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.’ ”
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.”