AVONDALE, Ariz. – It has been an interesting start for AJ Allmendinger and his No. 16 Action Industries Chevrolet Camaro team after three races into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
After a riveting sixth place finish in the Daytona 500, Allmendinger was on the receiving end of a Turn 2 tangle, crashing into the inside backstretch retaining wall, placing 36th. Last Sunday, it was a middling performance for the 41-year-old Los Gatos, California native, placing 18th at Las Vegas.
Ahead of Sunday’s United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Allmendinger ranks 19th, 36 points behind 10th place ranked Chris Buescher.
Despite the topsy turvy start, Allmendinger enters this weekend with a fresh mindset, an applicable perspective given the sweeping aerodynamic changes by NASCAR for the short tracks and road courses.
“Phoenix will be interesting with the new, lower downforce aero package they are coming out with. Practice will be very important to go out there and get a good feel for it with the new car,” Allmendinger said in a Chevrolet press release.
Last year, Allmendinger qualified 29th and placed 20th in Phoenix’s spring race before upping his efforts in last fall’s season finale, starting 16th and finishing in 12th.
Needless to say, the Kaulig Racing driver seems optimistic about his team’s gains on these paint trading short tracks.
“I felt like we learned a few things in the fall race last year,” he said. “Hopefully, we can take what we learned and match it up with the aero package and try to make our short track program better.”
While it has been 12 years since Allmendinger finished in the top-10 at the 1-mile Phoenix Raceway, he has a familiar face atop his No. 16 team’s pit box in Matt Swiderski. Recall that Swiderski worked with the Californian during his partial Cup schedule in 2021 and 2022, two relatively successful campaigns highlighted by the Indianapolis road course victory just under two years ago.
Likewise, Allmendinger has improved greatly at the short track races. After a somewhat slow start last year with a 20th at Phoenix, 27th at Richmond and 24th at Martinsville, the two-time Cup race winner showcased some muscle as the season progressed.
Witness: Allmendinger placed 10th at Gateway, 16th at New Hampshire, seventh at Bristol and 12th at Phoenix’s fall date.
All in all, the determined driver knows what it takes to compete at NASCAR’s highest level while strengthening Kaulig Racing’s Cup program, particularly on the short tracks.
After posting the 11th fastest time and 22nd quickest 10-lap run in Friday’s practice, Allmendinger tallied the 22nd starting position in Saturday’s qualifying session. Despite the changes with the car and aero package, it seems Allmendinger and his No. 16 team are trending upward ever so steadily.
“I felt like that was our weakness last year, so we are definitely going to focus hard on that to get ready for the short tracks we have coming up,” he said.
With the West Coast Swing coming to a close, there is no better way to head back to the East Coast than with a strong performance and result in “The Valley of The Sun.”
This article is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Tickles, the beloved cat of AJ and Tara Allmendinger. For those who wish to commemorate Mr. Tickles’ life, donate to the Friends of Feral Felines by clicking on this link or sending a check to the following address.
Friends of Feral Felines
P.O. Box 473385
Charlotte, NC 28247