Allmendinger Motivated to Build Team

AJ Allmendinger

“I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to take us to levels that we’ve never been at." (Photo: Getty Images)

AJ Allmendinger’s NASCAR journey reads as if it written by Homer from the early travails at Red Bull Racing to his rise at Team Penske before a suspension and subsequent rebirth.

A man tested so often isn’t afraid of challenges. He faces another in his first full season at JTG Daugherty.

“More than anything I want to carry this team on my back, I want to make it into a great team,’’ Allmendinger said this week during a break in testing at Sonoma Raceway.

Allmendinger’s quest is steep. Furniture Row Racing became the first single-car team to make the Chase last year. JTG Daugherty, a single-car team, has never won a race and never had a driver finish better than 18th in the points.

Allmendinger and the team are making progress.

Halfway through Sprint Cup’s regular season, Allmendinger has as many top-10 finishes (three) as the organization scored the previous two seasons combined. He also is 20th in points.

“The ultimate goal is to go win and make the Chase,’’ Allmendinger said. “My owner keeps letting me know this - because I’m not very patient - but this is a long-term deal.’’

The commitment shown on both sides is evident. Allmendinger said he has a four-year contract with the team, which is owned by Tad and Jodi Geschickter and Brad Daugherty.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen in this world of NASCAR, but I could easily see this being my last team I drive for in NASCAR,’’ said the 32-year-old Allmendinger, who is in his eighth season in Cup.

Allmendinger admits he feels more pressure driving for JTG Daugherty than elsewhere.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to take us to levels that we’ve never been at,’’ he said.

Allmendinger said the team has benefitted from its technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing. In three of the first 13 points races, Allmendinger was the top finisher among the RCR cars and those also a part of the alliance. He also was the top-finishing Chevrolet at Talladega, placing fifth there last month.

Allmendinger also concedes the challenges with a small team. He notes most of the cars he’s run this season are not new but have been updated from last season. He said he’ll have a new car for Michigan next week and likely Indianapolis next month.

He notes how they ran their Coca-Cola 600 car in the Sprint Showdown, using it to advance to the Sprint All-Star Race. The plan backfired when he crashed after contact with Brian Vickers’ car.

“It put us way behind going into the 600 and we struggled throughout the course of the weekend,’’ said Allmendinger, who finished 23rd in the Coca-Cola 600.

Even testing is a challenge for this team. The team had to test Tuesday and Thursday at Sonoma because the track was reserved Wednesday. Thus, Allmendinger and his team had to fly from there to Pocono to be ready when the garage opened Friday morning.

Allmendinger and his team tested Sonoma because they know that track is one of their better chances for a win. Allmendinger, whose background is in road racing, finished 10th with the team last year at Watkins Glen. He did not run at Sonoma last year, thus the test allowed Allemdinger to reacquaint with the track.

“You’ve still got to be at your best when it comes to your car setup and your driving,’’ Allmendinger said. “Road course racing, I’ve always thought you could just wring a little bit more out of the car just by doing some stuff whether it’s braking or how you use the curbs around or lines you choose from. That’s why I enjoy it, why I feel I can come (to Sonoma) and have a shot to do well.’’

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