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.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”