After proving his talent as a driver in open-wheel racing, AJ Allmendinger is making his mark in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. As the full-time driver of the #47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty, Allmendinger took the checkered flag in the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen on Sunday – his first Sprint Cup victory and a qualifier for the Chase for the Sprint Cup under the current NASCAR rules. Allmendinger was very closely followed by Marcos Ambrose in the #9 Ford, with Kurt Busch (#41 Chevrolet), Kyle Larson (#42 Chevrolet) and Carl Edwards (#99 Ford) in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.
After failing a random drug test in July 2012, resulting in a three-month suspension and the terminating of his contract by Penske Racing, Allmendinger’s NASCAR career looked uncertain. Upon completing the Road to Recovery program in line with NASCAR’s requirements, Allmendinger was reinstated in September 2012 and in October he filled in for Regan Smith at Phoenix Racing, with his first race being at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In the 2013 he drove the #51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing on a limited schedule and competed in some IndyCar Races. Through the rest of the season he drove alternately for JTG Daugherty Racing and Phoenix Racing. In August it was reported that he would be JTG Daugherty’s full time driver in 2014.
There are only four races remaining until the Chase for the Sprint Cup – Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway; Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway; Oral B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway; and Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
The current top ten in the standings are:
Dale Earnhardt Jr (773 points) Hendrik Motorsports
Jeff Gordon (769 points) Hendrick Motorsports
Matt Kenseth (703 points) Joe Gibbs Racing
Brad Keselowski (696 points) Team Penske
Joey Logano (671 points) Team Penske
Carl Edwards (658 points) Roush Fenway Racing
Jimmie Johnson (650 points) Hendrick Motorsports
Kevin Harvick (645 points) Stewart-Haas Racing
Ryan Newman (645 points) Richard Childress Racing
Kyle Larson (635 points) Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
Consisting of Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Richard Petty Motor Sports, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Roush Fenway Racing, the newly formed nonprofit Race Team Alliance (RTA) reportedly aims to investigate ways to cut costs and promote the sport to a wider audience, while presenting a unified voice on issues facing racing teams. RTA chairman, Rob Kauffman of Michael Waltrip Racing, stressed the group’s intention for collaboration with NASCAR and racetracks, with the goal of attracting more spectators. Kauffman also noted that, although teams compete on the weekend, they face common challenges, such as risk, revenue and expenses, and there is a lot of common interest among RTA members.
Reaction to the formation of the RTA has been mixed. Some teams have shown interest in joining the group and, it been reported that they will be eligible to do so if the team has attempted to qualify for 95% of the 72 Sprint Cup races in the past two years. Some have suggested that the RTA aims to push NASCAR for a larger cut of a ten-year $8.2-billion TV sponsorship deal. The RTA insists it is being, and will continue to be, transparent in what it hopes to achieve. The response from NASCAR to the formation of the RTA was an announcement by president Mike Helton in which he stated that NASCAR “will continue to do business the way we’ve done business.”
Officially founded by William France Sr. in February 1948, NASCAR has gone through various changes over the decades and today the family owned and operated business oversees more than 1500 races held at over 100 tracks located in 39 US states and Canada. Series sanctioned by NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) include the Sprint Cup Series, Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series, Whelen All-American Series, Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Local Racing and the NASCAR iRacing.com Series. NASCAR’s current CEO is the grandson of founder William France Sr., Brian France.