In a sense, AJ Allmendinger kind of gets to sleep in for Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race.
No, it’s not because the race begins at 9 pm ET.
Rather, it’s because Allmendinger doesn’t have to race his way into the main event via either winning one of the two Sprint Showdown races the night before, or to be the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to beg for votes this year,” Allmendinger said. “Fans are always great and The Sprint Fan Vote for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is cool because it allows fans to have a say in who they want to take that spot in the race.
“I’ve had to race my way in and this year I’m definitely not going to miss being in the Sprint Showdown and the pressure to advance. I’m going to love watching the Sprint Showdown for once in my life.”
Allmendinger has a guaranteed spot in the All-Star Race for the first time in his Sprint Cup career by virtue of winning last August’s race at Watkins Glen International.
Not only did that win put Allmendinger in last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, it also gave him that long coveted automatic berth in the All-Star Race.
He’s hoping to reach Victory Lane Saturday. And if not then, the following Sunday, May 24, in the Coca-Cola 600, also at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Hopefully, it’s Charlotte Motor Speedway and I’ll take the All-Star race too because that’s a million dollars,” Allmendinger said when asked when he hopes his first win of 2015 comes. “Every weekend, I try to show up with that attitude that, ‘Hey, this can be the weekend that we go out there and win the race. Somebody is going to win this race and it might as well be us.’
“Hopefully, it is soon at any racetrack. Beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll take any one of them.”
Allmendinger comes into this weekend’s two non-points paying events riding somewhat of an up-and-down start to this season.
He started out the season with a 20th-place finish at Daytona, followed by a pair of top-10 finishes (7th Atlanta, 6th Las Vegas). In the first 11 races – his only top 10s to date in 2015.
From there, Allmendinger went on a up-and-down ride, including finishes of 34th or lower in three of his next five events. He’s finally stabilized in terms of consistency in the last three races, finishing 13th at Richmond, 17th at Talladega and 14th at Kansas.
He’s also rallied back from a season low of 25th in the Sprint Cup standings to 19th after Kansas.
“Just like any NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, you have your ups and downs,” Allmendinger said. “I feel like this year the guys have worked hard to keep making our cars better.
“At the end of last year, I thought we made some good progress and we made The Chase. At the end, we looked at the season and we were about a 20th or 22nd-place team. It is kind of where we would have ended up in points, but making The Chase we finished 13th.
“At the end of this year, we want to be consistently inside the top-20 and top-15. I feel like for the most part we have done that.
“We have what we need in place. We just have to keep making progress and making the team as good as it can be. I know that we can do great things.”