Practice, RCR alliance paying off for A.J. Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty

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A.J. Allmendinger’s consistent work in the first quarter of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship has been gaining notice, especially after he netted his season-best finish of fifth last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

Earlier this morning at Kansas Speedway, ‘Dinger attributed the rise in fortunes for himself and JTG Daugherty Racing partly to them being able to get the most out of their practice time as of late.

“The beginning of the year we had decent cars, but we just never put the weekend together,” said Allmendinger. “We would either struggle really bad on Friday or qualify really bad or make an uphill climb on Sunday or have to really make a lot of big changes going into Sunday and not know really what the car was going to do.

“We sit down and discuss how to maximize the practice sessions, what do we need to do. We are learning with the new rules package, working with [Richard Childress Racing], the whole alliance.

“We are learning our setups about where we need to start to be closer when we start unloading [on] the weekend. It’s just baby steps. That is really what it is.”

Allmendinger also noted the RCR camp’s role in JTG Daugherty’s surge, as RCR holds a technical alliance with the single-car outfit and supplies them with Earnhardt Childress Racing engines.

While Allmendinger says the cars JTG Daugherty is racing right now are actually former RCR cars from last year, they’ve still been very quick. He’s also glad that RCR has very much been “open door” with them.

“They have given us just basically open information, engineering, set-up’s – everything that we need to know what makes the cars fast,” he said.

“It’s been great sharing and hopefully, we are bringing something back to them. That has been my goal is to not just keep taking but hopefully bring something back to where they are learning and we can make everybody as a whole better.

“Richard has been just fantastic. I’ve been part of an alliance before and this is the best I’ve ever seen.”

Allmendinger will be looking to reverse his recent trend at Kansas this weekend. He’s finished 20th or worse in his last five Sprint Cup starts there and his best Kansas finish, a ninth, came in his very first start there in 2008.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.