AJ Allmendinger knows what it feels like to abruptly go from good fortune to misfortune.
The driver of the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet was ranked as high as fifth in the Sprint Cup standings after the third (Las Vegas) and fourth (Phoenix) races of the 2015 season.
But after the following two races at Fontana and Martinsville, Allmendinger has plummeted to 19th in the standings, a drop he hopes to put the brakes on in Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
At Fontana, Allmendinger finished 34th. The following week at Martinsville, he finished a season-low 43rd. Both poor showings were due to problems with ECR engines that JTG-D receives as part of its technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
“It’s been tough because really up until the last three weeks, I have never had an engine problem over really the first 40 races since doing the alliance last year,” Allmendinger said in a JTG-D media release.
“The guys at ECR have just been spot on with great horsepower, great reliance and just everything that you need in a motor. The last three weeks have been tough. So, they have worked hard on it. We went over the problems. … They have diagnosed all of it and are working hard and we think they have a solution heading into this weekend.”
Allmendinger enters Texas with an average start of 20.5 and an average finish of 21.2 this season. The team had the off-week to regroup after the poor showing at Martinsville (which was caused by an oil leak).
“I try to take the positives out of it,” Allmendinger said. “We had a fast race car at Martinsville. We were battling inside the top five when it happened.
“The cars are fast. I know the guys at ECR are working hard. They have had great horsepower. Hopefully, they have got the problem fixed. They felt so bad and I got so many phone calls from so many different people inside the ECR program and RCR in general to apologize to us. It’s not good for anybody. We will just look forward and go on to Texas.”
Allmendinger’s crew chief, Brian Burns, also is confident that the engine issues have been resolved.
“Even though we have had misfortune with engine issues the last few weeks, the positive is that we have had a good car every race weekend,” Burns said. “I feel like now we can run in the top-10 any track we go to. We are definitely more rounded this season.”
Said team co-owner Tad Geschickter: “We’ve shown a lot of speed over the last several weeks and I feel like we are capable of finishing in the top-10 consistently now. We’ve really come on strong early in the season.
“Our biggest weakness last season was mile-and-a-half tracks and that has really changed this year, which makes me excited going into Texas Motor Speedway. I’m proud of all the effort these guys have put into this program. This is just the beginning of our journey and we will continue to push ourselves to excel.”
Another reason why Allmendinger is optimistic about Texas is it will be the third 1.5-mile track for the Sprint Cup Series through seven races.
Allmendinger finished seventh at Atlanta and sixth the following week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. At Texas, he has a best finish of 10th twice in 12 starts.
“After the first two mile-and-a-half tracks this season, I’m pumped up going (to Texas),” Allmendinger said. “With what we have already learned, it makes me more excited than I have probably been to go to Texas Motor Speedway knowing the speed that we’ve shown.”