FanHouse's campaign to preserve A.J. Allmendinger as a driver for Red Bull Racing has failed, thanks to an announcement from team head Jay Frye Tuesday morning.
From the team's web site:
Red Bull Racing Team and driver AJ Allmendinger have agreed to part ways for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Allmendinger is in his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season driving the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota, which currently sits 34th in owners' points.
"AJ is a talented driver and we really enjoyed working with him," said RBRT Vice President and General Manager Jay Frye. "He's come a long way in just two years and we wish him nothing but the best."
That last line -- "we wish him nothing but the best" -- just seems to have a certain Jay Frye-is-totally-BS'ing-us ring to it, doesn't it?
I say that because it has seemed for a while that Frye was a fan of Allmendinger, but the major team decisions are made over his head by the team owners in Austria.
The part of the statement that does seem true is the "He's come a long way" because indeed Allmendinger has made enormous gains from his first season inside of a stock car just one year ago. He's still bouncing around the Top-35 cut off but already at this point in the season has made three more races than he did a year ago -- despite a 5-race benching -- and in the past 10 races has had 6 Top-20 finishes, or two more than he had in all of 2007.
The announcement also seems to indicate that Allmendinger's duties with Red Bull are relinquished immediately because Craftsman Truck Series driver Mike Skinner -- who tried to help out the No. 84 car when A.J. was benched -- will be driving the car this week during the Sprint Cup Series test at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Over at Jayski, the biggest rumor surrounding Allmendinger's Sprint Cup future is with Chip Ganassi Racing's empty No. 41 car for 2009. With Ganassi's recent performance coupled with some sponsorship issues, the move for Allmendinger to Ganassi leaves me with a bad taste, but it could turn out to be a better situation with an owner who realizes the kid can drive a race car.
As for the No. 84, this has to open the door for former F1 driver Scott Speed to make his Sprint Cup debut in the next few weeks. Fortunately, Red Bull is at least replacing the talented Allmendinger with a guy that can bring a lot to NASCAR with his personality and, hopefully, stock car racing talent.
In the mean time, I'm just going to grimace at the thought of what-could-have-been (victory lane seemed like a great possibility) for Red Bull and a seasoned Allmendinger in 2009.