WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — As he looks ahead to what many view as his last chance to make the playoffs this season, AJ Allmendinger can’t help but look behind.
Heading into this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen International, Allmendinger remains frustrated that he missed a shift and blew the engine at Sonoma in June, costing him a chance at a strong finish.
“I’m not over it, yet,” Allmendinger said Friday.
“I’m a perfectionist,” he said. “The road course races I really, truly try to be a perfectionist. It’s not going to bother me here. It’s still in the back of my mind. It still annoys me because I was disappointed for the race team that I let them down and we didn’t get a good finish.
“I don’t think we were going to win that race. I don’t think that cost us a playoff spot there. I thought we were at least going to have a top-three, top-four finish and it annoys me.”
Allmendinger knows how the focus turns to him and his JTG Daugherty Racing team at road courses because of his open-wheel background and that he won at this track in 2014. Allmendinger enters this weekend 23rd in points. His only way to make the playoffs will be to win and Watkins Glen provides the best chance for that.
“In the end, I can just do my best,” Allmendinger said. “I’ve come here and put a lot of pressure on myself. We all know what the ultimate goal is when we show up here.
“I think over the past couple of years it has gotten a little bit more difficult. I think the field is spread out more. We’ve seen it this year, the three fastest guys (Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.) are usually the three fastest guys every weekend. It doesn’t matter what track we go to, unfortunately, they’re good everywhere.
“I think there’s more of a difference I can make here as a driver, but I don’t see why it’s not going to be those three again that are going to be the fastest cars and as a whole, as a series, we’ve got to catch up to them.”
Allmendinger says he can’t get caught up in expectations others have for him this weekend.
“I just come here and do my best and try to get everything out of it,” Allmendinger said. “I think sometimes people look at it as if we don’t win it’s a full disappointment of the weekend. If we come here and we run top five all weekend and you get a top-five finish, that’s still tough to do and that’s still a good day. If there’s a chance to win, we’ll take the chance. If not, we’ll just get the best that we can.”
Also, Allmendinger will compete in Saturday’s Xfinity race for GMS Racing. He last raced in the series in 2013, winning both starts that season — at Road America and Mid-Ohio.
Allmendinger said he previously hadn’t looked for Xfinity rides at road courses because the best rides were taken. Allmendinger said GMS Racing approached him to drive this weekend.
“Any time a race team wants you to drive a race car, especially for me, it means a lot,” Allmendinger said.