Allmendinger to return to Sprint Cup full-time in 2014

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A.J. Allmendinger will be back full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next season as driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing machine.

Allmendinger, who was suspended and then released from his full-time ride with Penske Racing last summer following a failed drug test, has been working hard toward a second chance.

In addition to running nine Cup races this year with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing, he returned to driving for the Penske organization – making five IZOD IndyCar Series starts (including his debut at the Indianapolis 500) and winning two NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Road America and Mid-Ohio.

Now, he’s ready to make the most of an opportunity that he thought may never arrive more than a year ago.

“It was a muddy, cloudy picture – I didn’t know what was going to happen then,” Allmendinger said today at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “This year, there’s been so many things that have happened that I would’ve never expected.”

This weekend, Allmendinger is doing the fourth race in a six-race run with JTG Daugherty, whose normal driver, Bobby Labonte, is currently recovering after breaking three ribs in a cycling accident this week.

In addition to the matter of when Labonte will be back in the No. 47, the team also has the question of which manufacturer it will choose to align with next year. Team co-owner Brad Daugherty said that JTG Daugherty will finish out 2013 with Toyota.

But no matter if he’s driving a Camry or something else, Allmendinger feels that he’s now playing with “house money” after what he’s been through.

“It’s been a long journey over the last 12 months, but in a strange way, I would never change it,” he said. “The place that I’m at now as a person – I feel so much better about it.

“I know there’s still a lot of hard work ahead of me to try and get where I want to be in this sport, and to get where we want to be as a race team in this sport. But it’s just a great feeling to be back…I didn’t feel like I would be back here.”

Ticktum takes dramatic Macau GP win as leaders crash on last lap

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British youngster Dan Ticktum took a dramatic victory in the 64th Macau Grand Prix on Sunday after the leading two cars crashed out at the final corner on the last lap of the race.

In an incident-packed race that saw front-row starters Joel Eriksson and Callum Ilott clash early on amid a litany of Full Course Yellows, Brazilian racer Sergio Sette Camara was able to move into the lead ahead of Ferdinand Habsburg and Maximilian Günther.

Günther’s pace dropped off in the closing stages as he struggled to keep his tires alive, causing a train of cars to form up behind him including McLaren youngster Lando Norris and the Red Bull-backed Ticktum.

Ticktum pulled off a brilliant double-pass on Norris and Günther around the outside of Lisboa to move up to third, with Sette Camara and Habsburg dueling for position right the way to the finish.

Habsburg attempted a brave pass around the outside of the Mandarin kink, but was forced to wait until the penultimate straight before he got a tow and was able to pass for the lead.

Drama then struck when both Habsburg and Sette Camara ran wide and crashed into the wall exiting the final fast right-hander by their own accord, paving the way for Ticktum to charge through to victory.

Norris and Ralf Aron benefited from the crashes to score second and third place respectively, while Habsburg was able to get to the checkered flag in fourth on three wheels.