Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty seek better consistency, leadership in 2015

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For the first time in four years, AJ Allmendinger is coming into the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with a carryover from the previous season, and is brimming with newfound confidence.

The 2011 season marked his third and last with Richard Petty Motorsports, but since then it’s been something of a career odyssey and transformation for the 33-year-old from Los Gatos, Calif.

Allmendinger’s opportunity with Team Penske in 2012 went away midseason after a failed drug test. The following year Penske kept faith in him to run a selected IndyCar schedule, while also participating in select Sprint Cup races.

While he was named to the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet full-time in 2014, it came after the roller coaster two seasons before that.

As he enters this season, he armed with the same program year-on-year and the majority of the crew intact, Allmendinger is poised to build on what he and the No. 47 team did a year ago. Even though they won a race and made the Chase, Allmendinger said they were a 20th-22nd place team masquerading as a top-15 team.

“I look at last season two ways,” Allmendinger said during NASCAR media tour. “Winning was enormous. That provided so much confidence for the race team.

“But we weren’t as consistent as we wanted to be. We fell behind and that’s when it really hurt us where we were at. We never got the momentum going. The win helped, but it wasn’t until the last seven races we got to where we wanted to be.

“The new rules will be a guess package. But we’re so much further ahead as a race team. These first seven-eight races can really dictate our season. We’ll be ready to go.”

The “ready to go” line indicates a single-car team that is more prepared, and less behind, than it was at this point 12 months ago.

JTG Daugherty formed a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, and the open book, exchange of information serves as a benefit for both parties.

This year though, Allmendinger wants to be beating RCR’s full-time trio on a regular basis. He didn’t indicate that as a slight, but meant that if RCR technical partner teams were on a same, close-to-championship-level caliber, it would help both organizations.

“It’s big to go into the second year together,” he said. “We were always sharing information. But RCR itself was figuring out what direction to go. When they had four cars, it was all different setups, and we still had to pick and choose and figure out what I wanted. (Ryan Newman) making a championship run helped make us all better together.

“We still want to beat everybody. I’d be dumb to say we don’t want to beat the RCR cars. As the 47 team… it’s my goal is to say we’re the best RCR car every weekend. I don’t want a one-sided relationship to be picking from them, and they don’t need anything from us.

“If we’re beating them, we’re doing something right and learning from us. We have to work together to beat those teams.”

Allmendinger also challenged both himself and crew chief Brian Burns, who signed a two-year contract extension during the offseason, to be better leaders.

“Brian is a relatively new crew chief,” Allmendinger explained. “He took over the end of 2012, when Todd Berrier left. The team was really just trying to get itself together. We were never on equal footing.

“So last year for Brian and I to work together, now we have to be better. We have to be better team leaders. Our relationship has developed. For him to get a new two-year deal, now he has the confidence for the leadership. He’s the man at the shop for all the guys. We have to work well together to take team to another level.”

Burns echoed the sentiment.

“I believe its better to be part of an alliance than have a four-car team in our shop,” he said. “They treat us like a teammate. We go up to their meetings during the week. Can walk right up to each person.

“I feel this year we’re way ahead of the ball. I’m happy with the direction we’ve taken. We’re feeding off a well-organized group that is set in stone.”

Lastly for Allmendinger, who is already beginning his ninth season in Sprint Cup this year, having the stigma of being a “winless driver” is now erased thanks to his own confidence-boosting, popular win at Watkins Glen last year.

“I’ve always looked at this sport and it’s really weird,” he said. “You can run up front, but if you don’t have a win you’re looked at differently. But get the one win, and your name is talked about so differently.

“It’s a strange thing. Just one win, and suddenly your name isn’t in that topic of ‘he’ll never win.’

“We’re a family and we’ve won a race now. I think we can win more, and we’ve gotten better in the offseason.”

Supercross: Tomac, Roczen square off in Arlington; Webb gives chase

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The Monster Energy Supercross championship battle remains tight after Eli Tomac took the lead from Ken Roczen just last week at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Now the series heads to Arlington, Texas, and the AT&T Stadium for Round 8. (Watch on NBCSN or stream live.)

Tomac’s third win of the 2020 season and Roczen’s third-place finish at Tampa gives Tomac a four-point advantage in what is essentially a wide-open title fight with three races on tap in Arlington.

And while it is still much too early to call this a two-man battle, Cooper Webb is 11 points back with Justin Barcia 20 points out and Adam Cianciarulo 27 points in arrears – and all three cannot afford to lose any ground this week.

Tomac has the momentum. He allowed the field to get a jump after finishing seventh at Anaheim in the season opener, but finished fourth or better in the remaining events.

Roczen also got off to a slow start in Anaheim 1 with a sixth-place finish. He seemed to have a firm grasp on the red plate with four consecutive podium finishes until he slipped to sixth for a second time at San Diego.

Webb is coming into his own with three consecutive podiums in the last three events. If not for a 12th at St. Louis, he would be in immediate contention for the red plate.

This week is the second Triple Crown race of the season and Roczen hopes he has the same success as he did at Glendale. He won all three Mains that weekend and easily walked away with the overall victory. Tomac finished 2-2-3 for second overall. It is going to be imperative that a rider takes the early lead.

Blake Baggett qualified for last week’s Main, but chose to sit it out after experiencing sever muscle spasms. He will ride in Arlington.

Henry Miller will return to riding at Arlington after breaking a scapula in Australia.

Subscribe to the Supercross Pass for complete qualification and race coverage of the 2020 season.

For the third time in his career, Shane McElrath started the season with a victory. He won the season-opener in 2017 and 2018 in the West division at Anaheim, but failed to lock down a 250 title. His seventh career win moved him to 25th on the chart, however, with Travis Pastrana, Trey Canard, and a host of others.

Chase Sexton got his title hunt off to a strong start last week as well. He finished second to earn his 10th podium in 19 starts, but he will be hungry for a win. Despite the fact that he won last year’s 250 West championship, he has only one race victory to his credit.

Last week, Jeremy Martin looked like he had not been off his bike for more than a year. Returning from a 2018 injury, Martin snagged a podium finish in his first race back.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold
Race: 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac beat Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen in the 450 class.
Shane McElrath beat Chase Sexton and Jeremy Martin in the 250 class.

Last Dallas race (February, 2019):

Cooper Webb beat Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner beat Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton in the 250 class.

Points Leaders

450s:
Eli Tomac (155)
Ken Roczen (151)
Cooper Webb (144)
Justin Barcia (135)
Adam Cianciarulo (128)

250 West:
Dylan Ferrandis (135)
Justin Cooper (128)
Austin Forkner (122)
Brandon Hartranft (110)
Alex Martin (98)

250 East:
Shane McElrath (26)
Chase Sexton (23)
Jeremy Martin (21)
Garrett Marchbanks (19)
Jordon Smith (18)

Wins

450

(3) Eli Tomac (Anaheim 2, Oakland and Tampa)
(2) Ken Roczen (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Barcia (Anaheim 1)
(1) Cooper Webb (San Diego)

250 West

(3) Dylan Ferrandis (Anaheim 2, Oakland, and San Diego)
(2) Austin Forkner (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Cooper (Anaheim 1)

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath (Tampa)

Top-5s

450

(6) Eli Tomac
(6) Cooper Webb
(5) Jason Anderson
(5) Ken Roczen
(5) Justin Barcia
(3) Adam Cianciarulo
(2) Zach Osborne
(2) Blake Baggett
(1) Justin Hill

250 West

(5) Dylan Ferrandis
(5) Austin Forkner
(5) Justin Cooper
(4) Michael Mosiman
(4) Brandon Hartranft
(3) Alex Martin
(1) Christian Craig
(1) Jett Lawrence
(1) Jacob Hayes
(1) Luke Clout

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath
(1) Chase Sexton
(1) Jeremy Martin
(1) Garrett Marchbanks
(1) Jordon Smith

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