Johnny Sauter spins out after contact with AJ Allmendinger , bringing out a caution at Daytona.
JTG owner Daugherty finds humor in Allmendinger's road course pressure
AJ Allmendinger talks about his second year with JTG Daugherty Racing, his first memories at Daytona International Speedway, and his hair gel.
Fresh off season with first Sprint Cup win, 'Dinger looking for more MORE: Full schedule of season previews Team: JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet Rank in final 2014 standings: 13th Wins: 1 ( Watkins Glen International ) Year in photos: AJ Allmendinger 2014 highlights Strides: Allmendinger is coming off a career season, collecting his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in a hard-fought final lap duel with Marcos Ambrose on the Watkins Glen, New York road course. The victory was also the first for his single-car JTG Daughtery team, landing the organization in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time. A new technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing and Chevy engines from Earnhardt Childress (ECR) seemed to have paid off for the team. Allmendinger's two top-five finishes equals a career best and his five top-10 efforts were the most for him since 2011. Setbacks: While the team will look back fondly on 2014 as a year of progress, Allmendinger realizes that expectations rise with success. Consistency proved to be a real problem as he missed advancing to the Contender Round of the new elimination-style Chase format, alternating sub-20th place finishes with a respectful 13th-place run at Loudon in the opening three-race round. He had consecutive runs of sixth place (Richmond) and fifth place (Talladega) in the spring but didn't manage another top-10 finish until his victory at Watkins Glen, which came 12 races later. Quoteworthy: "I feel like the person I am, I love that underdog role, I love that small team feeling that we have to work harder than everyone just to compete with them," Allmendinger said. What's next: Allmendinger has always maintained the attitude that his small team has to take baby steps as it raises its game to compete with the perennial Chase contenders, mega-teams such as Hendrick Motorsports , Stewart-Haas Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing . However, scoring the win at Watkins Glen and a berth in the Chase was a huge confidence boost. Consistency and more top-15 finishes are realistic goals for the team this year and with Allmendinger's proven record on road courses, a second Chase berth is a reasonable expectation as well. "We have a long ways to go but we know if we go out there and we hit our best, on any given day we can win a race," Allmendinger said. "With the new [Chase] format especially, Ryan Newman showed you don't have to be great, just good enough to make it to the next (round) and heck, he was two laps away from winning the championship this year." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver talks past, future in interview RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated AJ Allmendinger has seen his share of adversity during nearly a decade in NASCAR. Two years ago, he hit the lowest point in his career after a failed drug test led him out of Team Penske and into NASCAR's Road to Recovery program. Chastened, the 32-year-old driver kick-started the second chapter of his career by winning two Nationwide races last year for Roger Penske. Allmendinger is now back in the Cup Series trying to push JTG Daugherty's program and his career to the next level. We caught up with Allmendinger a day after the No. 47 was swept up in an early wreck at Daytona. Just two weeks earlier, he'd led a race-high 34 laps at Sonoma before contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr . derailed his shot at for a first Cup victory and the Chase berth that would've come with it. NI: You're known as a strong road racer but what are your thoughts on plate racing? Allmendinger : Out of all the racing we do, it's my least favorite. There's just so much that goes into it. A lot of it's luck, being in the right place at the right time and missing the "big one." The racing can be exciting at times for sure. As a driver, you definitely have to be at full concentration the whole time you're out there when you're in the pack just because one 2-inch mistake can be a big, big crash. Especially if you're the one making that mistake, you feel bad because you wrecked yourself and you've got a lot of competitors that you feel bad about because they're probably pissed off at you. NI: You had a car that could have won at Sonoma before you were taken out. Does it take long to get over that? Allmendinger : I don't know if you ever fully get over it. To a certain degree, in this sport, you gotta be ready to go the next weekend. You can't let a bad weekend carry over into the next weekend. It's tough because I thought we had a shot to win. We were up front, top two cars every practice session and qualifying, led the most laps, played the strategy to what ours was and we just got into an incident. It is what it is. You can't fix it. NI: If you can get that first win, you're all but in the Chase. No added pressure there? Allmendinger : Honestly, I look at it two different ways. The Chase would be great for the fact that our sponsors and this race team being such a small team, to be able to promote that we won a race and are in the Chase, that would be fantastic. But when it comes to, "Do we have to make the Chase for it to be a successful season?" No. We're not a championship-winning team right now. There's no doubt about it. We're a small team, we're trying to grow to that at some point and it's going to be a long process to get there and a lot of hard work. I think with the right effort we can actually get there. NI: It might sound like a strange question but are you almost glad things played out the way they did back in 2012? Allmendinger : Except for the mere fact of having to put Roger Penske through that. Other than that, I'm way happier now than I have ever been when it comes to a lot of things. I still put a lot of pressure on myself racing, so I still have those ups and downs, but it's a different kind of pressure now. The ownership just makes this team such a family. I want to take this team to a new level. That's the pressure I put on myself, to put this team on my back and take it to another level. I feel like they deserve it down from ownership and the team because they work so hard. NI: How has your perspective changed in the past couple of years? Allmendinger : It's a different perspective now. It's not the only thing in the world, you know? There are other things that are important and in the grand scheme probably a lot more important than racing. But obviously when you make your life and you put your heart and soul into it, it feels like the most important thing. I wouldn't change anything that I've had to go through for anything except for disappointing Roger Penske. Hopefully, last year, winning the Nationwide races and having a shot to win Indy made up for it. NI: It's our tailgate issue, so I have to ask about your abilities on the grill. Can we call you a grilling master? Allmendinger : No (laughs). We can lie to everybody and tell them I can grill anything up. Only problem is hopefully I won't get called out on it. I really enjoy grilling because it is so healthy to be able to do that and I'm real health conscious when it comes to what I eat. The sponsors we have on our team are great when it comes to all that. So it makes it a lot easier because we’re stocked with a lot of great things to eat. I live in an apartment right now so it's hard to grill in the corner without a balcony. My girlfriend is really good at grilling so she's shown me some stuff. Hopefully, in the near future, I can have a house and practice up but right now it'd be a stretch to say grilling master. I'd like to be. Let's put it that way. NI: It's hard to believe you've been in NASCAR for almost a decade now. What's been your personal highlight so far? Allmendinger : The Nationwide wins were something I'll never forget, especially with what led to those. I remember making my first race at Bristol -- it took me four tries to finally make a race -- back in 2007 when there were 50 or 60 cars trying to qualify each weekend. Making our first Daytona 500 in 2009 and almost winning the thing. ( Allmendinger finished third in the No. 44 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge.) But I think the highlight is still being here really. This sport is tough. It will bring some guys in, especially with the open-wheel side of it, and spit them back out pretty quick. So to have the commitment level and just the do-or-die work ethic trying to stay in when things were bad and things got better and things got bad again, and keep coming back, I feel very fortunate that people believe in me. Whether it's the "King" or the "Captain" or Tad (Geschickter) to give me another shot to jump in this race car and feel like I can get the job done now. More than anything, just being able to still be a part of it through thick and thin is something that's probably the most special. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Crew chief got first victory atop pit box at Watkins Glen in 2014 Brian Burns will be back on top of the pit box for AJ Allmendinger 's No. 47 Sprint Cup Series team with JTG Daugherty Racing , the team announced Wednesday. Burns signed a contract this week to remain with the team as the crew chief for Allmendinger . "I'm happy to be back on board as crew chief and I've really enjoyed working with everyone at JTG Daugherty Racing ," Burns said in a team release. "Last season, I was able to get to know AJ both personally and professionally and I feel like the relationship we have formed is great. Chemistry is vitally important to have between the driver, crew chief and team and we have all gotten to know each other more. I feel like great things are in store for us this season." Allmendinger's win last season at Watkins Glen in August punched his ticket into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff. It was also his first Sprint Cup victory, Burns' first victory atop the pit box in the Sprint Cup Series and also JTG Daugherty Racing 's first win. "I am really happy to have Brian back as my crew chief," Allmendinger said in a release. "As the year went on, he kept growing and getting better as a leader and as the crew chief to the No. 47 Chevrolet SS team. He was a huge part in bringing myself and the team its first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and I can't wait to build on that heading into the 2015 season. I wouldn't want any other guy to work with than Brian to help take our team to the next level." Burns helped guide Allmendinger to a 13th-place finish in the final Sprint Cup Series standings for 2014, which was Allmendinger's best year-end result and also the best year-end result for the one-car JTG Daugherty team. The 2015 Sprint Cup Series season gets underway on Feb. 22 with the Daytona 500 on FOX. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chase underdog holds 10th place in the standings heading to the Monster RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize Before the playoffs, AJ Allmendinger gave his team a chance even when the odds appeared slim. Now the 32-year-old journeyman has one more chance to beat not only the odds, but at least four of his closest competitors to survive the first round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason. "We're digging," Allmendinger said Sunday after a 13th-place run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "We're trying to be the little team that could." Allmendinger , in his first-ever Chase, remains a dark horse to advance to the Contender Round after this weekend's AAA 400 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Dover International Speedway , where the field of title hopefuls will be trimmed from 16 drivers to 12. With a ranking of 10th after the opening two races and a scant 12 points separating eighth place from 16th, Allmendinger said he knows he'll need another solid, error-free finish to make the cut. Allmendinger managed to escape the heavy toll of carnage and misfortune that visited several of his Chase rivals in last weekend's visit to New Hampshire. While he isn't necessarily wishing for more bad luck to his fellow drivers, he said he may need some help to remain firmly among the top 12. "We've got to focus on us," Allmendinger said. "We know what's around us. We know we have a lot of great teams. This is what we've got to do to keep going is make no mistakes. Chicago, we didn't run very good; we maximized 22nd. This weekend, thought we were a little better, weren't great in the race, maximized a 13th. We're going to need mistakes around us. We've just got to go to Dover -- one of my favorite places -- and just focus on us and get everything we can. "Wherever that puts us, it puts us." Allmendinger's JTG Daughtery Racing team will be bringing the same No. 47 Chevrolet that ran at Chicagoland Speedway two weeks ago, hoping that it can withstand the smaller confines and heavy demands of the Monster Mile. Though the driver's penchant for Dover is well-known, the team -- which shares a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing -- will need to make gains from the 21st-place performance it posted there in June to build off last weekend's effort. "Momentum is a big deal for any team. We feel like we needed that going into this weekend," said Brian Burns, Allmendinger's crew chief. "Fortunately for us, Dover is one of AJ's favorite tracks. We had a really good car there last time. A lot of things that we have learned since then will help us unload better. ... Our strategy is quite simple: Qualify good, stay out of trouble, be solid all day long." Allmendinger insists he won't be scoreboard-watching this weekend, though it would be hard to fault him if Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth -- the drivers close ahead of him -- and Ryan Newman , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola -- the Chase drivers behind him -- weren't part of the approach. Either way, Allmendinger is just one race away from achieving his pre-Chase goal of making a postseason surprise a reality. "I got home (Sunday) and all of a sudden it started hitting me that we have a shot to advance," Allmendinger said. "I don't know, the outlook is different, we can make it now. If we did, it would be good publicity for our sponsors, who have supported our team for such a long time." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
AJ Allmendinger holds off Marcos Ambrose to win at Watkins Glen for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
Get a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared in the Great American Race Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live 1. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. "Sliced Bread" was a bit worried after Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski had car trouble, but it was all for nothing. Logano led 31 laps and didn't give up the lead from Lap 191 on as he carried all of the momentum from a breakout 2014 season into 2015. " WATCH: How Logano won the Daytona 500 2. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had the fastest car during green-flag runs with an average speed of 198.102 mph, but didn't lead a lap. Harvick was right there at the end and would have given Logano all he could handle if the caution hadn't come out on the final lap. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Jr. made a strong bid to repeat as the Daytona 500 champion, leading 32 laps, and made a nice recovery after making a move with 19 laps remaining that left him stuck in the middle, a move Junior took responsibility for over the radio at the end of the race. "I made a poor move on that restart with 19 to go. Should not have done that." " WATCH: Junior weighs in on costly decision 4. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin carried the flag for a JGR stable that showed lots of speed all week. Hamlin topped final practice and it carried over into the race as he spent all but five of 203 laps in the top 15 and had the most quality passes (396) in the race. 5. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. A pit-road penalty seemed to leave the 48 team miffed, but the six-time series champion rebounded from it en route to leading 39 laps and being there late to challenge for the victory. 6. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. After nearly not making the Daytona 500 with an engine failure in the first Daytona Duel, Mears took full advantage of his new life with his fourth straight top-10 at Daytona. 7. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. A wreck in group qualifying didn't start the week off right, but the veteran driver had plenty of speed Sunday (198.020 mph, seventh-fastest during green flag runs) and nearly made a run all the way to the front. Bowyer had a fan in eventual race winner Logano, who said on Lap 179, "Tell Bowyer he's doing great." " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 8. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing. Truex was one of the surprises of Speedweeks with a great run in the Sprint Unlimited. He overcame a pit road penalty and also led a lap to match his total for 2014 as the No. 78 team sent notice that the new season will bring new results. 9. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. In his first race with new crew chief Keith Rodden atop the pit box, Kahne had his best Daytona 500 finish since 2008 thanks to the second-most green flag passes for the day (479). 10. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. For the fourth straight time and fifth time in the last six Daytona 500s, Biffle scored a top-10 finish; he also recorded the third-most green flag passes with 459. 11.David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. After not recording a top-20 finish until the 21st race of the season last year, Gilliland wasted no time in doing that this year and nearly brought home a top-10. 12. Sam Hornish Jr., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. In his first start for RPM, Hornish started in the back of the field but came on strong late as the second-best closer of the race, gaining 14 spots in the final 20 laps. 13. Michael Annett, No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Making his first start for the expanded two-car HScott team, Annett had the best finish of his 37 career Sprint Cup starts, and he did so by making up 14 spots in the final 20 laps. 14. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Dillon has run some of his best Cup races at Daytona, and while he didn't score a top-10 finish, he spent plenty of time in the front of pack. The handling of his car late in the race had the young driver a bit miffed, as he told his team, "You've never seen (expletive) like this before. We're sideways every lap." " Sign up for Scanner today, to hear in-car audio 15. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Back at Daytona to run his first points-paying race since his Coke Zero 400 win last July, the Florida native was the best closer, gaining 18 spots in final 20 laps. 16. Regan Smith, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Named as a sub for the suspended Kurt Busch, the NASCAR XFINITY Series runner-up in 2014 ran a solid race for SHR; one that could merit him more consideration for additional seat time in the No. 41 car. 17. David Ragan, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Ragan's strength is restrictor-plate racing with both of his Sprint Cup wins coming at such venues. This result is a welcome one for a driver that struggled to a 32nd-place finish in the final standings in 2014. 18. Matt Crafton, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. A late sub for the injured Kyle Busch, the two-time defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion seemed to get more comfortable as the race went on and did an admirable job in less-than-ideal circumstances. " MORE: Gibbs gives update on Kyle Busch 19. Johnny Sauter, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing. Sauter, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran, carried the flag for BK Racing, notching his best Sprint Cup result since a 15th-place finish at Phoenix in November of 2007. 20. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing. The 'Dinger had his share of issues early in the race and was running in the back thanks to a starting position of 40th, but he came on strong late, gaining 12 spots in the final 20 laps of the race. 21. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. It was an interesting Speedweeks for Danica, from going through several cars to a run-in with Denny Hamlin, but the third-year Sprint Cup driver toughed it out in the end. 22. Cole Whitt, No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. In his first start with the expanded Front Row organization, Whitt had his best-career finish at Daytona. 23. Carl Edwards, No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. In his first points race for JGR, Edwards spent plenty of time at the front with 160 laps in the top 15 and led three laps. A speeding penalty on pit road on Lap 89 led Edwards to tell his team over the radio, "Completely my fault, guys. I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you." " Sign up for Scanner today, to hear in-car audio 24. Bobby Labonte, No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing. This finish was the 2000 premier series champion's worst in the Daytona 500 since 2006, but he did gain 19 spots from his starting position. 25. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. After stringing together back-to-back top-10s in the 2011 and 2012 Daytona 500, Menard's past two Daytona 500s have resulted in a 21st-place finish and a 32nd-place finish, so this finish roughly splits that distance. 26. Michael Waltrip, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing. Filling in for the sidelined Brian Vickers, the two-time Daytona 500 winner gained nine spots in the final 20 laps. 27. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The CGR driver couldn't replicate his Rolex 24 success from last month, but the "Big-game hunter" spent 134 laps in the top 15. 28. Ty Dillon, No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing. Making just his third career Sprint Cup start, the younger Dillon turned some heads with the eighth-fastest car in green flag conditions, but his promising run trailed off in the latter half of the race after taking on damage in a late wreck. 29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. The third-year Cup driver had his worst Daytona 500 finish in 2015 after a career-best seventh-place result in 2014, but he did have the most green flag passes (484) in the race. 30. Trevor Bayne, No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Since his surprising win in his first Daytona 500 in 2011, Bayne has averaged a finish of 31.3. On the positive side, Bayne was the fourth-fastest car on restarts. 31. Michael McDowell, No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing. For the third time in his four career Daytona 500 starts, McDowell finished 30th or worse; the exception was a ninth-place finish in the 2013 Daytona 500. 32. Reed Sorenson, No. 44 Chevrolet, Team Xtreme Racing. Sorenson, who wasn't sure he was going to have a backup car for the Daytona 500, raced his way into the field but had his worst finish in the Great American Race in six starts. 33. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. The Coors Light Pole Award winner led a race-high 87 laps and looked like one of the cars to beat. His finishing position is not indicative of his day as he was involved in a wreck on the final lap. " PHOTOS: Gordon through the years at Daytona 34. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson's sophomore campaign got off to a slow start after a day marred by pit road troubles that seemed to derailed the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year at inopportune times. 35. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. The Sprint Unlimited winner had plenty of speed during Speedweeks but couldn't recover from damage suffered due to contact from Tony Stewart on Lap 41, and he finished a lap down. 36. Mike Wallace, No. 66 Toyota, Premium Motorsports. Running his first Daytona 500 since 2007, the 54-year-old couldn't match his 2007 run when he finished fourth. 37. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. The second-year Sprint Cup competitor was in a wreck that triggered the green-white-checkered finish on Lap 199. " WATCH: Allgaier brings out caution 38. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Last year's runner-up in the final standings suffered damage from a chain reaction after Brad Keselowski's car blew up; Newman would finish 19 laps back. 39. Ryan Blaney, No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing. In his maiden start for Wood Brothers Racing, Blaney was enjoying a nice run until his car blew up in similar fashion to Brad Keselowski's on Lap 176. 40. J.J. Yeley, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. Yeley had trouble shifting into gear late in the race, which took him off the track and resulted in his third finish of 40th-or-worse in six Daytona 500 starts. 41. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. The 2012 Sprint Cup champion had been steadily making his way up through the field before car trouble on Lap 161 caused his worst career finish in the Daytona 500. " MORE: Blown engine cuts Keselowski's day short 42. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. The elusive Daytona 500 victory will remain the trophy "Smoke" can't rein in as a steering issue following a Lap 41 accident derailed his day. " MORE: Daytona 500 drought continues for Stewart 43. Landon Cassill, No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Racing. Cassill's engine expired on Lap 19, bringing the day to an early end for a driver who has had some recent success at restrictor-plate tracks. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
AJ Allmendinger wins the Johnsonville Sausage 200 presented by Menards at Road America in dominant fashion.