Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Event: Oral-B USA 500
Race Date / Time: Sunday, August 31st / 7:30 PM ET
TV / Radio: ESPN / PRN / SiriusXM
Atlanta Motor Speedway: "I don’t want to make it so important that we go to Atlanta Motor Speedway all stressed out," AJ Allmendinger said. "Atlanta is definitely important because it is the last race at a mile-and-a-half before we go to Chicagoland Speedway and kick off the Chase. So, I think there is some stuff we can learn. I have always liked Atlanta. It’s probably been my favorite mile-and-a-half track over my career. I like that it is kind of old school. It’s slick and you slide around. I really do enjoy the track and it’s important to us to do well there. I feel like we gained some momentum from Michigan (International Speedway) and Pocono (Raceway) and we learned some things. Hopefully, it carries over to the mile-and-a-half tracks. We have got the test next week at Charlotte (Motor Speedway). Maybe there are some things we can learn at Atlanta that we can take into the test as well. We know the importance, but it’s the same plan. That plan is just to go there and try to do the best that we can. We will take each session as it comes. I feel like if we do that and keep doing the things we have been doing, we will be competitive and we will have a solid chance."
New sponsor: "We are proud to have Hungry Jack on our No. 47 Chevrolet SS for the first time this season," Allmendinger said. "We're hoping to put on a good show for them Sunday night."
Building confidence: “I’m not going to lie, if we run better at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it’s really going to help us build some confidence going into Chicago,” Allmendinger said.
Realist: “Realistically, we hear a lot from people that really care about us and are supportive,” JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty said. “The reality is nobody thought we were going to win a race. It doesn’t really matter what anybody says or thinks. We talk to our guys back here. These guys know they are busting their behinds and doing the best that they can do. This is a process. This is a great opportunity for us to get our feet wet, see how we react, see where our weaknesses are and see where our strengths are. If we have a good day, we have a good day. We plan on being in a lot of Chases. So, this is a great opportunity for us to go out there and get in with the big boys and see where we are. We know we are going to be out resourced in some areas, in some places by Hendrick (Motorsports) and Penske (Racing)."
Perseverance: “When I was in high school a guy told me one time, 'You are just a little bit too slow to play on the varsity team, but you’ve got good height,'” Daugherty said. “'You keep working and you might have a chance to play high school basketball on the varsity team.' So, I ended up doing that. I was getting ready to graduate and an official told me when I was playing a high school basketball game, 'You are a pretty good player, but if you could jump that much higher you can probably play in the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), but you can play in the Southern Conference.' So, I played in the ACC. Same thing at North Carolina, 'Man you are not quite tough enough and I don’t know if you can play in the NBA. You may not make it, but you are a heck of a college basketball player.' My point is that people tell you all the time you can't do something and if you listen, then you can’t do it. We don’t care about those people. People that care about us, that’s all we need going into this Chase.”
What’s important: “This whole racing thing nowadays is about track position,” Daugherty said. “You have to beat them on pit road and on the restarts. I take my guy - AJ Allmendinger - on the restarts. He could go paycheck to paycheck I don’t care who you are. I would put my guy up against anyone you’ve got. I’m telling you, he’s coming. He may bring the steering wheel back, but that’s fine. I know he’s not scared and our guys back there know that. We are going to show up and put our best foot forward. Richard (Childress) is behind us 100%, so we know we have got that in our back pocket.”
Best foot forward: “We looked at our points fund and what windfall that was by getting in the Chase," JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter. said. "We sat down with AJ, Brad, the crew chief, the engineers and Richard Childress was in here. We talked about, 'Okay, for this extra money where is the best place to put it to put our best foot forward? We have to do it within our means, but we have got a little extra spending so what are we going to do?' Then we really sat down and looked at it one race at a time. 'What do we need to do to qualify better at Chicagoland Speedway and keep the tires with us on a higher grip track? What do we need to improve on our performance from Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) last time where we didn’t get track position and didn’t finish where we wanted to?' We kind of looked at it one race at a time for the first three. Then agreed we will go on and check out the next three. You have to take it one step at a time. That’s really the way we are looking at it.”
Allies: “Our alliance with seven teams, between tire tests and all of us choosing all the tracks we are going to test at, we have good notes,” Geschickter said. “We have the test notes from Austin Dillon doing a tire test at Chicago (Chicagoland Speedway) or Ryan Newman testing Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) earlier this year. We certainly rely on the Richard Childress Racing relationship with those notes and quite honestly doing Charlotte (Motor Speedway) versus Chicagoland allowed us to buy another new car for the Chase too. Everyone voted on here are the biggest things we need to do.”
Translation: “We feel like Michigan International Speedway was one of our best performances of the year and we made a lot of gains on those type of tracks and on our intermediate program,” crew chief Brian Burns said. “A lot of that should translate over to our intermediate baseline package we are going to test at Charlotte Motor Speedway. We look forward to making some improvements on that. We feel very strongly about Atlanta Motor Speedway. It will be our second race with this car and we have a brand new body on it. We have a lot of improvements to it and we are excited about showcasing that at Atlanta. If all goes well, you will see that car in the first round of the Chase also.”
Improving day by day: “I think it’s a matter of each week for us just trying to get better," Allmendinger said. "I thought a couple weeks ago at Michigan International Speedway was actually almost as satisfying as winning at Watkins Glen International. It was just because the mere fact that at the first Michigan race we struggled so bad and then we went back and ran in the top 10 all day. We left with a 13th-place finish, but I thought we were a lot better than that all day. It’s just kind of the same idea of going out there, trying to get better each week whether it was at a place like Bristol last weekend or this week at a 1.5-mile which is important in the Chase.”
Step up game: “Each week, we are trying to step up our game so when we get to Chicagoland Speedway we feel like we are at least competitive and have a shot to go into the Chase and make some noise,” Allmendinger said. “That is just our focus. We don’t really change anything different each week now. It’s the same plan and nothing has changed since Watkins Glen International. I think it’s been pretty cool because with the win and the added little bit of money we can go out there and possibly test, add a couple of resources that we need to get better in the Chase. Things like that are really good. We are just trying to come to the track each week and trying to enjoy it, but stay on the plan and keep working to get better.”
Maximize opportunities: “I think each week, each race track and just being competitive, being in the mix is what is important to us,” Allmendinger said. “Michigan we were inside the top 15, top 10 every practice session. I felt like our speed was good. So it’s really just the same thing. You want to get the best finish possible if there is an opportunity to win you are going to try to win it. In general, it’s just feeling like when we leave the race track at the end of the weekend saying, ‘You know what, we were competitive and we learned some stuff.’ To me, that’s what is important going into the Chase.”
Constant passion: “I’ve documented a lot over the last few weeks,” Allmendinger said. “There were times I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’ve learned in life really you just take every day as it comes. I’ve always been a guy that has tried to plan ahead and look forward with what is happening next instead of what is in the moment. To me that is what it’s about and just enjoying the ride now and having fun. I love this race team. Tad and Jodi Geschickter and Brad Daugherty have made me feel so much like family, like one of their own. It's cool to have Brad on my side because he is a former athlete. It helps in the times of questioning whether it’s my ability or just the things that go around. Just to have someone on my side that has a constant passion when it comes to racing is awesome. It has really helped me out.”
Leadership: “I just really enjoy the team and enjoy the surroundings that I have right now," Allmendinger said. "That was stuff in the past that I probably struggled with a lot. Now, I am looking forward and enjoying the moment. I’ve tried to enjoy the whole process of how we got here. As I said a million times, I’m way better for it over the last couple of years. Just now looking towards the future and knowing that this race team, it's my race team. I feel like I’m one of the leaders of the team and I can walk in the shop where we have the winning banner and it makes me feel special that we did that together. A lot of the guys in the shop - it was either their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win or they have had wins in the past - said that this one meant the most to them because of how hard we have all worked as a group and as a family. That to me is what I enjoy the most. It's about trying to constantly get better every day and figure out what I need to do outside and inside the car whether it’s just life or it’s racing to keep getting better.”
Critical tracks: “With the schedule, 1.5-miles are critical,” Allmendinger said. “I think there are five out of 10 races that is where we have struggled, just the bigger race tracks in general. To me those are the race tracks where those resources are going to help when it comes to aerodynamics and downforce and things like that. Just the little things you do to your race car that make such a big difference around those places. That to me is where our struggles have been. The short tracks we have been pretty good at. The superspeedway racing is kind of the luck of the draw, but I feel like with the ECR horsepower we have been fast at those places."
Satisfaction: “We finished fifth and had a shot to win at Talladega Superspeedway," Allmendinger said. "So it’s really just been the 1.5-miles and the 2.0-mile race tracks we have needed to improve on. That is why Michigan International Speedway was so satisfying a few weeks ago. I felt like that because we had been so bad the first race there. Our guys back at the shop have been tuning on the bodies and it is just the little things to try to make the car better. We showed up to Michigan the first lap on the race track and it was a huge difference. We are able to go test Charlotte just to get some laps and work on some more things. Qualifying right now is kind of where we struggle. We can have good speed in the first group, but we can’t back it up in the second group to make it into the final qualifying session. Starting grid, no matter what race you are at, is critical. It's little things like that where we need to keep getting better.”
AJ Allmendinger has eight starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, two top-10 finishes and has led one lap. His best finish is sixth-place (3/7/10). His average start is 26.000 and his average finish is 14.375.
Career Starts: 215
Pole Awards: 2
First Start: 3/25/2007 Bristol
First Pole: 4/10/2010 Phoenix
Last Pole: 4/22/2012 Kansas
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: Brian Burns
CHASE GRID OUTLOOK:
1.Jeff Gordon 845 (3 wins)
2.Dale Earnhardt Jr. 818 (3)
3.Brad Keselowski 776 (3)
4.Joey Logano 761 (3)
5.Jimmie Johnson 726 (3)
6.Kevin Harvick 721 (2)
7.Carl Edwards 716 (2)
8.Kyle Busch 629 (1)
9.Denny Hamlin 594 (1)
10.AJ Allmendinger 586 (1)
11.Kurt Busch 582 (1)
12.Aric Almirola 559 (1)
13.Matt Kenseth 751 (0)
14.Ryan Newman 710 (0)
15.Clint Bowyer 699 (0)
16.Greg Biffle 694 (0)
FUN ON THE RUN:
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FAN OF THE WEEK:
Last week Trevor Plummer submitted our favorite entry into the #47FanOfTheWeek contest, now we are looking for our next winner.
The person posting our favorite reply will be selected as our #47FanOfTheWeek and will have their photo featured on AJ Allmendinger’s BUSH'S Grillin' Beans car at next weekend’s race at Richmond International Raceway!
Visit the @NASCAR47 Twitter page or JTG Daugherty Racing on Facebook for more details.
AJ'S WHEREABOUTS:Sunday, August 31st
5 PM Sponsor Meet & Greets at 47 Hauler