AJ Allmendinger adopts a brand new mindset in full-time return of the NASCAR Cup Collection

The final time AJ Allmendinger raced full-time within the NASCAR Cup Collection, he regarded depressing.

It was not working properly. Any potential for a great profession appeared fleeting. And the routine appeared to only put on him down.

When he stopped racing full-time within the Cup Collection, few would have thought he would return to inventory automotive racing full-time.

However then he raced part-time in 2019 and 2020 within the Xfinity Collection for Kaulig Racing, which satisfied him to enter Xfinity racing full-time.

With lots of his Sundays off, Allmendinger appeared to have discovered a footing by which he appeared optimistic. Successful races definitely helped.

Subsequent yr? It is again to Cup racing full-time for the 41-year-old.

And there comes the problem past simply making an attempt to win Cup races: avoiding being depressing whereas making an attempt to elevate a Kaulig Racing group in its second Cup season to the purpose the place it may well persistently struggle for wins.

AJ Allmendinger on driving for Kaulig in 2023

AJ Allmendinger on driving for Kaulig in 2023

The final time AJ Allmendinger was a full-time Cup driver, he appeared to hate it. Bob Pockrass requested him how he’ll keep away from feeling that manner once more when he takes over the No. 16 automotive full-time at Kaulig Racing.

Allmendinger laughs on the query, “How are you going to cease hating life?”

“The largest factor for me is that I’m fully completely different the place I’m in life,” Allmendinger mentioned. “The fervour that I’ve and the will to win might be better than earlier than as a result of I see … the potential that’s there.

“However after all, I am not going to sit down right here and mislead myself or anybody. There’ll nonetheless be ups and downs the place I get annoyed.”

The purpose is that it’s probably no laughing matter for the opposition. Allmendinger ran practically half of the Cup schedule this yr and had eight top-10 finishes in his final 13 begins. And whereas it could possibly be argued that he largely raced on his greatest tracks, he ranked eleventh in factors scored within the final 5 races of the yr at quite a lot of tracks.

It is truthful to say that 2023 could possibly be his greatest likelihood to behave since 2013, the yr he began at Penske.

Allmendinger’s profession is kind of exceptional since that Penske break. Fired after failing a drug check for which he mentioned he was unknowingly taking an Adderall capsule given to him by a pal, Allmendinger bounced again by driving for Penske in choose Xfinity and IndyCar races, in addition to Phoenix Racing in Cup. .

He constructed on that in a five-year stint at JTG Daugherty Racing, the place he received his first profession Cup race in his first season there in 2014.

Allmendinger did not win one other Cup race till 2021, when he captured the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a part of a halftime effort by Kaulig.

“I’m who I’m,” Allmendinger mentioned. “I am not going to vary. It is about profitable. That is what my life has been about, or at the least being in my prime.”

The distinction is that Allmendinger now is aware of he can win persistently in a inventory automotive. He has received 13 Xfinity races within the final 4 years, together with 10 within the final two seasons.

AJ Allmendinger wins at Charlotte Roval

In October, AJ Allmendinger late passed Ty Gibbs to win at the Charlotte Roval in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

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That makes him believe that he can win again. The Cup Series not only has six road courses on the schedule (Allmendinger has always been strong on road courses thanks to his roots in single-seater racing), but he’s seen what Kaulig can do in Cup.

Justin Haley finished 22nd in the standings as a rookie this year, setting the stage for a competitive two-car operation in 2023.

“What really helped me make the decision to want to do this is that at places like Dover we ran quite well, at Bristol we were quite fast,” Allmendinger said.

“Except for the beginning of the year…we’ve had competitive speed. We just have to keep getting better.”

The new Next Gen car is something that seems to fit into Allmendinger’s wheelhouse, and he has enjoyed racing it. Other than that, he’s just having fun with the team owned by Ohio businessman Matt Kaulig and operated on a day-to-day basis by NASCAR veteran Chris Rice.

“It really comes down to Matt and Chris: I’m spending more time with them, keeping the fun away from the race track,” Allmendinger said.

“I’m a lot more comfortable with myself now and what I can accomplish because I was able to accomplish those things in the Xfinity Series. The whole mindset is a little bit different.”

Allmendinger says that while there will be times when he’s angry, he doesn’t expect it to dominate his mood.

“I promise you, I never would have thought about doing this if I really felt like I could go the same way and feel like the same person that I was in the past,” Allmendinger said.

Thinking out loud

Much was made of second chances for Ryan Preece this week, but another second chance went a little under the radar.

It’s the second chance for crew chief Chris Gayle, who worked with Erik Jones for a few years before Joe Gibbs Racing opted to pair Jones with someone else.

Gayle was assigned to Ty Gibbs for the past two years and spent her time as a crew chief at Xfinity. Gayle wanted to be a Cup crew chief and bet on himself to perform with Gibbs and work that way to return to the Cup garage instead of leaving the organization.

Working with a young driver is never easy, and Gayle’s track record with Gibbs is strong. It will be interesting to see what he does with his second chance on top of a pit box for JGR.

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Stat of the day

The average age of the four finalists in the Cup championship was 29 years, three months and 19 days. That was the youngest since the format began in 2014.

they said it

“This is just the beginning. If it all ends today, that’s okay. Really, if I can never race a car again, that’s okay. It was all worth it and I’m really happy.” —Ross Chastain after finishing second in the Cup championship

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500, with stints on ESPN, Sporting News, the NASCAR Scene Magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand enroll within the FOX Sports activities NASCAR Publication with Bob Pockrass.


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