Just past halfway in the 2013 season, the JTG Daugherty team made a very un-popular decision. They decided to sit Bobby Labonte out of the car for a few races and place a different driver in the car to help assess why the team was struggling to finish in the top-20.
Many fans voiced their dis-pleasure at the removal of the former series champion. Social media lit up with complaints that the team was not being loyal to their driver. One major factor in that dis-pleasure, was that it would end Labonte’s start streak which stood at 704, only one behind the series record held by Jeff Gordon.
Team owner, Brad Daugherty, stood by his decision. He explained that the move was for only a handful of races and that other than those races, Labonte would still be in the car at least until the end of the year. He made it very clear that his goal was to finish in the top-20 on a consistent basis and they would make whatever changes were needed to accomplish that goal.
Allmendinger instantly improved the team’s stats. He finished 19th in his first start with the team at Michigan. He followed that up with a 22nd place finish two weeks later at Kentucky. His success with the team did not stop there. He ended the season scoring five top-20 finishes in nine starts. A results that impressed, not only the team, but the fans and media as well. During the off season, it came as no surprise that Allmendinger was named as the full time driver for the No. 47 in 2014.
Allmendinger has continued the solid runs with the team this season. In the first six races, Allmendinger has scored four top-20 starts and four top-20 finishes, including an impressive run in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway this weekend where he finished eleventh, just shy of his season best eighth place finish last week in Fontana. Allmendinger commented about the team’s improvement after his run at Martinsville saying, “We’re getting there. You know, I feel like we’ve been decent all year, we’ve had fast cars. But overall, you know we’re getting there, I felt really good there were times today I thought we could go take the lead, we just had some struggles, it wasn’t on pit road so much but the bucking down pit road, I would lose a couple of spots each time, but we’re fighting hard, eleventh is actually a little disappointing, so if you can say that at Martinsville, that’s a good day.”
Brad Daugherty stood his ground against the outcry of fans because he knew he needed to make changes to improve his race team. It seems those changes have paid off.