Allmendinger Back in Winning Car

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"The guys have done a fantastic job...to really focus on this racecar and get it better." (Photo: Getty Images)

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AJ Allmendinger is looking for his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup road course victory and will attempt the feat driving the same car he piloted to Victory Lane last season at Watkins Glen International.

The 2014 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway marked Allmendinger's second road course start with JTG/Daugherty Racing. The team tested at both road courses last season and Allmendinger combined to lead 64 laps in both races, and eventually scored his first career Cup Series win at The Glen.

Last year's performance, to go along with a ban on private testing this season, could help the JTG Daugherty Racing team start another run of momentum like they did to begin the year.

The off-week for the Sprint Cup gave the one-car operation extra time to massage the in-house road course built car.

"The guys have done a fantastic job...to really focus on this racecar and get it better," Allmendinger said. "We have definitely improved the car."

Allmendinger led a race-high 35 laps last year at Sonoma from the second starting position, but finished 37th after a late-race spin while racing Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"We all know it’s going to be one of our best opportunities to win," Allmendinger said. "Last year, it was heartbreaking, but in the end I don’t think we had a car good enough to win the race with the way the race played out. So, we’ve got some good ideas this time around that will help us.

“The set-up we’re at least we’re going to start with, is pretty close. I don’t know how different the package is, motor-wise and aero-wise, it will be around here, but we’re starting with a similar package we had last year when we had a lot of speed. So, I think it’s just more confidence from our team and myself, knowing that if we do the right things, especially at a place like this, we can go win the race. But it’s Friday and we’ve got to see where we stack-up after these practices and have a good qualifying session on Saturday, and then we’ll focus on Sunday when it gets here.”

The 2015 season started on a high note for Allmendinger after making the Chase for the first time. He was ranked as high as fifth in the standings four races in, but since then has fallen to 22nd in the standings heading into this weekend following different circumstances in recent weeks.

"What makes a race team is not all the positives. It’s the negatives and how you deal with them," Allmendinger said. "I think over the last couple of weeks that, to me, is what’s the most positive. We’ve had to sit down and really look at each other and say okay, we can fall apart or we can come together and be stronger. Our communication is probably the best it’s ever been. That’s the positive I really take from it.”

Allmendinger is not going to let the pressure get to him this weekend. Not only is Allmendinger back in a winning racecar, but it's also a home race for him and for some of the JTG Daugherty Racing sponsors.

But at the end of the day, Allmendinger knows what the prize is.

"I know if you win, you make the Chase," Allmendinger said. "I try not to focus on putting the pressure on that this race is do or die, or Watkins Glen is do or die; and if we don’t, it doesn’t happen. We’ve just got to get better every weekend. I know that’s kind of cliché, but right now that’s really our goal. If we go out here and have a great run and build some momentum, that’s all we can do. Like I said, for me, I just try to drive my butt off. And if it’s good enough, it’s good enough. If it’s not, it’s not."

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