JTG Daugherty's Gold Star Performance
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on April 2, 2014 | 1:45 P.M. EST
AJ Allmendinger has finished in the top 12 in back-to-back races, the first time JTG Daugherty has done that since 2010 with Marcos Ambrose. (Photo: Getty Images)
It was easy to miss last week with all the talk about Kurt Busch’s return to Victory Lane, his pit-road incident with Brad Keselowski and the words they exchanged through the media.
And it was easy to miss the week before at Auto Club Speedway with the focus on tires and Denny Hamlin missing the race because of vision issues.
So, it’s understandable if you haven’t noticed what is taking place at JTG Daugherty. And if you have, give yourself a gold star.
And give one to JTG Daugherty as well.
AJ Allmendinger’s eighth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway marked the team’s best result since 2011. Allmendinger followed that with an 11th-place finish last weekend at Martinsville Speedway - marking the first time since 2010 that JTG Daugherty scored consecutive top-12 finishes.
Now, it’s on to Texas Motor Speedway and confidence is brewing with this single-car team.
The result comes from a series of changes made after last season. JTG Daugherty left Toyota for Chevrolet and joined a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
JTG Daugherty’s engines last year did not come from Toyota Racing Development as Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing do, so the move to Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines provides more horsepower. The alliance, tying JTG with Richard Childress Racing, Furniture Row Racing and Germain Racing, also have proved invaluable.
“All of a sudden, I don’t feel like a small team anymore,’’ said car owner Tad Geschickter, whose team had not been aligned with another team the past two seasons.
Better cars, better engines and better information have helped JTG Daugherty raise its standards.
“Trying to win one race at the beginning of the season, thinking about making the Chase, it was a short track or a road course,’’ crew chief Brian Burns said. “Now we realize we could do it anywhere. I don’t think we realized how much the support was going to get us.’’
The team’s best chance still remains a road course with Allmendinger’s background, but his run at Auto Club Speedway was the best of any cars in the RCR alliance. Allmendinger’s finish at Martinsville was better than all the other cars in the group except Paul Menard, who finished 10th.
Burns said that he’s found what works on the cars Ryan Newman and Menard translates well to Allmendinger’s car.
That’s a good sign heading to Texas. In the previous race at a 1.5-mile speedway this season, Menard was third at Las Vegas with Newman seventh.
Allmendinger and Burns admit that the alliance has been pivotal this season with the new rules package that has caused teams to rely less on notes from past years. Without such help, it would be more difficult to score the results JTG has lately.
“I think we’d be really behind right now because there are so many different spring and shock combinations you can do,’’ Allmendinger said. “I don’t think anybody has really nailed it yet. The alliance has really helped us settle into that, to have more cars to bounce notes off of and (know) what direction they’re going.’’
Burns said all that information has helped make him a better crew chief.
“It makes my decision making so much easier,’’ Burns said. “Before you show up at the track, you feel you have your head around it a lot better. Last year, when we unloaded, you’d have your fingers crossed ... because you really didn’t know what you were going to have. All the extra testing those guys have done and the test reports, gives you a lot better confidence.’’