In the Driver’s Seat with AJ Allmendinger

By all means, AJ Allmendinger seeks for a strong finish to 2018.

By all means, AJ Allmendinger seeks for a strong finish to 2018.

Truth be told, AJ Allmendinger and his No. 47 Team Kroger ClickList JTG Daugherty Racing team are determined to become consistent, front runners in NASCAR.

After all, in the past year, they’ve gained a teammate in Chris Buescher and the No. 37 team led by crew chief Trent Owens.  As with any types of changes, there’s the transition towards sustaining long-term, fruitful successes.

In spite of these factors, Allmendinger doesn’t mince words with his on track efforts.  Indeed, the 36-year-old native of Los Gatos, CA wants better results for himself, his hardy team, and his supporters.

Sure, Allmendinger appreciates and values his crowning moment in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  After all, on August 10, 2014, the versatile racer scored his first Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

However, this cagey veteran wants more memorable highlights.  While fans may recognize him as the father to his beloved two-year old cat named Mr. Tickles, he is a genuinely talented, driven racer.

Whether it’s on FS1’s NASCAR Race Hub or on Twitter, Allmendinger is insightful as he is relatable.  Smart, savvy, and witty as John Mulaney, there’s never a dull moment with this amiable racer.

Without further ado, let’s get to it and get “In the Driver’s Seat with AJ Allmendinger” on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson :  While the regular season’s winding down, we’ve seen what the No. 47 team is capable of when it all comes together.  With top-10’s at Daytona and Martinsville and a solid 14th recently at Pocono, has the focus been on trying to nab one of the coveted playoff spots?  Or is the goal towards building towards a strong finish while building upon your chemistry with crew chief Tristan Smith?

Naturally, Allmendinger and his No. 47 team strive towards becoming consistent front runners in NASCAR.

Naturally, Allmendinger and his No. 47 team strive towards becoming consistent front runners in NASCAR.

AJ Allmendinger :  I think the focus is always to win, but this late in the season with where we are in points and how we’ve run throughout the season, we definitely want to work to building a strong finish and developing our team to the next level and have something we can start strong with in 2019.

There are still opportunities there to run well and find speed that we can carry over into next season. But with the new Chevy body, all of us are still working as hard as we can to get that extra advantage.

Tiongson :  We’ve seen the Chevrolet program essentially try to improve on the new Camaro throughout the year.  In a way, do you feel this has gotten your organization to work closer with your fellow Bowtie teammates and in connection with the technical alliance in place with Hendrick Motorsports?

Allmendinger :  I think everyone at Team Chevy and Chevrolet is doing all they can to find speed in our Camaro ZL1s. It’s no secret that we’ve all had some work to do on trying to find speed, but we make improvements every week and work together pretty well with our technical alliance in getting data and engineering support to try and make our race cars as fast as possible.

Tiongson :  It’s neat seeing how you and Matt DiBenedetto are close friends and clearly have unique sense of humor.  For the record, have you both settled on which brother each of you are?

Allmendinger :  I think we settled in Kentucky that even though I’m older, I’m the little brother. He’s way stronger than I am with all of his CrossFit.

Tiongson :  There’s a quote by Ferris Bueller about life moving quickly that I often associate with you.  When you consider your journey, have you sometimes had a moment to stop and look around every now and then?

Allmendinger :  Yeah, it’s important to stop and take a breath every once in a while. We’re so fortunate to be among forty of the best stock car racers in the world. And, it’s something that I definitely don’t take for granted and something that has meant a lot to me throughout my racing career.

Tiongson :  Along the same note, you recently celebrated a milestone by making your 350th career start in the premier series.  Considering all you’ve gone through, and knowing you’ve found your home at JTG Daugherty Racing, what’s been some of your favorite on track moments over the years?

Notably, Allmendinger won the final stage of this year's Monster Energy NASCAR Open at Charlotte.

Notably, Allmendinger won the final stage of this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Open at Charlotte.

Allmendinger :  I mean, it’s got to be my win at Watkins Glen. That moment was so special for me and so special for our organization. We had everyone there that day, all of our great friends at Kroger, Brad Daugherty, Tad and Jodi, and to be able to do that for them and this organization is something that’s always going to mean a lot to me.

Tiongson :  You and your girlfriend Tara have been proud cat parents to Mr. Tickles for the past two years.  How’s your feline friend been these days aside from his magnificent social media presence?  Might we see him on your No. 47 car one of these days?

What's not to love about Mr. Tickles and his social media presence? (Photo Credit: Mr. Tickles' Twitter)

What’s not to love about Mr. Tickles and his social media presence? (Photo Credit: Mr. Tickles’ Twitter)

Allmendinger :  You’ll have to talk to our friends at Kroger in terms of seeing him on the race car.  But, I think he enjoys his online spotlight more than anything. He’s living his best life traveling on the road with us.

Tiongson :  I recall your take on Radioactive on NASCAR Race Hub and how you feel about Radio Sweetheart.  However, when you’re in the studio on a Tuesday and hear your peers’ complaints and grievances aside from your own, are there times that you listen and find it as humorous as fans do?

Allmendinger :  It’s always interesting to hear some of the other drivers commentary on the radio, but I think I keep my team entertained enough on our own channel. We all have our good and bad days and sometimes you hit the radio button and sometimes you just air it out in the car. The good news is the cars are loud so if you yell, no one can hear you.

Tiongson :  Racecar drivers often collect their trophies or mementos from their careers.  With Lionel Racing producing your die-cast cars over the years, have you ever collected some of your replica rides?  Does it humble you when a fan asks you to autograph them for a keepsake?

Allmendinger :  Yeah, I definitely have cars of my own that I’ve kept throughout the years. It’s really cool to have a fan that invests in you enough to buy your own diecasts, but what gets me is I’ll have fans that have old cars of mine from my CART and IndyCar days and they’ll bring those to the track for me to sign.

Tiongson :  Off the track, what’s one of your guilty pleasure TV shows or series on Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime that’s popular in the Allmendinger house?

Allmendinger :  I wouldn’t say I have a guilty pleasure TV show, but Tara and I watch Empire. That’s our current show right now.

Tiongson :  Lastly, what has been your welcome to NASCAR moment, good or bad, that made you feel like a true member among your mates in the garage area?

Whether it's talking with Jimmie Johnson or conferring with crew chief Tristan Smith, Allmendinger appreciates every moment in NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Whether it’s talking with Jimmie Johnson or conferring with crew chief Tristan Smith, Allmendinger appreciates every moment in NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Allmendinger :  There have been a couple of moments, but I think the moment that really made me think I had made it in NASCAR is when Jimmie Johnson answered my phone call for the first time (laughs). I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great legends in this sport over the years, and that’s been the most humbling thing about my racing career.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to AJ and Team Kroger JTG Daugherty Racing for taking the time for this latest feature!  It’s always a pleasure to catch up with the No. 47 team.  For more information on AJ and his racing efforts, “Like” his team’s Facebook page, “Visit” his team’s official website, and Follow him and his team on Twitter now!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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