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AJ Allmendinger impresses in first IndyCar Series race with Team Penske

Justin Edmonds

LEEDS, Ala. -- AJ Allmendinger finished 19th in his first open-wheel race in seven years but the results are not entirely indicative of what he believes he is capable of when he makes his next start for Team Penske on Apr. 21 in the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Allmendinger started the race in 10th and quickly moved up to seventh prior to the first caution on lap one. He maintained that position for much of the first fuel run but faded in the second half to finish on the lead lap but well behind the leaders.

Allmendinger found himself on the wrong side of a fuel-mileage gamble after his car stalled during his first pit stop. The misfortune forced him to conserve fuel for the remainder of the afternoon and contributed to his subpar finish. Without that, Allmendinger believes he was capable of finishing in the top 10 and has set that same goal for Long Beach.

"Today was a good day for the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevy and there are a lot of positives to take out of it," Allmendinger said. "We had a good start and I thought I was pacing myself well. We could have had a top-10 day without the breaks that went against us."

"It was a good day with a bad stall and unfortunately after that point we were saving fuel so it made it tough to make up ground. But I know that I can compete with these guys and look forward to getting even better at Long Beach."

Penske Racing teammate Helio Castroneves wasn't particularly concerned about the results and was quite impressed by his performance while fighting with the leaders during the first half of the race.

"I thought he did a great job, especially at the start," Castroneves said. "He was pushing very hard. He did a great job throughout the whole weekend. We were just talking about how competitive this Series is -- to come here after seven years, to have only two tests before the first race and be right up here with (the leaders) shows just how talented he is.

"I'm happy to have him around us at Team Penske and I'm looking forward to working with him at Long Beach and after."

Allmendinger is currently expected to compete in just two more races for Team Penske, at Long Beach and the Indianapolis 500 on May 26. But more races could be added after team owner Roger Penske expressed an interest in extending his schedule over the weekend.

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