After a successful part-time campaign during the past two NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons, AJ Allmendinger is set to run for a championship with Kaulig Racing in 2021.
Allmendinger returns to full-time competition in NASCAR for the first time since 2018 when he drove in the Cup Series. In 16 starts over the last two years with Kaulig, Allmendinger recorded 10 top-10 finishes, including three wins.
"I just couldn’t say no and truly because I think you know if we go keep improving and keep trending in the right direction like we have the past couple of years with Kaulig Racing, sure, I think we do have a shot to maybe go win a championship," Allmendinger said on MRN’s "NASCAR Live." But more importantly, just going to the race track and being a part of that Kaulig family. I’ve loved doing it and I just want to experience it really every weekend and that’s why I did it."
Kaulig will have three full-time teams in 2021 with Justin Haley, who swept both races at Talladega Superspeedway and won in August at Daytona International Speedway last season, returning along with Jeb Burton as the new addition.
"We got three really fast Chevy’s at Kaulig Racing and Justin Haley making it to the final four really helped push the team," Allmendinger said. "Bringing in Jeb Burton and we all know what Jeb can do in the limited time over the last couple of years and especially when he ran full-time in the Truck Series. He’s going to show up and have a ton of speed and want to go out there and prove everything. I think us three working together can help really keep pushing forward."
Two of Allmendinger’s wins with Kaulig came at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. He is a six-time winner in NASCAR at road courses to go along with his first win at a mile-and-a-half track in 2020 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This year will see seven road-course events on the slate.
"I’m going to love any road course that we could go to, but the schedule had nothing to do with wanting to do this full-time," Allmendinger said. "I do believe that when we show up and we’ve shown it on the road courses we can go up there and have a chance to win some races. We got to keep improving there.
"The short tracks, you know, I only got to run Bristol and Martinsville. We had a shot to run up front and contend there and Justin Haley and Ross (Chastain) at Richmond were really good. The mile-and-a-half program is what we focused on a lot as the year went on trying to improve and I felt like between Justin and Ross those cars got fast at the end of the year."
Before Allmendinger starts his first full-time season in the Xfinity Series, he will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Meyer Shank Racing. This year he will return to the Prototype class after running in the GTD category for the past three Rolex 24s.
"I’m looking forward to it," Allmendinger said. "It will be my 15th year with Mike Shank. We were talking about it at a test that we did in December. I just associate the Rolex 24 with Meyer Shank Racing, especially with Mike Shank. I can’t imagine doing the race with somebody else. It’s such a prestigious race."
Allmendinger, who won the Rolex 24 in 2012, turned laps in the test with the team’s new Acura ARX-05 with co-drivers Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla. Another test will be conducted with the annual Roar Before the 24 on January 22-24, one week before the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship opener.
Like last season, Allmendinger won’t have much time to rest during the twice around the clock race as he will also have broadcasting duties with NBC Sports.
"It’s a busy few days for sure," Allmendinger said. "And once I’m done, I’m absolutely spent, but man, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just a pleasure — on both sides of it — doing the TV side of it with NBC Sports and driving the racecar. So, I can’t wait."