Los Gatos, California native A.J. Allmendinger missed the trip to Sonoma Raceway as he didn’t have a full Sprint Cup Series ride last season.
“I missed being here,” Allmendinger admitted. “Being a home race for me, it is nice to see my family, and some friends and all that. But it is one of those things that you have to split up between doing your job, and then seeing all your friends and kind of hanging out and catching up.”
However while he wasn’t at Sonoma, he was at Road America running the Nationwide Series event, in which he won to help Team Penske towards their owner’s championship. As a result, there are a lot of fingers pointing Allmendinger’s way as a chance to be the race winner on Sunday. Allmendinger admits that it’s a good opportunity, but is trying to keep the pressure off by taking the weekend one step at a time.
Allmendinger adds that it will be tough to win as while days before you’d only see five to eight guys with a shot, there are now a lot more drivers that have a legitimate shot to win.
“Now it is so deep and everybody has gotten so good at road course racing in general,” Allmendinger commented. “We tested here for two days, which was big because I felt like what we started here with at the test, we would have been way off if we had come back and hadn’t tested. It was a good two-day test. I don’t want to walk into this weekend saying ‘If we don’t win this race, then it is a disappointment’. We just need to have a solid weekend, and if we can run inside the top-10, good. And, if we can be inside the top-five and have a shot to win it, then it’s a great weekend. That is how I look at it.”
If Allmendinger is able to reach victory lane, though, it’ll help solidify the growth that the JTG Daugherty organization has seen since Allmendinger joined them.
“Really proud of this team so far where we have gotten,” he commented. “Excited to announce that Clorox signed up for three more years, so that is good to have that on our race car and to get that solidified. By the end of their contract, I think it will be 20 years that they have been with this race team. Just a great brand to have on this car. Good things going into this weekend and hopefully we can build on that and have a good weekend all together.”
While being a 30th to 33rd place team before, they have grown to now have Allmendinger sitting 21st in points with three top 10s in the first 15 events this year.
“We just have to keep getting better each weekend,” Allmendinger commented. “We’re going to have our ups and downs. We’ve had some great runs this year. We’ve had some runs that you would expect from a single-car team that is trying to build. So, the good thing is our team owner, Tad Geschickter, he is the most patient person, and I’m not. So, I get done and I’m like “we’ve got to fix this’. As he told me when we started this, ‘this isn’t a one-weekend, a one-race, a one-year thing. I’m in this team for a long-term period’. We just have to keep getting stronger together.”