MARTINSVILLE, Va. — After finishing third in the Daytona 500, it has been a struggle for AJ Allmendinger and his JTG Daugherty team.
He has not finished better than 17th in the four races since. Allmendinger says the team is struggling to find the right setup with the new aero package.
“For a team like ours, every time NASCAR changes the aero package it’s tough because we don’t have any wind tunnel time really,’’ he said Friday at Martinsville Speedway. “At times, we are going out there and testing and that is kind of what the last three weeks have been is really trying to test and figure out what type of setup this aero package is.
“To me, at least for our race team, this package is way different than the last couple of years where they took off some downforce, but it seemed like generally the setup was still the same. This aero package seems so front heavy on downforce compared to rear, even though they have taken off both ends.’’
One thing Allmendinger has this weekend is crew chief Randall Burnett. NASCAR suspended Burnett for three races after discovering at least three lug nuts not secured on Allmendinger’s car after the race at Atlanta.
“Randall being out was a difficult challenge, but Ernie Cope did a fantastic job,’’ Allmendinger said of the director of competition for JTG Daugherty. “Obviously, Ernie has got the experience level to know how to do it. I felt like over those three races our practices went really well. The stuff that we learned was good throughout those three races.
“So, having Randall back is definitely going to help, but I didn’t feel like we were hindered a lot, like that was the reason that we struggled was the fact that just Randall wasn’t there. We are just struggling because we haven’t figured out the aero package yet.’’
Aero won’t matter as much this weekend. Allmendinger finished second in this race last year at Martinsville. He’s placed 11th or better in five of the last six Martinsville races.
“When I first started I had no clue how to get around and just over the years trying to learn the techniques,’’ Allmendinger said of how his record at Martinsville has improved. “It’s somewhat like a road course in the sense of the way you brake and some of the stuff you can do with the throttle and things like that. A driver can make a bit of a difference here, so more than anything just trying to learn the techniques. You still have to have a great race car. The last couple of years we’ve had a good setup and been able to use it to have some pretty good runs.’’