A.J. Allmendinger is one of the most promising, young drivers in the Champ Car World Series. At least, he was until he was unexpectedly replaced at RuSport this week. Carl Russo has hired 2002 champion Christiano da Matta from the beleaguered Dale Coyne racing team to replace Allmendinger, effective immediately.
A.J. had yet to win a race with RuSport, so his departure is not unprecedented. However, his talent is obvious and the fact that he is now without a ride is certainly no help to Champ Car. Those paying close attention will also note that Allmendinger was the only American driver in the series. More importantly, he has a distinct character and is readily likeable.
Dale Coyne Racing now has an open seat which may be offered to A.J., but the reality is that DCR is not consistently competitive and A.J. may decline to drive for a backmarker team. His presence in Champ Car is a positive one, so we can only hope that he finds himself back behind the wheel shortly.
Effective immediately, Mario Dominguez has been released from Forsythe Racing, leaving the #7 INDECK car without a driver. The announcement came this morning, citing "changes in the engineering structure of the team." Dominguez has crashed in to teammate Paul Tracy twice this season, taking them both out of both races. This includes a first-corner-of-the-first-race incident at Long Beach, and Forsythe's "engineering structure" may simply be changing to a model where one team car does not take out the other. Forsythe Racing, and particularly Paul Tracy, were expected to be the primary challengers of Sebastien Bourdais and Newman/Haas Racing, but have struggled so far this season. An interesting note is that A.J. Allmendinger came up through the karting ranks on Paul Tracy's karting team, and the two are longtime friends...
Earlier today, Forsythe Racing announced the addition of A.J. Allmendinger to the team. The move reunites Allmendinger and Tracy, gives Forsythe arguably the two most aggressive drivers in the Champ Car World Series, and should dramatically increase Forsythe's ability to challenge Sebastien Bourdais and the Newman/Haas team.
Assuming the near-inevitable placement of Mario Dominguez in the vacant seat at Dale Coyne Racing, the rearrangement of drivers and teams should make for a better show. Former champion Christiano da Matta is now back with a competitive team, and will be directly challenging the team he won his championship with. A.J. Allmendinger still has a competitive car to drive, and the mix of his personality with Tracy's will be nothing short of wildly entertaining. Mario Dominguez has suffered a downgrade in terms of equipment, but he joins a team that has in the past resuscitated the careers of both Oriol Servia and Christiano da Matta.