HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Life may begin at 40 for most. However, for AJ Allmendinger, the fun is starting at age 40 just months before his return to full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition.
As Allmendinger prepares for a promising 2023 Cup campaign, he does so looking ready for primetime.
After all, the driver of the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevy Camaro finds himself in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship chase, sitting narrowly above the cutoff line after a podium finish following Saturday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It seems like the Los Gatos, California native does not miss a beat during his recent double duty starts as he entered Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 with five consecutive top 10 results in his prior Cup starts.
Allmendinger got off on the right foot with a respectable 10th place qualifying effort on Saturday afternoon. Moreover, the two-time Cup race winner had a quick No. 16 Ed Morris Automotive Group Camaro during short, green flag runs.
On Sunday afternoon, Allmendinger wasted little time, driving from his 10th starting spot to a sixth place finish in Stage 1.
Although Allmendinger fell to a 13th place finish in Stage 2, he made some noise in Stage 3.
Primarily, the Californian drove his way inside the top 10 within the final 20 laps.
By all means, with a short, green flag run in the midst from a late race yellow, Allmendinger knew it was go time in the driver’s seat.
“The short runs it really did. The Ed Morris Automotive Group Chevy was really hooked up on the short runs,” Allmendinger said. “We still kind of have to work on our long run package just in general. That’s something that’s kind of been weak for us at Kaulig Racing.”
Despite the area of opportunity for Allmendinger and his No. 16 team, the late caution was the moment they looked forward to for a chance at a potential win.
“When we got that caution with 18 to go; I was like, all right, we’ve got a shot at this,” he recalled. “We lost a couple spots on pit road but restarted eighth, and Ross (Chastain) and I had a fun battle.”
The former Kaulig Racing teammates dueled for second, swapping the position for several laps in a battle reminiscent of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2011.
All told, despite Chastain besting Allmendinger for second, a third podium finish is not a bad result for a team that looks prepared for 2023.
“I think I needed an 11 lap run to catch Kyle (Larson),” he said with confidence. “Overall, (I’m) just proud of everybody at Kaulig Racing to get the No. 16 Ed Morse Automotive Group Chevy in the top five and just have another solid day.”