Race: Irwin Tools Night Race
Date/Time: Saturday, August 22nd / 7:30 PM ET
TV/Radio: NBCSN / PRN / SIRIUSXM
Big battle: “When you get strapped into the No. 47 BUSH’S Grillin’ Beans Chevrolet SS at Bristol Motor Speedway, you know it’s going to be a battle for 500 laps,” Allmendinger said. “Whether your car is amazing or no good, it’s a battle for 500 laps. This race especially. I get in and my heart is beating a little bit quicker and a little bit harder than usual. You roll out and those three or four pace laps seem like they go by so fast. It’s a cool feeling. I get really amped up. It’s one of those things where you are trying to stay calm because you know for 500 laps the 42 other crazy people are on the racetrack besides the normal one that are here to really make you mad. That’s what it all comes down to. You’re like, ‘Okay, try to stay calm,’ and that’s what it’s all about. They drop the green and somebody usually runs into the back of you into Turn 1 and you’re just ticked off at that point until the end. It’s just a battle and that’s the best way to explain it. 500 laps are mentally and physically grueling, but hopefully when you get done, you’ve run all 500 laps. If you’ve done that, it’s a big accomplishment.”
Mentally and physically challenging: “Bristol Motor Speedway is one of those places where you are physically exhausted and mentally exhausted when you are done by the end of the race,” Allmendinger said.
Love-hate: “I have a love-hate relationship with Bristol Motor Speedway,” Allmendinger said. “I’ve had some good runs and I’ve had some heartbreaks, but it’s such a fun place.”
Still in awe: “Maybe you’ve never been to a NASCAR race in general, but I can say without a doubt Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the coolest venues not just in racing, but in sports,” Allmendinger said. “I think this is my ninth year coming here and I am still in awe every time I drive up to the place. There’s not a bad seat in the house. It doesn’t matter if it is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, K&N or a Modified race, it is an awesome place to go to.”
Makes a difference: “At a mile-and-a-half or two-mile racetrack, especially now with how fast the cars are, if you are a little bit off then there’s not really a lot as a driver that you can do to fix that,” Allmendinger said. “You’re just along for the ride. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed short track and road course racing that I grew up on because as a driver I feel like I can make a little bit more of a difference."
Bristol results: "We have ran decent the last few races I’ve been to Bristol with the team,” Allmendinger said. “The fall race last year, we finished inside the top-15. We were running right on the edge of the top 10 the whole time. The spring race, I think the worst I ran was 13th, 14th and with eight to go we were running around the top 10 and got collected in an accident. That’s what makes Bristol, Bristol really. You cannot let your guard down until you have crossed the checkered flag or depending on who you are around and who is mad at each other, until you come to pit road.”
Special place: “It’s a race that is true to my heart,” Allmendinger said. “Bristol is the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race I ever made. I bounced off the wall twice down the back straightaway on my qualifying lap to make the race. It’s just an amazing place and it’s a home race for one of my biggest sponsors BUSH’S Beans. It’s just one of those places that if you win the race, you know you have accomplished something great.”
Going the distance: “There are little things that we can do to make our race car better for Bristol,” Allmendinger said. “The last couple races there we fought just a little tight. When you run up against the fence where the line is, it’s a fine line between making sure you are not too loose getting in, but making sure it turns around the center. I think that has been our weakness. In general, we have had some pretty good cars. We just haven’t got to the end. It’s just what Bristol is all about.”
The hype: “There are a lot of things that stick out in my mind about Bristol and every time I drive up to that place it gives me chills,” Allmendinger said. “It’s cool just watching the flashbulbs go off for 500 laps. They never stop going off. People get so entertained by this race. The way Bristol puts on the race is something else. Proud to be American sticks out because it is always playing before we get in the car and the fireworks are going off and people parachuting into the track before we strap in for the night race is cool. And, then the fans, man they are so passionate about the sport and passionate about their track. It truly is one of the last Colosseums in the world and just walking through the tunnel and walking out into the racetrack, hearing the crowd, all the pre-race ceremonies, seeing the flashbulbs go off, everything about it gives me chills. I get in the car and I’m pumped up.”
Change: “Bristol has changed over the years,” Allmendinger said. “I think I’ve been there for nine years now and it used to be all about the bottom. You would fight to get to the bottom. If you weren’t on the bottom, you were getting shoved out of the way. Now, it is completely flip-flopped. You are right against the fence. The groove keeps moving up to the point of where you almost feel like you are running at Darlington (Raceway) to where you are almost grinding the fence down running the top. It’s tough to really find your groove because it changes a lot. The rubber builds up, but more importantly most of the time you have somebody behind you pounding in your bumper trying to get you out of the way. It’s just tough to get into that rhythm and stay in that rhythm and then get all the yellow flags and everything gets shuffled back up. It’s a place that by the end of 500 laps around there, I’m mentally exhausted, I’m physically exhausted, but if you have a good run, you feel good about everything that you’ve done around Bristol.”
Keep a lid on it: “You are always going to find somebody that gets you upset and that’s Bristol,” Allmendinger said. “It just wears on your patience throughout the race. Trying to look back at it, I don’t think I have had any big incidents where I feel like I was done wrong on purpose.”
Pit stall: “On pit road, obviously, you always want the first pit stall,” Allmendinger said. “We don’t make a lot of green flag stops. I think I can count on one hand how many green flat stops I’ve made at Bristol. You always enter at the same place and you try to get the right pit stall on either side. If you had to pick one or the other side, to me it’s not a big difference.”
Big fan of Bristol: “I always tell my friends if they are going to go to one race, go to the Bristol night race for sure,” Allmendinger said. “To me, it’s one of the coolest events, not just in NASCAR, but one of the coolest events there has to be in North America or throughout the world. We see it on the big screen how many people come from different countries come to see what this place is all about. That’s pretty cool.”
Night racing memories: “The Bristol night race has always stuck out to me,” Allmendinger said. “Even as a kid, I just remember always turning it on and watching. It was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race I had to watch. Thinking back, I have a lot of memories watching those couple of races between Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Terry Labonte. The first one, where Earnhardt wrecks Labonte across the finish line, and the second one where he wrecks him before he gets to the line and gets the win. Those races always stood out to me.”
Career Starts: 250
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: Brian Burns
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Stay tuned for a special announcement from BUSH'S® Beans and JTG Daugherty Racing on Friday, August 21st, at 10:15am...
Each week throughout the NASCAR season Racing-Rewards members are given the opportunity to download exclusive AJ Allmendinger cellphone wallpaper. This week's design features AJ and his BUSH'S® Beans car.
Click HERE to visit the download page.
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Friday, August 21st
10:15 AM NASCAR Media Availability/Sponsor News in Bristol Motor Speedway media center
Sunday, August 23rd
4:30 PM JTG Daugherty Racing Meet & Greets