AJ Allmendinger hoping for quick change of fortune: 'We don't have the speed right now'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
AJ Allmendinger hoping for quick change of fortune: 'We don't have the speed right now'
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

By the naked eye, it would appear AJ Allmendinger is having a stellar season in the Xfinity Series this year. Unfortunately, that‘s not how Kaulig Racing views its teams‘ stats.

Through the opening 17 races of the season, Allmendinger has a pair of wins on road courses at Circuit of The Americas and Portland. He also has a total of 15 top 10s, three more than his closest competitor. And the first 12 of those kicked off the season in consecutive races, tying him for the third-longest streak to begin a season in series history, only behind Sam Ard in 1984 (23) and Regan Smith in 2014 (13).

But the raw speed from a season ago, when he tallied 18 top-five efforts, is missing.

MORE: New Hampshire entry list | Full Xfinity Series schedule

“I‘m just trying to be smart knowing we don‘t have the speed right now and getting the most we can out of each race,” Allmendinger told NASCAR.com at Road America.

Allmendinger credits the company‘s constant grind for being the reason why he‘s still leading the championship standings. Case in point — at Atlanta last weekend, the No. 16 team made an unscheduled pit stop during the second stage and went two laps down, only to sneak out a top 10. In the process, he gained 20 points on Ty Gibbs, who wrecked out earlier in the race.

Since winning at COTA, Allmendinger has been the points leader. That lead grew to as many as 44 markers on the field after Texas and shrunk down to nine entering last weekend‘s race at Atlanta.

“I think us maximizing everything, I would give it an A,” Allmendinger said. “We haven‘t let points slip away at any race that we‘ve been at besides Nashville. But from where we‘re at on speed, it‘s not very good.”

While Allmendinger has made the most of his season, his teammates Daniel Hemric and Landon Cassill are on the second half of the playoff grid. Collectively, all three teams are behind, as Hemric has just two top fives (he picked up his first top five since March at Atlanta last weekend) while Cassill has tallied three.

The unfortunate part for Kaulig is … it’s not certain what the exact issue is. Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing, said he began seeing the team lose speed last summer, but didn‘t want to change much internally because the team was still battling for victories regularly.

“It‘s been frustrating because we can‘t find that one thing that sticks out,” Rice said. “We do everything the same: We have great crew chiefs and have done a lot of stuff to be able to find the speed. It‘s frustrating to be like, ‘Alright, where‘s it at?‘”

Compared to Darlington two months ago, when at one point late in the race Hemric was struggling to stay inside the top 30 (but did make a strategy call late to salvage a top 10), Rice dialed into Allmendinger‘s radio and vowed to turn the program around before the playoffs. Over the last six races, Rice says the team is seeing improvements, bringing new chassis to Nashville that were quick off the hauler.

Rice stands by his comments to Allmendinger in May, believing the team is heading in the right direction, despite admitting the team‘s road course program has fallen behind.

“We‘ve made gains, but they‘ve been so small and incremental that you can‘t see them,” Rice said. “We‘ve got to get to where we have big gains. I think by the time we get to the playoffs, we will put all the small gains together and hopefully have [our cars] ready to be able to show the big speed.”

With the addition of two full-time Cup Series teams, Kaulig hired roughly 62 new employees since last year. Some could argue that having two additional teams has overworked Kaulig‘s employees. Rice says that‘s not the case necessarily, though does admit he hired the new employees late and the team is running thin.

“We‘re building our program with great people and our Xfinity program is going to continuously get better,” he said. “We‘re not going to let it sit stale.”

With nine races remaining in the regular season, Allmendinger‘s sole focus is having faster cars for the playoffs. Though having 15 additional playoff points by winning the regular-season championship would be nice, he isn‘t concerned with winning his second straight such crown.

“If we‘re being brutally honest, I could give a [expletive] about the points,” Allmendinger said. “If we were 10th in points but we were really fast every weekend, I would be happier than leading the points and doing what we‘re doing. It‘s nice to be the points leader, but we all know that if we had to go to Phoenix tomorrow and race for the championship, we would need a whole lot of luck to win.”