Solidly in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with his victory at Watkin’s Glen, A.J. Allmendinger has shifted his focus to trying to improve each week to increase his chances of finishing better in the season ending championship standings. There are hopes of improvement based on last weekend’s race at Michigan, as Allmendinger posted 22nd finish in June, but was able to run in the top-10 most of the day before finishing 13th.
“It’s just kind of the same idea of going out there, trying to get better each week whether it’s here at Bristol or next week at a 1.5-mile which is important in the Chase,” Allmendinger commented. “Just as a team right now each week trying to step up our game so when we get to Chicago we feel like we are at least competitive and have a shot to go into the Chase and make some noise. That is just our focus. We don’t really change anything different each week now. It’s the same plan nothing has changed since Watkins Glen.”
Allmendinger added that the only thing that changes is the extra money from winning and being in the Chase allow the single-car operation of JTG-Daughtry to test and perhaps expand their resources. Allmendinger feels that move will allow them to get better on the intermediate tracks, as that makes up five of 10 races in the Chase, and that’s where they’ve struggled the most. Beyond that, Allmendigner feels confident about the short tracks, and feels that the ECR horsepower will lead to a strong car at Talladega – if they can survive the chaos.
Part of improving will deal with starting by qualifying stronger, as Allmendinger average starting spot for this season is 18.8.
:Qualifying right now it kind of where we struggle we can have good speed in the first group, but we can’t back it up the second group to make it into the final qualifying session. Starting grid no matter what race you are at is critical. Just little things like that to keep getting better,” he said. “As I said resources we can take a few things like with our RCR alliance that they have done to get better that maybe we are a little bit behind on. Not because they haven’t allowed us to have it we are just, when it comes to cost and resources we can’t get it. So, little things that we might be able to get now for our Chicago car or Loudon car that we hadn’t been able to get before so just little things like that; it’s still going to be a lot of work and I don’t expect with the added resources that we have all of a sudden we are going to go okay now we are a race winning car right away. It’s stuff that is definitely going to help us learn and to go to Chicago hopefully and just say alright instead of where we have been running kind of 18th – 25th if we can show up and go okay we are a 8th – 16th place car we have improved a lot and we can race from there.”
As they move forward, there is no set finishing spot that the Dinger is aiming for, but rather to keep the climb of improvement going from being a 20 to 30th place driver, to being a top 20 driver and so forth.
“You want to get the best finish possible if there is an opportunity to win you are going to try to win it. But in general just feeling like when we leave the race track at the end of the weekend saying you know what we were competitive and we learned some stuff,” he said. “That to me is what is important going into the Chase. We know when it comes Chase time when you put the championship contenders and label each team we are probably at the bottom of the list, but I feel like if we do the right things, as I said, we are going to have a few more resources than we have had the last couple of months. We might be able to use our last test at a 1.5-mile race track, so things like that are all positive.”
Keeping things positive is something taht has been a trend for Allmendinger this season – but it hasn’t always been that way. Allmendinger had to work his way back into the sport after failing a NASCAR drug test. Completing the road to recovery program and running some Nationwide and IndyCar races, Allmendinger caught the eyes of Tad and Jodi Geschickter, who hired him to drive their car. It’s something that Allmendinger is very thankful as he really enjoys working with the Geschickters, as well as Brad Daughertry.
“Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) they have made me feel so much like family, like one of their own. Brad Daugherty to have him on my side to where he is a former athlete so the times of questioning whether it’s my ability or just the things that go around just having a constant passion when it comes to racing. The same with him for basketball and for racing the things that I can talk to him about have really helped me out,” he commented. “I just really enjoy the team and enjoy the surroundings that I have right now. That was stuff in the past that I probably struggled with a lot. Now just looking forward and enjoying the moment. I’ve tried to enjoy the whole process of how we got here. As I said a million times I’m way better for it over the last couple of years. Just now looking towards the future and knowing that this race team it’s my race team.
“I feel like I’m one of the leaders of the team and I can walk in the shop. We have the winning banner and it makes me feel special that we did that together. A lot of the guys in the shop it was either their first Sprint Cup win or they have had wins in the past and they said that this one meant the most to them because of how hard we have all worked as a group and as a family. That to me is what I enjoy the most. Just trying to constantly get better every day and figure out what I need to do outside and inside the car whether it’s just life or it’s racing to keep getting better.”