Progress for A.J. Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty in top-10 run at Atlanta

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A.J. Allmendinger made last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win on the road course at Watkins Glen International. But on 1.5-mile ovals, he and his single-car JTG Daugherty Racing team could muster only a top finish of 11th at Kansas Speedway the week after he was eliminated in the Chase’s first round.

It only took one race on a 1.5-mile track this season to better that. Allmendinger posted a seventh Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Seventh is probably just a tick better than we deserved,” he said. “I thought we were a 10th- to 13th-place car. I just fought a little bit too loose all day, but we were on the lead lap, and my guys did a great job.

Allmendinger cited the two major crashes on restarts as a factor (“there was a lot of carnage out there and we probably got a little bit lucky from that,” he said) but feels his team’s 1.5-mile program has made solid progress.

“Compared to where we were last year on mile-and-a-half tracks … we’re gaining on it,” he said. “I think I have to get better at driving this [new rules] package for sure. I struggled all weekend trying to get better and better. Learning how to drive it.”

Next up for the series is Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which is another 1.5-mile oval similar to Atlanta but not as abrasive. Allmendinger was among those who participated in a Goodyear tire test in January at Las Vegas.