A.J. Allmendinger taking time to enjoy Xfinity success

Leave a comment

Over the last two weeks A.J. Allmendinger has experienced a few highlights in his lengthy NASCAR career.

On June 6, he earned his first oval track win in a Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and a week later claimed a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus in Sunday’s Xfinity race in Miami.

When the Kaulig Racing driver and NBC Sports analyst reflects on his racing career, the only part that compares to the last two weeks took place a year before his NASCAR career started. It occurred in 2006 during his final year in the Champ Car open-wheel series.

“Back in my Champ Car days, to have the run that we did where I won three in a row, that was a lot of fun,” Allmendinger said Wednesday in a Zoom press conference. “It was kind of the same situation. It was unique in the sense that that was with a new team (Forsythe Racing) when I did it in Champ Car, and I don’t want to say it was unexpected but when you go to a new team like that to have that much success so early was a little bit of a shock.”

Allmendinger observed that during his winning run in Champ Car, that “maybe I didn’t allow myself to enjoy it enough because I was always focused. ‘OK, that just happened. Great. Let’s celebrate. Let’s move on to the next weekend.’ ”

AJ Allmendinger celebrates after winning the Grand Prix of Toronto in 2006. (Photo by Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Following the end of his full-time Cup career in 2018, Allmendinger has made eight starts for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series. In that time he’s won twice while finishing in the top five four times.

“Now me just being at a different point in my life and really being so thankful for any opportunity that I get to drive a race car, but especially with Kaulig Racing because (owner) Matt Kaulig really has made that third car generally my car,” Allmendinger. “They basically said that when (the No. 16 car is) running, they want me driving it. Just all the men and women of Kaulig Racing, for them to give me these opportunities. … I just want to always show my appreciation and my thanks for the effort that everybody puts in. … And the best way to go do it is to go win races and then with the Dash for Cash from Xfinity to have that $100,000, which as you know, it’s a big deal.”

Now he’s trying “to enjoy it more because you never know when it can stop. And I never know when my last race is going to be. So I hope I have a lot more going. But definitely trying to enjoy it and really be at the race shop and at the race track and having fun with the race team.”

Allmendinger’s fun continues this weekend as the Xfinity Series travels to Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama (5:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1. It’s the third Dash 4 Cash race and will pit Allmendinger against Chase Briscoe, Brandon Jones and Chastain.

Like all his Xfinity starts this year, it’s his first at Talladega in the Xfinity Series and the green flag will drop without any practice having taken place.

“I’m always a little bit nervous of the unknowns of how a car is going to drive and just trying to get used to it and get a comfort level during the race in an Xfinity car at (new race tracks),” Allmendinger said.

Allmendinger’s start comes after he failed to make the season-opener at Daytona due to a mechanical failure during qualifying.

“Take out the race itself and being Talladega and knowing that anything can happen … we know that the Kaulig Racing Chevy’s are fast, ECR horsepower, Chevrolet, we know that the cars have a lot of speed,” Allmendinger said. “So what happened at Daytona was a mechanical failure on both mine and Ross (Chastain’s) car that we fixed and it won’t be an issue again. It was unfortunate that it happened at Daytona, but you know, I look at it when things like that happen, you know, positives come out of it. …

“I don’t know if that led to have an opportunity to go race in Atlanta and so on. So our superspeedway program has always been really fast, (with) last year at Daytona with Ross winning. Ross and Justin (Haley) at Talladega and Daytona won stages. So these cars are going to be fast and our engineers have been really good about the simulation and making sure all the ride heights and everything are correct.”

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

Leave a comment

With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

NASCAR
Getty Images
2 Comments

For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

Leave a comment

Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.