Chase Capsules: AJ Allmendinger

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47-AJ Allmendinger
Team: JTG Daugherty Racing
Crew Chief: Brian Burns
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Best Finish: 15th (2011)
Inaugural Chase Appearance
Regular Season Recap: Allmendinger started the year respectably with three top-10s and no finish worse than 26th in the first 10 races, and ranked 15th in the points. Then for the next 11 races, the No. 47 team didn’t finish better than 18th. Still, Allmendinger knew he had a Chase opportunity if he won at Watkins Glen and seized the moment in a thrilling bout with Marcos Ambrose. Allmendinger’s win is the payoff for seven years of trying, and back-to-back top-15 results following the win are proof they could possibly play spoiler in the early Chase races.

Chris’ Take: To advance from the Challenger Round would be a feather in the cap for ‘Dinger and JTG Daugherty, but that may be too tall a task against this field. Getting a good start at Chicagoland will be critical, but like Almirola, he’s not been strong on the intermediate ovals this season. Nonetheless, you can bet that everyone in the 47 squad will be enjoying their time in the spotlight this fall as Chase contenders.

Jerry’s Take: Much like Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger has the chance to be this year’s Chase Cinderella. His emotional win at Watkins Glen – and the determination he displayed in that last-lap duel with Marcos Ambrose – showed Allmendinger has the talent and the moxie to go head-to-head with every driver in the Chase. And while most of his competitors will be focusing on the biggest names in the Chase, Allmendinger (like Almirola) has a chance to sneak past the first couple of rounds. Unfortunately, the buck will stop for him by the third round and, as much as we’d love to see the Cinderella story continue all the way to Homestead, it’s going to be very difficult for a one-car team to go that far, no matter who the driver is.

Tony’s Take: Like Aric Almirola (same initials), Allmendinger isn’t going to be a threat to win the Chase barring an unlikely sequence of events. However, he’s had his moments at Martinsville, Charlotte and Talladega in the past to where if he advances through the Challenger Round to the Contender Round, he could upset the apple cart results-wise in those races. Like Kurt Busch a year ago, Allmendinger’s done well to make the Chase in a single-car team, and anything he achieves from here will be a bonus.

AJ Allmendinger’s Career Statistics at Chase Tracks
Chicagoland (1.5 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, no Top-10s in 5 starts
New Hampshire (1 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 1 Top-10 in 11 starts
Dover (1 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 3 Top-10 in 13 starts
Kansas (1.5 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 2 Top-10s in 9 starts
Charlotte (1.5 mile) – No wins, 1 Top-5, 2 Top-10s in 13 starts
Talladega (2.66 mile) – No wins, 1 Top-5, 1 Top-10 in 9 starts
Martinsville (half-mile) – No wins, 1 Top-5, 2 Top-10s in 12 starts
Texas (1.5-mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 2 Top-10s in 11 starts
Phoenix (1 mile) – No wins, no Top-5s, 2 Top-10s in 10 starts
Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) – No wins, 1 Top-5, 2 Top-10s in 5 starts

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”