As AJ Allmendinger adds to his impressive, current chapter as a competitive NASCAR Xfinity Series racer, he’s making noise as a part-time Cup Series competitor.
While he pursues his first Xfinity Series championship, he’ll likely remember his double duty weekend at Portland, Oregon and Madison, Illinois with fervent sentimentality.
Of course, the Los Gatos, California native will never forget Saturday’s Pacific Office Automation 147 at Portland International Raceway. After all, he started toward the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments with his No. 16 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet Camaro.
Allmendinger, perceived as the king of road course racing in the Xfinity Series, had his work cut out for him in the early going. Going off course as he was catching up to the field in the early going, he fought tenaciously, capitalizing on a lucky dog opportunity on lap 14 before placing eighth in stage 2.
In trademark, resilient fashion, Allmendinger showcased his mettle and poise when he tallied his second win of the Xfinity Series season, capturing the checkered flag 16 years after his Champ Car victory at the 1.967-mile road course.
“This place was packed,” Allmendinger said. “We wished we had better weather for all the fans but that’s what racing in the Northwest is like. There’s always opportunity for rain. It was really cool to see how packed this place was and Portland has always been a special place for me. My dad was here and was here on Father’s Day 16 years ago.
“To be able to still be a part of motorsports and be with a great team like Kaulig Racing that allow me to be who I am. They know when I’m pissed off, it’s because I care and I’m mad at myself. To be able win the first race here is special for a lot of reasons.”
Perhaps some of that positive energy and enthusiasm carried over into Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Pulling off a long distance double duty assignment for Kaulig Racing, Allmendinger prepared for his latest Cup race without any seat time in his No. 16 Gold Fish Casino Slots Chevy.
Finishing 28th in stage 1 and 21st in stage 2, Allmendinger persevered, keeping optimistic and driven as he did in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Portland.
Surviving some late race incidents and an Overtime restart, Allmendinger, who worked his way up to 17th on lap 111, placed 10th in the final scoring order.
Considering his unique feat and logging his first laps in his No. 16 Cup car on Sunday, the 40-year-old stock car veteran and his crew chief, Matt Swiderski, had to be ecstatic about their stellar result at the 1.25-mile paved speedway.
“I’m really happy with today,” Allmendinger shared. “I didn’t know what to expect with no practice or qualifying and the car having to be fixed. The team made the car better all day.
“Ultimately, we needed a little bit of track position, but we were really good at the end there. I’m proud of the effort from start to finish to get a top 10 to cap off a great weekend.”
It’s a bit easier for Allmendinger for next Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway as he’ll solely focus on battling for a Cup race win. For now, he can take heart that he backed his latest Xfinity win with a top 10 result at the tight, tricky track at Gateway.