A.J. Allmendinger may not be experienced in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but he had enough talent to take a Penske Racing car to the top of the charts at Road America. Allmendinger won the pole for the Johnsonville Sausage 200 at Road America during the rain-filled weekend with a lap time of 133.410 seconds.
Allmendinger hasn’t been in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car since 2008. He’s been racing in different types of series all year long, but this is arguably his best opportunity to record a win. He has won at Road America in the CART Series in 2006 which shows he isn’t a stranger to this track.
Starting second will be Owen Kelly, who is driving the No. 54 Toyota Camry in place of Kyle Busch. Busch’s team driver Parker Kligerman will start third as he is using his prior road course experience combined with momentum from a car that led 13 laps late in the race at Michigan.
Elliott Sadler had a failed transmission after his first lap during qualifying which will send him to the rear of the field to start the race. Sadler also blew an engine during practice after missing a shift. Though he never recorded a full lap during practice, he was able to clock in the 22nd position, which should be a small positive for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
The team also has Michael McDowell in the No. 18 car this weekend, which should benefit his hopes at running more full races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. McDowell was able to qualify fifth in his Toyota, just barely behind Justin Allgaier, who will start fourth.
Nelson Piquet Jr. is the highest qualified rookie as he will start sixth. He won the race last year, leading 19 of the 50 laps, and is now more accustomed to the Nationwide Series cars since he’s running the full season, which should help him out even more.
The championship battle continues to shape up as last week’s winner, Regan Smith, struggled to qualify at 16th while Sam Hornish Jr. will start eighth and should be a threat for the win. Brian Scott, Travis Pastrana, Michael Annett, Sadler, Mike Bliss and several other Nationwide Series regulars qualified outside of the top-15, which shows the intensity of the “road course ringers” this weekend.
Though it will be raining before the race begins, no rain is expected which means the teams won’t have to worry about rain tires just like they have in the past at road courses.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.