In a rather surprising move, former Penske Racing driver A.J Allmendinger has run into another on-track dilemma, this time in his move from Phoenix Racing to JTG-Daugherty Racing. So, what exactly does this mean for the rather high-profile driver’s future in The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series?
For starters, it means that Allmendinger will be transitioning into a new role he has never had to deal with in his long career. Remember, Allmendinger is a veteran in the series, having raced on large scales since 2004, and in NASCAR since 2007. While he was always blisteringly fast on track, there is no doubt that Allmendinger’s success has been fostered and coddled by Roger Penske over the past few years.
Now, having moved on from Penske and James Finch’s Phoenix Racing operation, Allmendinger has found himself removed from the top, or even the middle, of the pack and in uncharted territory. JTG-Daugherty Racing is a single car operation that would be hemorrhaging if not for its ability to find sponsorship. This team, and in turn the relationship they share with their sponsors, is completely dependent on keeping equipment together and finding consistency through attrition.
A.J Allmendinger needs to tone it down. In Roger Penske’s IndyCar he crashed twice on the first lap in last week’s Dual in Detroit. The driver he is replacing, Bobby Labonte, crashed once all of last year. In 2012 and 2013 the team has had only four DNF’s, with three of those coming from TRIAD engine failures.
While it is true Bobby Labonte’s career is coming to an end, the 2000 champion isn’t far behind Allmendinger in major statistical categories. (Labonte finished 2012 23rd in points, Allmendinger was 23rd in points when he was dropped by Penske) No longer does Allmendinger have the luxury of top-notch equipment. Allmendinger now resides in a place where every DNF has a substantial impact on a single car team.
For Allmendinger to move on up and strive in NASCAR, he must now overachieve in inferior equipment. No longer can he afford to push the envelope, and he must finish every lap that he can. A string of top-twenty finishes would certainly boost Allmendinger’s confidence, and help him find some stability for 2014.
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