No. 13 A.J. Allmendinger
With a win at Watkins Glen International in August, A.J. Allmedinger picked up the first win of his career, first win for JTG-Daugherty Racing and clinched a playoff spot for both he and his team for the first time.
Allmendinger scored four top-ten finishes in the season’s first 26 races, including a win in the season’s 22nd race. Yet, in the last four races after the win, Allmendinger’s average finish is 22.5. Should his fans be worried?
“Our last two weeks have been a little bit difficult, but at the same point, we kind of knew they were going to be,” Allmendinger said. “Just the mere fact we don’t have many cars in the race shop.
“We had to get our three best bullets ready for first three races in the Chase.”
Allmendinger’s four top-ten finishes is lowest amount scored by a Chase eligible driver in its 11 year history. Yet, four drivers made the post-season with single-digit top-ten finishes this season, but before 2014, the feat only happened twice (Jeremy Mayfield in 2005 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2011).
Arguably, Allmendinger’s path back to a full-time ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has been a tumultuous one at best.
After losing his seat at Team Penske in July 2012 for failing a drug test, Allmendinger participated in NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program.
The California-native drove sporadically towards the end of 2012 and through 2013, running with Phoenix Racing and JTG-Daugherty Racing in the Cup Series and with Team Penske in select road course Nationwide Series races.
Photo by NASCAR Via Getty Images
A.J. Allmendinger's Daytona 500 ride. Allmendinger scored the first win of his career in August at Watkins Glen International.
Notching two wins in his two starts with Team Penske and consistent lead lap finishes in the Cup Series, Allmendinger was named Bobby Labonte’s replacement in Cup through 2014 and beyond.
JTG-Daugherty Racing’s single-car operation formed a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, fielding Chevys for the first time.
Allmendinger is considered an underdog by media and fans alike for this year’s Chase.