Red Bull Racing may pull Allmendinger

LAS VEGAS — Red Bull Racing is considering temporarily pulling A.J. Allmendinger from his Toyota as it reevaluates that struggling program.

Allmendinger failed to qualify for Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, making him 0-for-3 on the season. In contrast, teammate Brian Vickers has made all three races in the other Red Bull car.

“We can’t keep missing races. It’s just not an option,” said general manager Jay Frye, hired in January to turn around the second-year Red Bull program.

“We’re looking at several different ideas, all aimed at figuring out what’s wrong with that program, how we can fix it and how we can get that car into races. But it can’t continue the way it is. It just can’t.”

One of the options being considered is pulling Allmendinger from the seat and replacing him with a veteran who can help assess the program and get the car into races. Among the available drivers are Mike Skinner and Johnny Benson, who are currently both pitching in to fill an open seat at Bill Davis Racing, and Sterling Marlin and David Stremme.

“We love A.J. and we’re 100 percent committed to him and want to develop him,” Frye said. “This is not at all giving up on A.J. But we just can’t do nothing and risk having a season like that team had last year.”

Allmendinger is in just his second season of NASCAR after a successful open-wheel career. The 25-year-old left the Champ Car Series to drive for Red Bull, and the team gave him a Sprint Cup ride he perhaps wasn’t prepared for.

He qualified for 17 of 36 races last season, and his best finish was a 15th at Charlotte in October.

Red Bull is also working on securing seat time for Allmendinger in Nationwide Series and Truck Series races to help his adaptation to NASCAR. Options in the Nationwide Series are rides in a Joe Gibbs Racing or Chip Ganassi car, and there could be some seat time available in a truck owned by Billy Ballew.

“He needs seat time, there’s no question about that,” Frye said. “But it takes time to put it altogether and we’re working on it. We want A.J. in as many races as we can get him into, and we want him to gain as much experience as he can.”

HARD HIT: Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon was critical of Las Vegas Motor Speedway following his hard hit on the inside retaining wall late in Sunday’s race.

Gordon’s spinning Chevrolet went headfirst into the wall for the “hardest I’ve ever hit” after contact with Matt Kenseth. Gordon was upset the wall didn’t have the SAFER Barrier that is pretty much standard on the outside walls.

“That kind of hit shouldn’t happen,” Gordon said. “There is no reason why any track we go to should have that. I could have been really hurt bad.”

Gordon anticipated being “really sore” on Monday when he reports to Phoenix International Raceway for two days of open testing. The hit destroyed his car and tore the transmission out from under the hood.

“It took me awhile to be able to catch my breath and to get out,” he said. “I’m thankful that I’ve got an awesome team … because they build a safe race car. Several years ago, those types of hits, you wouldn’t be standing here right now.”

SETTLING FOR THIRD: Greg Biffle wasn’t ready to celebrate following his third-place finish Sunday.

“I’m unhappy that I didn’t win,” Biffle said.

After two up-and-down years, Biffle is showing some consistency at the start of this season with two top-10 finishes. But with a fast Ford Fusion, he believed driver error cost him a shot at the win.

“I kept screwing up and never got my track position where I needed it,” he said. “But this is a bunch of confidence. I’m so excited about it that I can’t wait ‘til next week and those next couple of weeks to get some more race tracks and give it another shot because I felt like we could have won today.”

NO FOUR-PEAT: Jimmie Johnson came to Las Vegas searching for his fourth consecutive win in the desert. He never came close.

Johnson’s No. 48 team seemed off all weekend, struggling to get through inspection when the track opened on Friday. He was off in qualifying and had to start 33rd, then never sniffed the front of the field on Sunday.

Johnson was two laps off the pace and finished 29th. The two-time defending Cup Series champion is currently 14th in the points.

“We don’t really know right now what was wrong with the car,” crew chief Chad Knaus said. “We just didn’t quite have the speed in it that we needed.”

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