By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
The competitiveness of AJ Allmendinger and the small JTG/Daugherty Racing team has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. After a 13th-place finish last week at Daytona, Allmendinger found himself 19th in the championship standings, just 16 points from the Chase cutoff. However, Allmendinger’s championship aspirations took a huge beating in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
The night, which eventually spiraled out of control, started with optimism, as Allmendinger lined up from the 19th starting spot.
But after the first couple runs of the night, Allmendinger faded outside of the top-30 with an extremely tight race car. Crew Chief, Randall Burnett would take swings at it all night long, but they just couldn’t get ahead of the tight handling condition. When a huge melee triggered ahead of him on lap 94, Allmendinger had nowhere to go and was swept up in the carnage.
“[All I saw was] Just a lot of crashing. I won’t say we deserved it, but we put ourselves back there. We weren’t very good all night,” a dejected Allmendinger explained. “Randall Burnett and everybody we were trying to figure it out. We just missed it all weekend. I thought we had a really good test here. They changed the tire and it’s our own fault we didn’t figure the tire out as good as other guys did. It’s disappointing this is Kroger’s backyard and having Clorox on the car… yeah; when you race back there things are going to happen. It’s happen for a couple of weeks, two out of the last three or four weeks, and it’s tough. We are working hard. I feel like we are not getting a lot in return. We are making our own mistakes. I didn’t do a good job, but put us back there and it’s not any fun anymore.”
Allmendinger’s team would thrash to repair his No. 47 Chevrolet SS. Allmendinger would return to the race on lap 161 to try to regain precious championship points.
However, as Allmendinger was on track logging laps he had an issue and cut a tire and crashed hard again. This time the impact was severe enough to end his night. After a lengthy trip to the infield care center, Allmendinger emerged with a wrapped up wrist. Getting back on track to get more points could prove to be the worst decision of the season for the race team depending on how the x-rays come back this week for Allmendinger.
Regardless, after a rough night in Kentucky, it’s looking more and more like Allmendinger’s championship hopes will now rest on a win at Watkins Glen in a few weeks. With eight races remaining until the Chase, Allmendinger sits 20th in points, 41 points behind the cutoff.