Track: Watkins Glen International
Event: Cheez-It 355 At The Glen
Race Date / Time: Sunday, August 10
TV / Radio: ESPN / MRN / SiriusXM
Today AJ Allmendinger captured his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in his 213th career-start in the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International earning JTG Daugherty Racing a coveted spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and their first win in the division.
Allmendinger also won the 3M Lap Leader award for staying out front for 30 laps during the 90-lap event. The 32-year-old bested Marcos Ambrose by 1.160 seconds to pull his No. 47 SCOTT® Products Chevrolet SS into victory lane to celebrate the single-car team’s efforts Sunday afternoon.
QUOTES PROVIDED BY JTG DAUGHERTY RACING:
“I was not a fan of the cautions. Marcos Ambrose was so good on the restarts. I was trying to figure out all the tricks in my bag to try to pull out and hold him off. That last restart we kind of roughed up on each other and I just knew if I could get that gap for the last lap and put a perfect lap in, that he wasn’t going to catch me. When I came off the last corner coming to the white and I saw them racing side-by-side, it was the best picture I have ever seen in my life. From there, it was about putting a money lap in. I can’t believe it. I’m a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner now. JTG Daugherty Racing is a Sprint Cup Series winner, we’re in the Chase, we’re in the All-Star race. Can’t thank all my sponsors enough today for all they do for us and the sport.
“I consider this race team my family. My parents are here. To be able to share that with my parents is so special. They mortgaged their home for my racing career three times. All I wanted to do was to pay them back and pay off their house. Finally, I was able to do that a few weeks ago. I feel like I should have paid them back a few years ago and I failed at that. It’s special to share this with them and my girlfriend Tara (Meador). To share it with everybody as a whole as a family, that to me is what’s most important.
“I might just lay down here in victory lane to make sure when I wake up I’m still here and it’s not all just a dream. To be a part of this team, to be able to win it for the first time together is the most important thing. The Chase is great, All-Star race is great, but to be able to share it with my family today is something else.
“Marcos Ambrose is the best road course racer in the world and I gained so much more respect for him today. He leaned on me and got into me a little bit. I leaned on him too, but he never wrecked me and he had the opportunity. Honestly, then he would have been clean sailing to win the race. When he leaned on me and I leaned on him, I thought it was just great NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at its best. I hope he feels the same. I’m biased now because I won the race. It would not have been fun if I didn’t win the race. I was just having fun. It was such great racing and that was the coolest thing about it.
“I woke up this morning and I was so nervous. Didn’t really sleep. My girlfriend said to me, just enjoy it. I don’t enjoy things very well because I want to win so bad. Then I went into chapel today and Nick from MRO made a quote to me and it really hit home. Basically, he said there’s going to be an opportunity to be really angry today, but there’s also going to be an opportunity to have self-restraint and turn that into a positive. I don’t know why, but that just hit me. In racing that’s what it is all about. We’re all going to be angry at some point, but how do you change that. In the past, I haven’t been changing it very well. I just said that’s what I’m going to do today. That’s what I tried to do today. If I won or lost, I was going to give everything I had and that was good enough.
"This doesn’t automatically make us a championship contender. We’re still a small team. We’re still building. To get that exposure by saying we’re a Chase team is big for us because of our sponsors. It gives them more exposure and that’s what it’s all about. At the same point, you never know we may go and shock the world and have a shot when it comes down to Homestead-Miami Speedway. You never know.
“At the end, under the red flag I was near an area of Aussie fans and the whole time sitting there they were screaming at me ‘AJ sucks, Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie, Oi, Oi, Oi” constantly I’m like really, really, really, this is where we get stopped. So, funny to say, but that actually helped because I started laughing in my car. I was like, ‘Yeah that’s kind of funny.’ I’m like, I’m at a soccer match right now and I got sucked into this and I suck for some reason and I don’t know why. So, I was nervous and my heart was beating fast, but that kind of made me sit there and chuckle because they started going and then the people across from them started screaming ‘USA, USA, USA.’ It was like we were at a soccer match and it was hilarious. It helped me keep the moment light even though I was really nervous at that point.
QUOTES PROVIDED BY CHEVROLET:
“The significance of this win goes without saying how big and how important it is to this race team,” Allmendinger said. “You know, to be able to share it with Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) and Brad and everybody at this whole No. 47 SCOTT Products Chevrolet SS race team here at the race track, back at the shop, Tad, Jodi and Brad especially, and I've said it a million times, and I truly believe it, that they make this team feel like such a family, and like we're their own. To be able to share that together, that was what to me rolling into victory lane meant, that I was pulling into victory lane with my family because they were there. My parents are here, my girlfriend Tara. She's been such a great direction in my life.
"To be able to share that as a family, you know, my bus driver Skippy, he's had to endure me breaking cabinets and punching refrigerators in my bus and having to repair stuff, so to be able to share that together, that to me is what it's all about. That's a part of family, and that's the coolest thing that I'll take from it.
It helped having Roger Penske and the Penske Racing guys and Richard Childress show up and congratulate me, too. That meant the world to me because it means that to me, at least, that I'm still a part of their family, too, and they care about me. As Tad was saying, what Richard Childress has done for us between the alliance and ECR motors and what Chevy has done to help us get to this point, we couldn't do it without them. That was really cool. Everything that just happened in victory lane was something that I'll never forget.
“I wanted to lead all 90 laps and just have a cruise control, but that's what makes the Sprint Cup Series so fun. You know you're not going to get that. And Marcos, I don't believe he's one of the best road racers in NASCAR, I don't believe he's one of the best in the U.S., I believe he's one of the best in the world. To be able to have to go with him basically one‑on‑one there, and I felt like ‑‑ I've always respected him, but I respect him so much now because he could have easily just wrecked me, and honestly probably moved me out of the way and wrecked me and drove to the win and made the Chase and everything is great, but he didn't. He moved me out of the way and he leaned on me and I leaned on him back, so to have that but have that mutual respect where we know what the limit is. We're going to take it right to the edge of that limit but to be able to lean on each other but not wreck each other and have such a great finish for us, for me to be able to have that race be so memorable about how it ended, for the fans, they were so great for staying around through all the red flags, the track workers did such a great job to fix the fence and everything. It's just a memorable day to go out there and remember everything that just happened, and I hope I win a lot more, but if I don't, to be able to remember it like this, it's pretty awesome.
“Well, I mean, I knew I was going to have to pull every trick out of the bag that I could. He's so good, and he's so good about maneuvering his race car, making these big race cars turn and do what they need to do and that first restart, I thought Kurt was close enough behind me that I didn't need to worry about him cutting under me. I was more worried about him trying to hang the outside of me, so when he turned under me, it surprised me he was still there, and to kind of bounce off each other through the esses which you're not really supposed to do and then us go flying through the grass, felt like he got some stuff on his tires, so the next couple of corners, he over drove a little bit and I was able to get back under him and have that caution came out, and then that last restart, I was really hoping Carl would make a good restart and slide in between us, but I figured it wasn't happening.
“I got through the bus stop and I got a little loose through there and I knew I kind of checked myself up, and as I said, he could have probably drove through me and cleared me out, but he just moved me enough to get that car on the bottom that he needed, but I was able to hold the outside of him and knew I had the next corner and I kind of leaned on him getting into the left‑hander, just know that if I can make him drive in deep with me, and I can make the corner and he messes it up, if they get racing behind me, and I get a three‑, four‑car‑length gap, you know I have a good shot at this thing. Once I came off the last corner, I looked in my mirrors and saw them side by side and it was like the most perfect sight I had ever seen in my life. I just knew I needed one perfect lap there. Just a dream come true.
“It's huge to be in the Chase. You know, and I didn't want to ‑‑ when I was saying that on Friday, I didn't want to just say, you know, just to be there, we're happy to be there. I want to go in there and make some noise, but I think more importantly for all the sponsors associated with this team, Scott Products, and Bush's Beans and Kingsford and Clorox, Charter, Shore Lunch, House-Autry and Hungry Jack and everybody that's associated with this race team. Kimberly‑Clark signed back up for three more years through 2017, Kingsford and Clorox did that earlier this year. I feel like our sponsors see the right direction, so to be able to give them, our race team, to be able to say we're a Chase team, to get that exposure when it comes to whether it's dollars on TV or just to be able to come back to the sponsors and say, see, what you're putting into this race team, we're working hard and we're trying to get it back, and Tad and Jodi and Brad do such a good job with the way they market all of our products together and how they help promote them.
"When it comes to the Chase, with the new format it doesn't mean we can't show up to Chicago and get hot early. The way the format is laid out, you don't have to be amazing for 10 races, you just have to be good enough each three sets of races. The next thing you know you get to Homestead, anything can happen.
“I'm going to enjoy tonight. I'm going to have fun with everybody, all my family on this race team that deserve to have fun because they are the ones that put the hard work in every day, every weekend. My crew guys, I mean, they show up to the racetrack, they show up Sunday night at whatever time we get home, they show up at 7:00 in the morning to tear the car apart again. All the crew guys back at the shop that spend those extra hours working on this car because we don't have a lot of people to fine‑tune these cars, share it with them. Having my family here and my parents and everybody, I'm just going to enjoy it. I'm sure I'll get to Michigan, I'll be on cloud 9, excited.
CREW CHIEF BRIAN BURNS:
“I'm pretty sure by the time I wake up tomorrow it'll hit me, but right now it's like watching a movie, and this is the good part.
“Yeah, we know this is one of those races we put on our refrigerator on the calendar there that we have a chance to win, a little more than some of the other places we go to. Had a great car at Sears Point and brought that car out here a couple weeks ago. We were fortunate to test with some good cars, as well, to be able to gauge ourselves, the 78 and the 9 and a few others were there. Left that test feeling really good. AJ has been focused all week, showed up here feeling just as good about it. Wanted to make a long run in happy hour just to see where the car was going to go and he pulled off before 10 laps even in to it. And he's like, I don't need to go any more, I know we're good, go ahead and switch over to qualifying trim here, so he was just as confident as we were, and it showed today.
"Yeah, I think we did our own thing from the test, and I felt like they were watching us more than we were watching them, so I felt like maybe we were a step ahead the whole time. I felt good about that. You could hear them on the radio, what are they doing, where are they at. We had a strategy that we went with that was different than most of the rest of the guys out there. We went with a three‑stop deal, had to catch that caution right after our second stop, and it hit perfectly. We pushed it to the ‑‑ I think it was lap 47 there and only had like a lap on the tires so when the caution came out we were fuel only and good to go after that. Kind of watching from the Nationwide race yesterday.
"And just being with AJ, anybody in that field I'd put them up against him, especially on restarts. I think that's his forte and everybody sees how aggressive he is, and he did that today."
TEAM OWNER JODI GESCHICKTER:
“We've been up here with Marcos Ambrose before in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. This NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win has been a long time coming. We've been in the sport for 20 years, and it's flown by, but you take it a week at a time and you hope and you pray that this is the week and you prepare, but you never really know what's going to happen. There's so many variables, and I try to explain that to some of the younger guys in the sport. You always have to be on your game, you always have to be prepared and be in a position to win.
“This week we were. I can't be any happier to have won here in Watkins Glen with Scott Products on the car and with AJ Allmendinger and our family up here with us. It's a wonderful place to win. It's a real blessing.”
TEAM OWNER BRAD DAUGHERTY:
“It's so hard, this business, the racing business. So many talented people once you get to the top. It's very difficult. We're a smaller team as everyone continues to talk about, so it's a little bit harder for us. We felt when we went to Sonoma this year that we were going to win that race, and we did everything that was right and ended up having a bad day. When you're a smaller race team and you tell people, man, we should have won that race, they're going to ‑‑ and you haven't had the success, they discard you. They say, yeah, you're just dreaming. I've been saying all along I thought we were a top‑20 race team, and we haven't been able to prove it. But with a glimpse of what we saw today, we didn't back into it, it wasn't a rain delay, it wasn't a caution, he got up on the wheel and beat a guy who I think is possibly the best road racer on the planet. Great day for us. We work really hard. A lot of people know Tad, and I'll tell you, I've never been around someone so dedicated to a group of group as Tad and Jodi. Tad spends six or seven days a week on an airplane so we can all come out and do this. He busts his butt. Jodi keeps the office pinned down, and me, I get to talk a lot. We all have our roles, but it's a great group, and it's a big day for the little guys, because like I said, we got a chance to kick the big guys in the knees today, and boy, we kicked them square in the chin.
“We have absolutely the best people. I'm so fortunate to be in business. I don't even feel like it's business. We're friends. We have a great time. We go racing. Jodi feeds us and makes sure we don't get too sick and do what we're supposed to be doing, and Tad hustles his behind, makes sure the lights stay on. We've got a true family atmosphere and we're lucky to have a young man like AJ to have an opportunity to have a driver of his caliber. Our crew chief Brian Burns, unbelievable job this year. He's coming into his own as a crew chief. He was texting me throughout the race to keep me from having a stroke because I was questioning his pit strategy and about to lose my mind. He kept assuring me it was going to be okay so I needed the comfort. Great group of people. We're not the biggest and not the baddest, but we're the winners today.
“Yeah, Kerry asked me that earlier, and that's a great question. The thing that's different is there's so much involved in this sport to have a perfect day like we had. Pieces, parts, a lot of different people, and playing pro basketball, if we were playing a team or whatever, I had a lot of control over what I could do, and if I was having a great game or any pro player was having a great game, you're in control. But this thing is so much ‑‑ just like you saw today at the end of the day today, all the cautions. Man, we were going. I was so excited, we were checking out. Just had to save a little bit of fuel, and boy, I'll tell you, my heart rate was great, and you're sitting there and you know the cautions are coming here. It's totally out of your control. The situation we were in got a little bit out of our control, as well. I think that's the biggest thing is you just don't have total control over it. When you have a moment you can seize like he did in those last few laps, you've got to dominate that moment. That's what really, really good professional athletes do, and that's what you saw AJ do today.
“Boy, I'll tell you, I don't think so, because as a pro basketball player or a college basketball player, I always knew that ‑‑ we get to win every week. In this business we don't get to win every week. To have this opportunity is just ‑‑ this is a pinnacle moment for our race team. We've had a couple opportunities, should have won Sonoma a few years ago, should have won it this year, but we didn't, so today is a huge day for this company, this organization, and just shows you what perseverance is all about. We're little bitty guys, man, and like I say, we got the big guys today.
"We're going to have a meeting with Richard Childress first thing in the morning. We need a ton more horsepower. But the reality of it is, it was going to play out today, and it comes down to pit road. That first stop I really was watching because in order to compete with the bigger teams, at this racetrack you're going to have to have sub‑15‑second pit stops, and when we get back to running the oval tracks we're going to have to be in the high 12s. Our first stop was 14.4, and I was like, man, our guys have dug in. That's going to be the biggest thing for us. We go back to the mile‑and‑a‑halfs and start competing, it's going to be a little bit more difficult because the simulation software for all these race teams but with the ride heights and AJ's ability, if we can qualify the car well we're going to race okay. I'm confident in Brian, I'm confident in my pit crew. I think that we have more in us. We go to racetracks like Atlanta, we go to places like Martinsville, Bristol, he's good at those racetracks, I think we've got a chance. If the dominos fall correctly, we've got a chance. So we've got to put all of our eggs in one basket. We don't want to just be there as a back marker, we want to make some noise.
TEAM OWNER TAD GESCHICKTER:
“You know, it's such a great sport. I've got such a belief in it as a marketing platform for brands. I believe in it with all my heart. First person that comes to mind is AJ Allmendinger. I've told him since I first got to know him that when he believes in his ability as much as God gave him the ability, he's going to be hard to beat. I think today he showed everybody just what a great talent he is. Great family, his parents and their support just means the world to me to see him get to this pinnacle of the sport. I think of just the 40 people, we always talk about sometimes the sling and a stone and great faith is enough to slay the giant, and they work together as a team every day and work so hard, and then I think we're really blessed to have sponsors that have stuck with us for 20 years through thick and thin. There have been some thin times, and I just think of them and what it means to bring them to victory lane. It's just gratifying.”
“Bobby Labonte is such a great champion and a friend. He had done a lot for where we were at that point in our Sprint Cup development, helping us build out the team. Once he helped us get to that point and was at the end of his career, I did not know AJ Allmendinger until the first time we met in Richmond, but the more time I spent up against him, and Bobby broke his clavicle or whatever and we got to work with him, I knew he was the right guy for this team. We try and run it like a family and he was looking for a home. It's been a lot of fun. I consider him a friend, a tremendous talent, but a really great person. That's what I look for.
“For me, the mile‑and‑a‑halfs with a lot of grip, that's been our Achilles heel. Richard Childress brought the brand‑new approved chassis to Indy, and it showed really well, so we've got one of those in the hopper, and if we can shore up those high‑grip, high‑speed places, when you're slipping and sliding around I'd put AJ against anyone, if we can do our job on pit road, I think we can contend.
“You know, there are a lot of these technical alliances out there, but Richard has been a mentor of mine since my first year in the sport and always taking the extra time to show us what everything is about. And the effort they put into the system so this engineering alliance works is second to none. When they said we'd be partners, I believed him, and he's gone above and beyond. Instantaneously in the garage if Ryan Newman changes a spring, we know it. He's put his money where his mouth is, and we appreciate it. We wouldn't have done it today without him."
Career Starts: 213
Pole Awards: 2
First Start: 3/25/2007 Bristol
First Pole: 4/10/2010 Phoenix
Last Pole: 4/22/2012 Kansas
Best Start: 1 - 4/10/2010 Phoenix
Best Finish: 2 - 4/1/2012 Martinsville
Driver DOB: 12/16/1981
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Crew Chief: Brian Burns
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SUNDAY, AUGUST 10TH JTG DAUGHERTY RACING MEET & GREETS