Like a temp worker who is hired for full-time work because of the quality of his performance, AJ Allmendinger has signed with Kaulig Racing to run a full schedule in the NASCAR Xfinity Series next year.
Since leaving his NASCAR Cup Series ride with JTG-Daugherty Racing after the 2018 season, Allmendinger has worked as an analyst for NBC Sports, as well as running an occasional race for Kaulig. His elevation to full-time status should make him an immediate contender for the series title.
In 2020, AJ Allmendinger ran 11 races for team owner Matt Kaulig and picked up two victories. His win at Atlanta Motor Speedway was his first ever on a NASCAR oval. The part-time driver of the No. 16 Chevrolet also took the checkered flag at the Charlotte Roval for the second straight season.
All told, Kaulig Racing won five Xfinity Series races during the 2020 season, with Justin Haley getting all three of his victories on superspeedways. Kaulig is an up-and-coming organization with designs on not only an Xfinity championship but also a possible move to the NASCAR Cup Series on the horizon.
Accordingly, Allmendinger, with his extensive experience at NASCAR’s highest level, is a perfect fit for the team. The addition of Jeb Burton to the three-car organization is another positive.
Kaulig Racing has come such a long way in only a few short years. We started this team in 2016 and have made the playoffs every year. This year we stepped up even more and had two cars in the playoffs with one in the Championship 4 at Phoenix. With AJ Allmendinger added to our stable, and three fantastic drivers, we will have an even better chance at the championship.
Unquestionably, Allmendinger is the top road course racer in NASCAR. Just consider his background. The 38-year-old from Los Gatos, California, grew up racing open-wheel cars, leading to a productive Champ Car career that produced five victories.
In 2012, Allmendinger anchored the winning four-driver team in the 50th running of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. He got his only NASCAR Cup Series victory on the Watkins Glen International road course and two of his three Xfinity victories on the Charlotte Roval.
Next year, six of the 33 Xfinity races will be contested on road courses, an all-time high for the series. Allmendinger should be the betting favorite at all six: Circuit of the Americas, Mid-Ohio, Road America, Watkins Glen, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, and Charlotte Roval. Those races will give AJ ample opportunity to pick up victories and Playoff points essential to a strong Playoff run.
Championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series come down to one race. Four drivers qualify to run for each of the respective titles in the season finales. The format injects a random element into the proceedings.
For example, NASCAR Cup Series regular-season champion Kevin Harvick, who led the series with nine victories, didn’t even qualify for the title race. Similarly, eight-time Xfinity winner Chase Briscoe had an off day in the Championship 4 race at Phoenix and finished fourth in the final standings.
For his part, Allmendinger won’t base his entire season on the final race, even if he’s among the Championship 4.
“With the way, championships are now, and it being one race at the end, anything can happen,” Allmendinger says. “You just can’t let one race base how you feel about the season… I think it’s all about continually trying to improve this team.
You can’t just define it on, ‘OK, we have to win eight races this year or it’s a bad season. It’s about improving and getting better every weekend. If we do that, the wins will come.
And so might the title. If you’re looking for a championship pick that goes beyond the obvious—defending champion Austin Cindric and veteran Justin Allgaier—Allmendinger should fill the bill nicely.
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NASCAR | 3 February - 02:42 | Reid Spencer
Drivers | 2 February - 03:39 | Reid Spencer
Drivers | 2 February - 03:19 | Reid Spencer
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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