NASCAR: AJ Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty team making strides last few weeks

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Chances are you haven’t noticed much, but one of the surprise and better stories the last several weeks from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage is the progression of AJ Allmendinger and the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet team.

This time last year, Allmendinger was ramping up for his Indianapolis 500 debut in a third Team Penske Chevrolet. He’d driven in two Verizon IndyCar Series races prior to that and had also made several starts for James Finch’s Phoenix Racing team, which is now HScott Motorsports.

Towards the end of the year, the brief open-wheel dalliance ran its course – Allmendinger started only the IndyCar season finale after a nightmare weekend at Roger Penske’s promoted race in Detroit when he crashed out on the first lap in both races.

His NASCAR presence intensified, with a higher volume of starts coming for both Finch and in the No. 47 car, which he now drives full-time. In total, Allmendinger started 18 of 36 Cup races last year, nine apiece with the two teams, and posted a 10th place finish at Watkins Glen for JTG as his best.

The No. 47 team, now running Chevrolets and with ECR engines after switching from Toyotas over the winter, has been a quiet surprise the last several weeks.

In 10 races this year, Allmendinger has not finished worse than 26th. In the last six races, Allmendinger has five top-15 finishes, and three top-10s; the best of which was a fifth he just posted this past Sunday in Talladega. He now sits 15th in points, only 18 out of the top 10.

“Heck, I just wanted to finish this race because I haven’t finished much here,” Allmendinger said in the team’s post-race release. “I was close to two of the wrecks. I was coming to the checkered flag thinking, ‘Please, let’s just roll this thing back up on the hauler with all four tires rolling.’

“It’s just a testament to this team. They work hard and all the credit goes to my guys. We only have about 35 employees and they keep busting their butts. Tad Geschickter his wife Jodi and Brad Daugherty have such a great ownership and it’s a lot of fun. They make me feel like family. This whole team is like family. This is probably the best team I have driven for when it comes to the unity of the team making me feel important.”

It’s not something to overlook, the progress of a motivated driver on a single car team looking to overachieve. Kurt Busch’s efforts for Furniture Row Racing were among the great stories of 2013.

Now, the guy who replaced Busch at Penske, and is now going through his own rebirth, is starting to write the chapters of his own great story.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.