Event: Sprint Showdown
Date/Time: Friday, May 20th, 7 PM ET
Event: NASCARSprint All-Star Race
Date/Time: Saturday, May 21st, 7 PM ET
Event: Coca-Cola 600
Date/Time: Sunday, May 29th, 6 PM ET
All-Star Weekend: “The day goes so quick,” Allmendinger said. “Obviously, where we are at right now we are going to have to race our way in. It’s a place that we can go try a couple of small things and more than anything just see if it’s the right direction going into the Coca-Cola 600. There’s not really a lot that you can go test there. It’s definitely a race that you want to show up at and have good speed in the car. If you have good speed, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t come back with the 600 car and have the same type of speed. That’s what I look at going into that race.”
Coca-Cola 600 Weekend: "It’s for sure one of the toughest races we have," Allmendinger said. "Starting in the day, the track is always slick. You practice during the day and the conditions change so much throughout the course of the race. So, you really just have to get through the first 300 to 400 miles. If you can get through the first 400 miles on the lead lap and have a consistent car, then you can fine tune it for the last 200 miles and get after it. The last couple of years we haven’t been very good at the start of the race. You get behind early in the race and you feel like you are playing catch up for 600 miles, which isn’t a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can start a little bit better and have more speed in the car and it will make that first 400 miles a lot easier and really go racing the last 200."
New sponsors for Charlotte race weekends: “For All-Star weekend, we have a new primary sponsor, Uwharrie Bank on our No. 47 Chevrolet SS,” Allmendinger said. “They may be new to the car, but Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) started their relationship with the bank back in 1999. They are more than just a collection of services and accounts because they also provide financial tools and information for people to achieve their financial goals.
"Once we wrap up All-Star weekend, we’ve got another new sponsor on board for the Coca-Cola 600 and that’s Harris Teeter," continued Allmendinger. "They are using their racing partnership to promote their Express Lane Online Shopping service, which is pretty cool and super easy. You literally order your groceries online and just swing by their parcel pickup and they will load up your groceries. Basically, order, pick up and drive home. It can’t get any easier than that for someone like me that’s always on the go and even more so for moms. For more information, visit www.HarrisTeeter.com and click on Harris Teeter Express Lane Online Shopping tab.”
Outside the box: “We’ve still really been working hard on our mile-and-a-half program so we can keep getting better,” crew chief Randall Burnett said. “The All-Star weekend gives us a chance to be really prepared for the Coca-Cola 600 even though the rules package is different for the All-Star. We’ll take it with a grain of salt. We’ll try different things outside the box as far as setup goes so we can find good speed in the car. Charlotte presents challenges from other intermediate tracks because it’s got some pretty good bumps in it and the groove widens out. By nightfall, it seems everybody ends up back on the bottom. The 600 is challenging from practice to night qualifying and the big difference in speed.”
Mile-and-a-half program: “Overall, for sure our mile-and-a-half program is a lot better and there’s no doubt about it,” Allmendinger said. “There are still racetracks like Texas (Motor Speedway) that kind of own us, that we still have to figure out. With that, we are testing stuff and we are trying to find the right direction to go. You know at Kansas (Speedway), I thought we had a solid race car. It didn’t have a lot of speed in it, but we were 12th to 15th the whole time and got an eighth-place finish out of it. I think as we keep learning and keep getting better, I think our mile-and-a-half program should keep improving. We said going into the start of the year that if we could be top 15 at those mile-and-a-halfs that’s where we were focused. I feel like we are right there. We are close. When we are better, we are actually better than a top 15. When we miss it, we still miss it a little bit too much. That’s the thing we need to keep working on.”
Good direction: “The direction we are going with our race car is good,” Allmendinger said. “We’ve had some solid runs. We are trying to build. We’ve had our ups and downs and some races we’ve missed it. I really look at the start of the season and I felt like if we could get everything right, we would be fighting for that 12th, 13th to 16th cut off in the points. That’s kind of close to where we are at. We had a tough race at Dover (International Speedway) and we thought we were going to get a top-15 finish out of it and got crashed and that hurt us with points. We still have a lot of races to go before it all ends and see where we are at. We have some strong racetracks coming up and some we’ve got to work on, but so far I’ve been really pleased. More than anything, I really like what I see at the shop and how hard everybody is working and how close everybody has come together to make our race cars better."
Finding balance: “We’ve generally had speed for the most part each weekend,” Allmendinger said. “I think it’s just finding consistency - - finding packages that we like to run, but that’s part of the testing process. That’s part of growing. We are working on things. With the RCR (Richard Childress Racing) alliance, we are all working together. In Kansas, we went off on a different path, but we got fortunate and got an eighth-place finish out of it. That’s a part of it and that’s building. There’s not one area, but it’s just trying to get better every weekend.”
Not falling behind: “We’re improving every weekend,” Allmendinger said. “Crew chief Randall Burnett and competition director Ernie Cope - the guys leading the team - are constantly trying to make these cars better each weekend. The last couple of years about this time I felt like we would start to fall a little bit behind being a small race team. I don’t see that happening this year. It’s going well.”
Making it count: “I’d love to win," Allmendinger said. "That’s something that would be very special and we are working hard every weekend. We’ve got two road course races coming up. Martinsville (Speedway) we were really close. I think when we hit it on the right ovals we have a chance to go win. 2014 was cool because we got to be a part of the Chase and I had never been a part of it in my career. I think it is more rewarding by being there every weekend. Throughout the Chase, part of me felt like I didn’t totally belong there. We were a 22nd, 23rd place team. We got in the Chase and we had good runs. We had a chance at a top 10 in the final 10 races to finish in points; finished 13th. In the end, I never felt like we were consistent and fast enough to be a part of that group every weekend. So, to be inside the top 16 and that’s how we made it, that would be special. However, I’ll take any way, beggars can’t be choosers.”
Relieving the pressure: "I know my capability on road courses and I know the capability of this race team on road courses" Allmendinger said. "The last two years going into both of those races (Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International), a win was it. If we won, that was all that mattered because a second-place finish wasn’t going to do anything for us in points. That’s what I look at. If we can have a strong stretch going into Sonoma, and I mean yeah, we want to win because if you win then you are in, but to make it to where you finish second or third and it’s not a disappointment because that’s big points. You know the last couple of years, we’ve had to win and anything else was going to be a huge disappointment. I look at the stretches like the Poconos (Pocono Raceway) and the Michigans (Michigan International Speedway), Charlotte the Coca-Cola 600, they are important, but let’s be honest every race is important.”
Career Starts: 275
Pole Awards: 4
First Start: 3/25/2007 Bristol
First Pole: 4/10/2010 Phoenix
Last Pole: 8/8/15 Watkins Glen
Best Start: 1 - 4/10/2010 Phoenix
Best Finish: 1 - 8/10/2014 Watkins Glen
Driver DOB: 12/16/1981
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Crew Chief: Randall Burnett
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Wednesday, May 25th
5:30 to 6:30 PM AJ Allmendinger Autograph Session at Harris Teeter
Address: 12190 University City Boulevard, Harrisburg, N.C.