LEEDS, Ala. -- AJ Allmendinger was eighth-quickest on Friday afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park in his first official day of practice since joining Team Penske for a limited IndyCar Series schedule in 2013.
It's a considerable improvement from his open test session at the Park in March, where the former Champ Car World Series race winner posted lap times in the middle of the charts and once launched his car in the air off a corner in the pursuit of speed.
Allmendinger, who is hoping to transition himself back into an open-wheel mindset after seven years in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is happy with his progress and calling the much-different IndyCar weekend "a process."
"I'm just trying to learn how these weekends go and trying to keep up with the race track as it changes," Allmendinger said on Friday after practice. "It's so funny because on the Cup side of it you have set days. Friday you work on qualifying, Saturday you work on race set-up and then you go race on Sunday.
"You're working on speed here the whole weekend, but there's not a lot of time to work on race set-up. So I think it's just the process of going through the weekend and figuring out how it goes, how we use our tires and what we're working on."
Team Penske has won all three races on the road course just outside of Birmingham, Ala., so Allmendinger is confident that he will have the equipment to become a threat on Sunday - -now he just has to keep improving from behind the steering wheel.
Despite a productive first day of practice, Allmendinger believes he hasn't maximized the value of his car and still has room for improvement in Saturday's final practice session before qualifying later in the morning.
"I left a lot out there during that last session," Allmendinger said. "So I think tomorrow, the biggest and toughest thing for me is that qualifying lap. Going out there for the first time and not having any practice -- you just have to go get that lap. But in all, it was a solid day."