CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At 40 years old, AJ Allmendinger knows that his time as a yearly contender for championships won’t last forever.
Once again as the regular-season champion of the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the Kaulig Racing driver is currently in the best position to hoist his first NASCAR championship at the season finale in Phoenix on Nov. 5.
Even with his regular-season title, Allmendinger’s wins this season have only come on road courses at Circuit of The Americas, Portland International Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is why entering the 2022 postseason, he says he’s upping the ante.
“It comes down to Matt [Kaulig] and Chris [Rice],” Allmendinger said in regard to his longevity with the team. “They know how intense I am and I’m probably more intense than I’ve ever been because I know we have more opportunities to win but what they allow me to be is me and then away from the racetrack, we go have fun.”
Regarding the results this season, the driver of the No. 16 Chevrolet has never been more consistent with a career-high 23 top 10s through 26 races and owning a current average finish of 6.4. But like the mindset of every racer, the goal is to be in Victory Lane after the checkered flag flies and Allmendinger says he knows he’s capable of grabbing more wins this year.
Whether it be the frustrations that come at Bristol Motor Speedway or the constant nerves racing in a pack at Talladega or Daytona, Allmendinger admitted to being fiery with his team over the radio but said that he’s found a balance when it comes to his intensity on the track.
“You still hear me on the radio. I‘m frustrated and I‘m not going to change,” Allmendinger said. “That‘s what makes me me but you also have to learn what‘s too negative that just hurts you and what keeps pushing you every day, and I think I‘ve found that limit now where it‘s like I‘m not going to allow myself to go down a bad direction and keep burying myself.
“At the end of the day, you still want to win, and you‘re still frustrated if you don‘t win. It‘s just like life. You get older, you get more mature and figure out what works and what doesn‘t. You make sure that‘s how you allow yourself to be.”
With Allmendinger’s age and maturity, many would expect him to take on the role of “enforcer” when it comes to the aggressiveness of the young drivers in the Xfinity Series.
Tony Stewart and Matt Crafton are probably the first names that come to mind when one thinks of those that will give the aggressiveness back to young drivers that make mistakes but Allmendinger says that’s just not what he wants to be.
“I don‘t try to put my wisdom into it,” Allmendinger said. “I think it‘s trying to understand each other. Ty [Gibbs] and I have had a couple incidents and we talk about it after and we get into each other‘s side. It‘s racing. You‘re not ever going to agree. I‘ve always been open with people to come talk about whatever they want to talk about but it‘s not right of me to go enforce what I believe on them or what I thought happened.”
Despite being the regular-season champion and earning an extra 15 playoff points, Allmendinger still enters the postseason fourth in the standings and just 27 points above the Round of 8 cutoff line.
The Xfinity Series Playoffs begin Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).