As he heads into his first career Indianapolis 500, AJ Allmendinger is being mentioned as one of the race favorites.

The Indy 500 rookie qualified fifth for Sunday's race, ahead of Penske Racing teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves. His car has been so dialed-in that Power even used Allmendinger's setup for his own qualifying run.

Allmendinger left open-wheel after his five-win 2006 season to join NASCAR. He bounced around with a handful of teams before landing last year at Penske Racing in the best job of his life. But a failed drug test got him suspended and Penske fired him. Yet it was Penske who has given him a second chance with this IndyCar opportunity.