It’s been a long journey for the guy that brought “sexy” back to NASCAR in 2007 with a newly established Red Bull Racing team. For A.J. Allmendinger, his journey to find a team may have come to an end.
Allmendinger has landed a full-time job with JTG-Daugherty Racing. Starting in 2014, Allmendinger will replace 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte in the seat of the No. 47 Toyota Camry.
In this exclusive four-part interview with Allmendinger, he discusses how his deal with JTG-Daugherty Racing came about, what it’s like to fill in for Labonte as he’s injured, preparing for 2014, who his crew chief will be, how fortunate he is to have worked with James Finch and Roger Penske and more exciting news.
Q: How do you believe you’ll be able to help turn JTG-Daughterty Racing around in 2014?
A: It’s not so much how I can help them, but how we can help each other. It’s a team sport and going back to the first few races (earlier this year), all I can do is go in there and give my best effort everything I have when I’m in the car and when I’m outside of the car.
This race team is a good group. It’s a fun group with a lot of energy. They work really hard. They build really nice cars, it’s a good group and I think over the last couple of years, they’ve had a hard time. People don’t realize that this is a true one-car team that builds their own race cars and use Triad Motors, which only one other team runs (Swan Racing).
They’re doing this all on their own; it’s not another team’s race cars, so it’s been a learning process. Tad Geschickter and Brad Daugherty have had the team around for a while, but they started over again last year and they moved out of the Michael Waltrip Racing shop and starting doing the whole program by themselves.
It’s still a work in progress and I think I can just keep working together with them. And if we can run competitive in the top-15, and maybe on the edge of the top-10 at certain race tracks, then we can have a chance to win some races. There are a lot of positives to it and I’m looking forward to it.”
How difficult was it to set up the contract with the organization?
I think that would be better to ask Tad (the owner) about. We just worked our deal through each other and the biggest part for me was just making it as clear as possible on both ends.
The great thing about this team is they have a lot of great sponsors with Scott Products, Charter, Bush’s Beans, Clorox, and their sponsors have been intact for a long time. With the Bobby (Labonte) thing, that’s all about how Tad went about it. Bobby was involved in everything as he talked to Tad back and forth about what was going to happen.
The first few races had nothing to do with me doing something full-time, it was just to allow me to get in the race car and give them a second opinion, which led to where we are now.
Obviously, this weekend, me being in the car (at Richmond and now at Chicagoland) with Bobby being injured, it’s the only reason I’m in it. If he didn’t get injured in the cycling accident, it would be his race for sure.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.