and win in every series where they race. It is a privilege for me to represent such iconic and respected brands as Shell, and Pennzoil AAA, and Dodge. I am honored  to join Penske Racing and I will do my very best to continue to build on the standard of excellence established across their organization.”
Allmendinger will join a winning team that is poised to compete for a position in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup. The No. 22 Dodge team produced two wins, three poles, and 15 top-10 finishes in 2011 as it earned a spot in the “Chase”  and finished 11th in the series standings. Allmendinger will be paired with crew chief Todd Gordon, who led the Penske Racing Nationwide Series team to six victories last season.

“A.J. is a very talented and motivated driver and we believe he will be a terrific fit for our team,” said Roger Penske. “He has shown great promise and consistent results on the track over the past few seasons and working with Todd and the Shell-Pennzoil team will allow him to take the next step and compete for race wins and a spot in the Chase in 2012.”

Allmendinger honed his skills in the open wheel racing ranks.  After winning the Barber Dodge Pro Series title in 2002 and the Toyota Atlantic Championship in 2003, he earned Rookie of the Year honors in the Champ Car World series in 2004. He posted five wins and finished third in the 2005 Champ Car World Series before making the switch to NASCAR.

Meanwhile, Kurt Busch, who drove the Penske Racing No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge this past season, has left his second top level team under less than desirable circumstances, and landed a ride at Phoenix Racing.

The 33 year-old Busch has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup six times since the inception of the Chase format in 2004, when he won the series title driving for Roush Racing.  When he left Jack Roush and signed with Penske, there were no tears shed by the Roush Racing organization.

“I just want to get back to having fun in the racecar,” Busch said, announcing his latest career move. 

“I’m very happy to join Phoenix Racing after entertaining a lot of quality offers; there’s no better place for me,” said Busch, winner of 24 Sprint Cup races, as well as the 2010 Sprint Cup All-Star race, the 2011 Gatorade Duel, and the 2011 Budweiser Shootout. “We’re gong to run the full schedule together, and we’re going to have fun doing it.

“It’s going to be old school racing, where we show up, race hard, and go for the win. If we don’t win, we’ll go back to the shop, work hard and do it all over again next week. That’s the way we all started racing and it’s great to get back to that.”

James Finch, owner of Phoenix Racing, celebrated his 20th year as a NASCAR team owner in 2011.  His Spartanburg, S.C. based team has won 13 NASCAR races, the most prominent of which was the 2009 April Sprint Cup race at Talladega Motor Super Speedway.

“All we want to do is win,” Finch said.  “Winning is why I’ve been in racing for as long as I have.  Winning, especially at the Cup level, is hard. But now with Kurt Bush as our driver, we have a shot to win every week. He’s past champion and he’s proven he can win everywhere.  Our sponsors are looking forward to Kurt representing their brands.”

You may reach Pete Barber at talkinracing@journalpress.

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