Daytona 500 2012 Preview: A.J. Allmendinger Looks For Daytona Success

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 17: A.J. Allmendinger, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, looks on in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Los Gatos native Jeff Gordon returns to the track in 2012 looking to get into victory lane at the Daytona 500. For more on the Great American Race, check out SB Nation NASCAR's Dayton 500 stream, as well as NASCAR Ranting & Raving.

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns this weekend as qualifying gets underway for the February 26 Daytona 500. The weekend's competitive racing gets started with Saturday evening's Budweiser Shootout, followed by Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday. A year after rookie Trevor Bayne became the youngest driver to win at Daytona, the big names are back looking to bounce back from struggles a year ago.

Los Gatos native, A.J. Allmendinger looks to build on a solid 11th place showing in 2011. His career best at the Daytona 500 was a third place showing in 2009. Allmendinger is entering his sixth season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and has shown steady improvement year after year. This past season he finished a career best 15th in the points chase and will look to continue his rise in the Series.

After practicing Friday and early Saturday on the track, Allmendinger will be one of 25 drivers taking part in this Saturday's Bud Shootout. He will start in the ninth position. The race is more or less a glorified preseason All Star contest, with a host of big names taking part this year. We'll be back with results from Saturday's Shootout and Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying as A.J. Allmendinger looks to get in position to claim his first Daytona 500.

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