AJ Allmendinger Seeks Strong Performance at Loudon

(Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Although the 2015 season has been a roller coaster experience for AJ Allmendinger and his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevy team, there’s a sense of optimism for this competitive brigade heading into this weekend’s 5-hour ENERGY 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Sitting 23rd in the points standings but with a strong opportunity to duplicate their Chase Grid efforts from last year, Allmendinger’s complexion and tone was that of a driver who is up to the task to be a catalyst for his team’s rebound in the summer stretch of races starting at Loudon.

Allmendinger showcased his No. 47's strength earlier in the season with a sixth at Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Allmendinger showcased his No. 47’s strength earlier in the season with a sixth at Las Vegas. (Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

“The season has been kind of up and down,” Allmendinger said prior to Friday’s first practice session. “We started the year off really well in the top five in points after five races. We had a couple of engine failures that really hurt the next few races and it got us away from what we’ve been doing.

From there, we’ve been trying to search and get back to the speed that we know that we have in the racecars.  In the end, although the last 10 weeks haven’t been great, it’s really bringing us together as a race team to see what we’re made of.”

Like last year, Allmendinger finds himself within striking distance of making the 16 driver and team Chase Grid in September but has endured a bit of a rough stretch.  That said, there’s been flashes of brilliance including a pole at Sonoma, top-15 results at Richmond and Kansas and a top-20 at Talladega.  Perhaps serving as even better news for the No. 47 team is that they’re heading to a track where they’ve scored solid results last season, including 18th in the July race and a 13th during the Chase fall event.

Known as a driver with a penchant to excel at the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, Allmendinger has shown some mettle at some of NASCAR’s toughest circuits, or those short tracks where the racers’ feedback and abilities to adapt to quick changing conditions are just as vital as having a great engineer, crew chief, and pit crew.  Simply put, racing at Loudon is a place where the racer can be just as impactful as the team they’re surrounded by, a group that Allmendinger has described as family in recent times.

Chemistry is strong with this unit, as Allmendinger and crew chief Brian Burns have built a strong rapport with each other and with their hardy team that reflects their energetic, passionate, and focused racer.

While the adversities that they’ve encountered may deter some in the heat of the battle, or in this case, the summer conditions of New Hampshire, Allmendinger acknowledges that these races are an opportunity for his team to gel and grow closer together.

Crew chief Brian Burns and AJ Allmendinger composing their thoughts during a race weekend. (Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Crew chief Brian Burns and AJ Allmendinger composing their thoughts during a race weekend. (Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

“It’s easy to be a strong team when you’re running well but when things aren’t going the way you want them to go, you’ve got to band together,” Allmendinger remarked.  “Our communication and trust in each other and our working together is only going to get stronger.  When we get our racecars where they need to be, everything will come together a lot better.”

The potential to improve is there with the 47 team, as they’re capable of putting strong results on a consistent basis. Earlier in the year, Allmendinger scored a seventh at Atlanta and a sixth at Las Vegas, placing ahead of some of the top teams in the Cup series and showcasing their strength when all the pieces and elements come together during the race weekend.

That said, an effort prevalent at Atlanta and Las Vegas will need to be there at this challenging 1.058-mile facility. Going back to the driver being a part of the equation, in classic Allmendinger style, the Los Gatos, CA native recognizes the usual aspects that are imperative with tackling this venue, a staple in NASCAR racing for the past 25 years.

“It’s that short track feel to it and I think there’s some lines that you can work to make sure you get around the track a little bit better,” Allmendinger said.  “It’s a tough place. You’ve got to get the car to roll off the center but you can’t be too free off.  As a driver, there’s a few more things that you can do.  You’ve always got to make sure the car is working the way you like.

There’s a few more things as a driver where you can go out there to help make that car a little bit better on its own.  Track position is critical as it’s tough to pass here.  Getting up front, qualifying well, those are always the most critical things at Loudon to have a good finish.”

All of the ingredients for a strong weekend are there for the No. 47 team, who have shown that poise and determination to be a strong racing effort on a consistent basis.  As seen last year, they’ve got the components to be that driver and team who can enjoy the spoils of Victory Lane, illustrated by their dramatic win last year at Watkins Glen. Following their triumph at the 2.45-mile road course, they regularly contended for top-10 to top-15 finishes down the stretch last season.

Going down the stretch of the long, hot summer races of this season, a strong, complete weekend effort by Allmendinger and his No. 47 team starting at Loudon could be the spark that fuels them on the upward swing from here on out.  His strong results last summer, including here at Loudon, displayed the kind of resiliency and strength that’s made them into a team trending in the right direction with Sunday’s event being an opportunity race.

Championship bids aren’t won at New Hampshire but the prospects of being a part of the competitive postseason field from here to Richmond in September can all be determined by a total team effort, starting with practice and qualifying rounds on Friday through the battle on the asphalt arena come race day.  If last year was any indication of Allmendinger’s potential to be a factor in the Chase, these races in the coming weeks could serve as a reminder of the No. 47 team’s abilities to tackle the challenges of Cup racing to not only their competition, but most importantly, to each member of their unit.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it’s about anything with an engine and four wheels, you’ll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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