By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
For the first time since Homestead in 2018, A.J. Allmendinger will make a NASCAR Cup Series appearance. Kaulig Racing announced Thursday morning that he’ll drive the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE in the Daytona International Speedway Road Course February 21.
Allmendinger, who’ll run for the Xfinity Series championship this season, is pumped up to compete for the Matt Kaulig and Chris Rice led entity in the sport’s highest level.
“I am really looking forward to racing in the Cup Series once again, but more importantly, I am pumped to be racing in the Cup Series for Kaulig Racing,” said Allmendinger. “I keep wanting to help Kaulig Racing grow as much as possible, and the next step is racing in some Cup races with them. Daytona is a prestigious race track to compete at, whether you are on the oval or road course, so this is a great place for Kaulig Racing’s first non-superspeedway Cup race.”
Allmendinger is obviously no stranger to road racing success as his prior claim to fame was his superb Champ Car career, highlighted with five wins in 2006 before making the jump to NASCAR. He also won the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona with Michael Shank Racing that was co-driven by Oswaldo Negri, Jr., John Pew and Justin Wilson.
In 12 full Cup seasons, Allmendinger won four poles and scored 11 top-five finishes, with one of them being his memorable victory over Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen in 2014. That lone triumph punched his ticket into what’s now known as the playoffs where he finished 13th in the final points standings.
Since his last Cup start, Allmendinger has been driving for Kaulig Racing in Xfinity on a part-time basis, scoring the last two wins at the Charlotte ROVAL and finally last June, a NASCAR oval victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Due to his success, Team President Chris Rice didn’t have to think twice in finding a driver for the road course which will mark the team’s first race outside the superspeedways.
“Having AJ compete in our very first non-superspeedway Cup race was really a no-brainer for us,” said Rice. “Kaulig Racing is honored to be able to be get AJ back into the Cup Series for the first time since his retirement. I think he will pick right back up where he left off as a road course ace.”
Originally, the race following the 63rd Daytona 500, in which Kaz Grala hopes to make the 40-car field, was meant to be held at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
However, the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic changed the schedule following the cancellation of the Auto Club 400 at Fontana. Therefore, the Cup Series added the 3.56-mile road course and moved Homestead as the third race which gave the team a shot of having Allmendinger aboard.