Team Penske appears to have stacked the deck for Helio Castroneves in the IndyCar Series season finale next weekend as the team has tabbed AJ Allmendinger to return to the No. 2 Chevrolet for the race at Auto Club Speedway on Oct. 19.
Castroneves had a disastrous weekend at the Grand Prix of Houston as he entered the doubleheader with a 49 point championship lead over Scott Dixon but suffered gearbox issues in both events and left with a 25 point deficit over his Target Chip Ganassi Racing rival.
Having an extra teammate in the race could make a difference in the overall championship complexion.
For Allmendinger, the race serves as one last opportunity to win in his brief return to Penske Racing and the open-wheel ranks.
Allmendinger won five races in the Champ Car World Series in 2006 but largely struggled in his return this season, especially on road and street courses where he finished no better than 25th.
The one bright spot of his IndyCar Series season came in the Indianapolis 500 where he led 23 laps and finished seventh. A return to high speed oval racing could be exactly what the team was looking for in reuniting for the season finale.
"I'm looking forward to racing the IZOD Chevy in the IndyCar season finale," Allmendinger said in a team statement. "It's always a great opportunity to compete for Team Penske and I had great time and a solid result racing the IZOD car in the last 500-mile race back in May at the Indianapolis 500.
"Hopefully, we can close out the season with another good finish for Team Penske and for Chevrolet."
This will also be the final outing for Allmendinger for Penske Racing as the driver is set to return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full time next season for JTG Daugherty Racing. The short relationship between Allmendinger and Penske is both storied and full of redemption.
Allmendinger competed for Penske's Sprint Cup No. 22 team during the 2011 season but was unable to finish the campaign as he was suspended over a violation of the NASCAR substance abuse policy.
Allmendinger said he tested positive for prescription Adderall given to him by a friend and quickly submitted to NASCAR's Road to Recovery Program.
Penske rehired Allmendinger to compete for the team's IndyCar and Nationwide Series operations on a part-time basis and he rewarded the car owner by delivering him two NASCAR victories at Road America and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course.