CONCORD, N.C. – Six hours after his replacement was announced in the Charlotte Motor Speedway media center, AJ Allmendinger sat at the same dais and discussed his departure from JTG Daugherty Racing.
After qualifying a season-best second for the Bank of America Roval 400 in the No. 47 Chevrolet, Allmendinger struck an upbeat attitude in his first expansive public comments since the team announced Tuesday that he was leaving after the season.
“It’s not bittersweet,” said Allmendinger, who will be supplanted by Ryan Preece in 2019. “I’ve been very fortunate in my life. They gave me an opportunity to get back into the sport full time.
“Yeah, of course you’d like it to end on a better note, and we didn’t have the success that we wanted to, but no matter what, there’s a banner that hangs in that shop that’s the only one that they have that says, ‘NASCAR Cup Series Winner,’ and that can be never taken away. So we’ve had a lot of great times. Made the playoffs. And people change, organizations change. It’s part of the sport. It’s a business.”
After losing a ride with Team Penske in 2012 because of a substance abuse violation, Allmendinger was hired the next year by JTG Daugherty Racing, and he earned a win at Watkins Glen International in 2014, his first full-time season with the team.
After signing a five-year extension that began in 2016, Allmendinger will be departing earlier than expected after missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. He has only three top 10s this season, and Sunday will mark his third top-10 starting position (all on road courses).
“Nobody likes losing their ride,” he said. “The more time I sit and think about it and talk with my family, the last year and a half, it hasn’t been fun. We’ve struggled. It’s hard on everybody. This year, I’ve probably been a different person at the racetrack and at home.”
The veteran of IndyCar and sports cars said he has prospects but has yet to decide where he’ll race next year.
“Change can be scary sometimes, but it’s not always a bad thing, and I think it can be a good thing on both ends, so it is what it is,” he said. “I’m just taking some time right now just to figure it all out, figure out what I want to do. It’s been a tough couple of years. So take my time and figure it out and if there’s a plan that God has for me to be in (NASCAR) next year, I’ll be here. If not, I’ll figure something else out.”
He politely laughed off the notion that NASCAR would lose something in his absence.
“You make it sound like I’m dying up here,” Allmendinger said with a laugh. “I just don’t have a job right now. That’s not my plan. I’m not leaving.’
A win in Sunday’s inaugural race at the Charlotte road course would help him make a stronger case for staying — and unlike playoff drivers with more at stake, Allmendinger promised he won’t be tiptoeing around the 17-turn, 2.28-mile course.
“I got no job, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m going out there trying to win. I got nothing to lose.
“I always want to be at my best for whatever team I’m driving. I’ll give anything I have. I wear emotions on my sleeve because I care. I just want people to know I care, and I appreciate the effort that’s put into it. It’s not an audition for the next team, it’s about going out there and being at my best to show I appreciate it.”