DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY SPEEDWEEKS PREVIEW

Sprint Unlimited:  Sat., Feb. 13th, 8 PM ET on FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM
Daytona 500 Qualifying: Sun., Feb. 14th, 1 PM ET FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM
Can-Am Duel 1 & 2:  Thurs., Feb. 18th, 7 PM ET FS1/MRN/SIRIUSXM
Daytona 500: Sun., Feb. 21st, 1 PM ET, FOX/MRN/SIRIUSXM

TEAM QUOTES:
 
Kroger and new JTG Daugherty Racing partners: “It’s awesome to have Kroger on board again in a big way to kick off our season,” Allmendinger said. “We’ve also added some new brands, Stouffer’s and Lean Cuisine, from the Nestlé USA family that will be on our hood with Kroger in the Sprint Unlimited. It’s great to have another incredible company team up with us that has a rich history and is very passionate like our existing partners - - BUSH’S Beans, SCOTT Products, Clorox, Kingsford, Glad, Hidden Valley, Hungry Jack, Better Than Bouillon, Charter Spectrum, Core Power and we've added Crisco too. We have the best brands in the business and I look forward to racing the No. 47 Kroger/Stouffer's/Lean Cuisine Chevrolet SS Saturday night.”

Best Sprint Unlimited memory: “The best Sprint Unlimited memory for me was 2009,” Allmendinger said. “I had done a deal with Richard Petty Motorsports for five to eight races and the way the rules played out, I got into the Sprint Unlimited as the last car in the show. I went out there and almost took the lead early on in the race and I thought that was pretty cool. I think I ended up finishing fifth, but the biggest deal was that I was running up front all night. At the time, I had to go make the Daytona 500 so I felt like that gave me some confidence. I was like, ‘You know what? I just ran with the best.’ I had never raced at Daytona at the time because at Red Bull Racing I had never really made Daytona whether it was the 400 or the 500. It was the first time I was out there in a pack around Daytona. We ran well. It gave me confidence like I said. We went and made the Daytona 500 and finished third that year. To me, it felt like it really kicked off the year.”

Daytona 500: “I’d like to win the Daytona 500 with our No. 47 Kroger/SCOTT Products Chevrolet SS,” Allmendinger said. “Why don’t we just get that one out of the way and make the Chase the first race of the season. Then we’re in and don’t have to worry about it, which makes the rest of the season a little bit easier. Of course, you want to win, but in all honesty I don’t pick one race over the other. The Daytona 500 is obviously the most special one to me and winning at Indy (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) would be pretty awesome too. Beggars can’t be choosers. We’ll take a win anywhere for our sponsors and fans. It would be something else if we win the thing. Anybody has a shot.”

Sharpen skills:  “With no testing now at Daytona, even though it’s still Daytona, the Sprint Unlimited is kind of a way to dust off the cobwebs,” Allmendinger said. “I wouldn’t say that the people in the race have a big advantage, but it just helps. You feel like, ‘Alright, I’ve been back in a Cup car, I’ve been in a big pack,’ and before you really get to the Duels it just helps a little bit to go out there and just feel the track, feel the car and heck if you win the race, you’ve got a big confidence boost going into the Daytona 500.”

That’s the way it goes: “It is plate racing so you know at some point you are going to wreck at Daytona,” Allmendinger said. “I think 2012, when I was with Penske Racing, I was all pumped up and I had in my mind that I was going to go out there and fire off right away and then we all crashed in practice. I was like, ‘Great one car is gone.’ Then I remember distinctively, Jamie McMurray and I hooked up running around the top of the track with two to go thinking, ‘Man, we might have a shot to win this race’ and then we all piled in again and I was like, ‘That’s two cars gone already.’ So, that’s the way it goes. I remember that we hadn’t even got through Saturday night and I had already destroyed two cars. That’s just the way it is sometimes at Daytona. It’s not the best memory there.”

Ideal season: “For me, I’ll be happy if our race team is a top-15 team every weekend,” Allmendinger said. “We don’t want to get to Watkins Glen International and be 22nd in points and have it be our only shot to make the Chase by going out there and winning the race. I want us to be inside the top 10 or top 15 in points and be able to say, ‘You know what, on points, we are strong every weekend.’ Of course, we’d love to have the wins to go along with that. If we start inside the top 20 and be on the edge of that top 15 and keep working to get better, that will make it a positive year to me. If you look at where we’ve been as a team, yeah, we won a race and had some good runs in the Chase and almost finished in the top 10, but we were still about a 20th, 22nd place team. The last two years, we’ve kind of been in the same spot. We need to make that next leap.“

New crew chief:  “Coming to JTG Daugherty Racing, came together quickly,” crew chief Randall Burnett said. “When I met with AJ and Tad (Geschickter, team owner), we just hit it off and I have always wanted to help a team grow into something bigger. There are a lot of good people at JTG Daugherty Racing, some of which I’ve worked with before. I know the quality of work they do and the level they hold themselves to bringing a lot of good things to the company. Also, working with AJ is going to be exciting for me. We kind of grew up with the same background. AJ obviously has a tremendous amount of talent and is very passionate and very vocal about his passion.”

Team building: “We feel really prepared for Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway,” Burnett said. “We are going to be in the Unlimited, which will give AJ and I some time to kind of mesh together before we go into the Duel (Can-Am Duel at Daytona 1 or 2). That is going to be key for us since we have not been able to do much testing. He really hasn’t heard my voice on the radio and it gives us a chance to work out the bugs and also gives me a chance to work with Coleman (Pressley, his spotter). We are going to do a lot of team building during that Unlimited race, which will be beneficial for the Daytona 500.”

Good people: “As far as our Daytona 500 cars go, we feel really good about it,” Burnett said. “The guys at the shop have put a lot of effort into building some really nice cars. I believe it’s all about having strong people around you. It’s about the people. Fortunately, JTG Daugherty Racing already had a great group of guys put together with Brian (Burns) and Tony (Palmer), Nick (DeFazio) and so forth. We’ve got some really strong guys that will be on the road and back here at the shop. They also brought on Ernie Cope as competition director. He’s done a great job of getting the shop organized and has it running really smooth. We’ve got more cars put together right now than they’ve ever had before. We’ve got all our Daytona stuff done and some intermediate cars coming together I don’t like to micromanage and I have faith in the people around me to do everything we can to be successful as a team. It’s been fun getting to know everybody here and I’m looking forward to kicking off the season at Daytona.”

Capability: “You look at 2014 and the team was really good out of the box,” Burnett said. “They were well into the top five in points at the first part of the season and then had some DNF’s (did not finish) that kind of put them behind. We are really looking at minimizing those type of things. The team showed great potential and were in the Chase that year obviously. So, the team has proven that they can do that with AJ and all our big partners. So, we know we are capable of doing that. We just have to minimize our mistakes, be efficient with everything we are doing, keep building on our cars and getting aggressive to bring the best product to the track for AJ.”

Small team, big ideas: “To me, I’ve always wanted to be a part of building a race team,” Burnett said. “With being a smaller team, you have an opportunity to bring in ideas and really build something bigger. We have a lot of good sponsors in place to provide us the tools and personnel we need to be successful.”

Homecoming of sorts for Ernie Cope: “I worked at JTG Daugherty Racing during 2006 and part of 2007,” said Ernie Cope, director of competition. “I left here to go work for Kevin (Harvick) and his group (Kevin Harvick Incorporated) at the time. Tad and I stayed in close contact over the years, golfed together and talked many times. We always discussed that we would get back together when the time was right whether he needed somebody or I was looking to do something else. The timing was just perfect for both of us. This is long term and we’ve talked about that. In between there, it worked out good because I got a lot of experience with some pretty big teams and won a lot of races. I learned things that I can apply here and the team is in a better spot with equipment and finances to provide what we need to be competitive.”

Cope’s role defined:  “My role is competition director,” Cope said. “At first when we talked, I didn’t know the role that Tad had in mind for me. Then he laid it out and what he wanted to do. I had to think about it, but not for very long because Tad is good at saying exactly what he wants. It just worked and it made sense. When he first told me I wasn’t sure if I was ready to not be a crew chief. I didn’t even get home from leaving the shop and he called me back and we talked some more about it. I’m glad he did because when I hung up the phone my mind was made up. I went home and talked to my wife about it. It was time. This is what I needed to do and that was be the director of competition running day-to-day at the race shop - - overseeing the cars getting built, making sure Randall has what he needs to be competitive. As far as daily stuff, it’s running the shop, looking after the budget making sure we have what we need and the money is in the right areas to get the most out of what we have.”

Cope’s take on new crew chief:  “I didn’t meet Randall until this was all coming together,” Cope said. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know him these past couple of months. He’s looking long-term too and he’s the right guy for the position. It’s going to be his first shot at being a crew chief and I feel 100% in my heart that he is going to succeed and I’m going to help him succeed.”

Good tracks for team: “Martinsville Speedway has always been a good track for us,” Allmendinger said. “I feel like at the short tracks, we’ve had some good runs. The mile-and-a-half and the two-mile tracks are where we struggled a little bit more. In general, I’m going to make it simple. I’ve said, ‘Let’s run well everywhere.’”

2015: “We had good cars, but I feel like we didn’t take advantage of it at the road course races and a couple of the short track races,” Allmendinger said. “From May or June on, we seem to struggle and it showed throughout the course of each weekend. We weren’t really making progress and that was tough because we didn’t finish where we wanted to finish.”

2014: “I looked at 2014 like it was the same year as 2015 in a certain way,” Allmendinger said. “We had our struggles. The only difference is that we went to Watkins Glen International and won and we got into the Chase. The first few Chase races were a challenge, but then we made some improvements and we were able finish out the Chase respectably.”

Off season:  “I lived in Colorado ten years ago when I was racing Champ Car,” Allmendinger said. “I went to Colorado and saw my really close friend’s (Justin Wilson) wife Julia. Justin passed away at Pocono Raceway last season. I went to see her and their kids and saw some old friends that I haven’t seen in a while.  When I do see them, it’s usually not for long because it’s at a track. So, I just went there for four or five days and hung out, reminisced, laughed and cried a little bit. It was nice to spend time with them. I’m not very good about allowing myself to get away like that. I’m always like how do I get better, what do I need to get better at, but for four or five days I made myself get away.” 
 


FAST FACTS:

Career Starts: 263
Wins:            1
Top-fives:     7
Top-10s:      38
Pole Awards: 4
First Start:  3/25/2007  Bristol  
First Pole:   4/10/2010  Phoenix
Last Pole:    8/8/15 Watkins Glen
Best Start:   1 - 4/10/2010 Phoenix
Best Finish:  1 - 8/10/2014  Watkins Glen
Driver DOB:  12/16/1981        
Hometown:   San Jose, Calif.
Crew Chief:   Randall Burnett
 
 


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