And now, for A.J. Allmendinger’s next trick …

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Fresh off his first career NASCAR win (in any series) Saturday in the Nationwide Series at Road America, A.J. Allmendinger will be back behind the wheel of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Toyota next Sunday (June 30) in the Sprint Cup race at Kentucky, part of a fill-in deal designed to get a different perspective and input from another driver to improve the performance and consistency of the car in addition to that from regular JTG driver Bobby Labonte.

In essence, call it JTG getting a second opinion from Allmendinger.

The Kentucky race will be the second of five races with JTG for Allmendinger. He finished 19th last week at Michigan in his first stint with JTG, the team’s best finish since a 19th-place showing at Richmond in April. Allmendinger will also sub for Labonte at Watkins Glen in August, with the other two race venues to be announced.

Allmendinger  will also race in the Nationwide Series for Penske Racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 17.

“We’re going to try and get another one,” Allmendinger said after Saturday’s win.

Labonte qualified 20th for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway while Allmendinger is still reveling in the afterglow of his breakthrough win. He will drive all three Cup races in July: Daytona, New Hampshire and Indianapolis.

 

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.