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AJ Allmendinger Trying To Reverse Poor Performance At Las Vegas

AJ Allmendinger hasn't had much luck at Las Vegas – at least at the racetrack. While we have no idea how Allmendinger does in the casinos, the stats show 'Dinger has plenty of room for improvement at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After failing to qualify for the Vegas race in each of his first two seasons, he finished 33rd in 2009 and 25th last year. Suffice it to say, Allmendinger is hoping for a better showing in 2011.

"This has been an Achilles heel track for me," Allmendinger said Friday. "We have always struggled here. ... This is one of the tracks that I circled on the calendar at the beginning of the year that we had to run well at."

But Allmendinger has had success as other 1.5-mile tracks on the circuit, and Vegas doesn't seem to be particularly difficult compared to some other venues. So what's the deal?

It's a combination of circumstances and an overall lack of experience at a place where the Sprint Cup Series only comes once per year.

In 2009, Allmendinger said, his Richard Petty Motorsports team was just "trying to survive and run every lap without damaging the race car."

"We didn't have any more money to race and couldn't afford wrecking the race car," he said. "We came here and had two bad races and we didn't really have our program set at that point. We hadn't figured out our cars and we had just switched to Ford and we were trying to learn things."

So in the past, there's always been something wrong or something to hold Allmendinger back. Not this year, though.

Now fourth in Sprint Cup points, Allmendinger needs a good weekend at Vegas to prove he's a Chase-caliber driver this year.

"I am a lot more confident this time in the race car and know what I want," he said. "Even though I haven't felt that here, I know as a whole what I really want on a mile-and-a-half track.

"I really believe we will be better than we have ever been here."

He added, after a half-second pause, "Which obviously isn't that tough to do."