DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – AJ Allmendinger retired from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the end of last year. While he traded his firesuit for a microphone, it didn’t necessarily mean that his driving days were over.
Allmendinger, 37, drove in the January’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona to go along with his broadcasting role for IMSA’s coverage on NBC Sports as well as providing analysis for NASCAR coverage sometimes too, will return to the NASCAR seat this weekend at the Daytona International Speedway.
Allmendinger, joins Kaulig Racing to pilot their second car for Friday night’s Circle K Firecracker 250 (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. He got off to a quick start too as he led all drivers in the first and only practice session around the high banked 2.5-mile track on Thursday. The California native turned in a fast lap of 194.902 mph in his No. 10 Chevrolet which was good enough for P1.
While this may be just his second XFINITY Series start since 2013, he is confident in his preparation that he could compete for the win on Friday night. See, this is nothing new for Allmendinger. He’s driven a vast array of race cars over the course of his career and jumping into a NASCAR for the first time since last November, it doesn’t change the way that he’ll prepare for this weekend’s race.
“It’s no different than anything I’ve ever done in my whole life,” Allmendinger said on Thursday from the Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve been very fortunate enough in my life to have raced so many different forms of racing and to be able to experience Indy Car racing, NASCAR racing and sports car racing. It’s just a flip of the switch. It’s the same preparation. Just try to watch as much as I can, try to study and all that stuff.
“Then, you get in the vehicle and kind of let it all come to you. It’s all about putting yourself in the right position and try to make no mistakes or minimize mistakes. I love racing and I love to be able to drive race cars and feel fortunate enough to still be able to do that.”
He’s got as good as a shot as anyone too. While most consider Allmendinger a road course ringer, he’s actually been really good on superspeedway tracks lately. He had two straight top six finishes in his final two Cup starts on them including a third place finish in this very race weekend in the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400. Furthermore, he had five top 10 finishes in his final seven superspeedway starts overall and seven of the last 10.
“You go to this place and you just know that anything can happen,” he said on Daytona. “Expect the unexpected. That’s the way that I’ve always tried to look at a superspeedway race. Just try to put myself in position. There’s always an opportunity to be a big crash. You don’t want to be the one that causes that. I’ve been in it and not caused it and I’ve been in it and have caused it. It’s just a part of it. As I’ve learned, and hope to see how things play out, I just hope to put myself in position for it in the end.”
In his previous three XFINITY Series starts, he has two wins and a runner-up. Can he be the one celebrating in victory lane on Friday night?