Date/Time: Sunday, June 26th / 3 PM ET
TV/Radio: FS1 / PRN / SiriusXM
Sonoma stands out: “You try and go out there (Sonoma Raceway) and try to have the mindset that it’s just another weekend, but we know it’s not,” Allmendinger said. “There are a lot of great things going on out there. It’s my home race. It’s a race that I grew up going to and I always enjoyed. I think it’s one of the best racetracks that we have in the United States when it comes to road course racing. It’s a home race for our sponsors Kingsford and Clorox. We have a lot of people that show up from their home office in Oakland (Calif.), which is only an hour or so down the road. We are also going to have Ralph’s on the car, which is a Kroger company, but it’s a home company and a store that I went to a lot growing up. There is a lot of stuff that comes down to why it would be special to win. In the end, it would be special because it gets you into the Chase. You go out there and it makes the rest of the season just a little bit easier to prepare for the Chase. Everybody has got that home race that stands out. We know the biggest races in our sport, the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Southern 500, but for me, Sonoma is on top of the list, because that is a race that I have loved. I have family and friends coming to the race and it would be a special moment to go out there and be able to share that and spend that in Victory Lane. You can’t get ahead of yourself. It’s such a tough and difficult race. Although we have been fast there, if you look at my stats they are not very good just because there is a lot of bad luck. There are a lot of ups and downs during the race whether it comes with cautions or the way the tires are used there - - the strategy. It’s a long ways to get there, but I know when we show up we are going to have a good car and we are going to have a good shot to win it.”
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Looking for a strong weekend: "We’ve got to have a strong weekend," Allmendinger said. "This year, we’ve had a fairly good year so far. This year will be a little different because the last two years Sonoma has been win or nothing. This time around we can have a top five finish and it will be a solid day and make a big difference in points. In the end, we want that win. If we go and do our job, put our best foot forward and make no mistakes, we will have a shot at it.”
Pressure is on: “I put pressure on myself every weekend no matter what type of racetrack,” Allmendinger said. “That’s what I do to myself. It has nothing to do with the outside world.”
Sonoma strategy: “When it comes to strategy, it’s a lot more difficult to figure out Sonoma,” Allmendinger said. “If you get a yellow flag at the wrong time and you get a guy that gets on new tires, it makes a big difference and he can drive through the field. It’s a tough race on equipment, on strategy, on the crew chief, on the driver and pit stops are important. There’s a lot that goes on during that race.”
Ultimate goal: “The ultimate goal is to go out there and win the race,” Allmendinger said. “The last couple of years we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We’ve just got to be smart and make sure everything that we do is on point and we make no mistakes.”
Key to success: “Saving the rear tires is the key to success,” Allmendinger said. “If you can get a car that is easier on the rear tires than the next guy, then it’s going to be a good weekend no matter what you do. No matter what, it’s hard on the rear tires. You’ve just got to get a car that turns good enough, but really puts the power down and doesn’t abuse the rear tires. That’s the thing to focus on in practice. You can do a long run during practice, but you don’t really know until that first run on Sunday. That’s always been the key for me.”
Team: “I think it’s is going fairly well with the team,” Allmendinger said. “We had been bouncing back and forth between in the Chase and out of the Chase. We were collected in an accident in the most recent race (Michigan International Speedway) that put us a little behind. We still have a lot of weeks ahead of us, but just the way the team is progressing we’ve got pretty good speed in the car kind of everywhere we go. I feel like although we are not quite where we want to be, we have definitely improved. We are heading in the right direction. It’s just where we are at in points, you have a bad week and it’s a big hit, like Michigan. You have a good week and you are back inside the Chase. That’s the way it’s going to be. We just need to try and go out every weekend and put our best foot forward and try to minimize our mistakes and get everything that we can out of it. We need to maximize the finishes no matter whether we have a great race car or not and just try to get everything we can out of it.”
Working together: “I think we can get there (the Chase),” Allmendinger said. “It’s a lot harder to get there for sure. With 50 people on our race team we all have to kind of work together, which makes this race team a lot of fun. Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) really go out there and make this team a family. This is my third year with the team and I really feel like as a team we are gelling together with the additions of Randall Burnett (crew chief) and Ernie Cope (competition director), and having great guys like Brian Burns and Tony Palmer in place. Everything is gelling well. You would like everything overnight. You would love to show up and just say, ‘Alright our cars are the fastest cars there’ and we go out there and have a chance to win every weekend. It’s not that easy. But, if you look at a team like the No. 78 (Martin Truex, Jr.), it’s taken a lot of years to get where they are at right now for sure. This is what their 11th, 12th year maybe in NASCAR? The last two years have by far been their best seasons. It definitely takes time, but they also show if you go out there and you work hard together, work in the right areas and you have the people that are smart enough to know which directions we have to head as NASCAR always keeps developing and working on new packages like we had at Michigan (International Speedway). We can get there. It just takes a lot of hard work and a lot of sticking together. I see that in our race team. We are not quite there yet, but we are definitely, as I said heading in the right direction to where we can continually compete inside the top 15, then the top 10, then contend for wins at any given racetrack.”
Trying to keep it light: “I try to have fun with it, but you know I will be the first person to admit that you will see it on my face if it’s not going well or if I’m hard on myself,” Allmendinger said. “That is the biggest thing, I’m really hard on myself. I appreciate and understand how hard my guys work every weekend. I really do appreciate it and I try to show how much I appreciate it. I try to thank them every chance that I get, but I’m so hard on myself. I feel like even if we are not great that weekend that somehow I can strap it to my back and go out there and get more out of it. It’s harder to do it at a place like Michigan where we raced a couple weeks ago. You have to have a car that is set-up right. That is why I enjoy the road courses, which has always been my background. I feel like as a driver you can make just a little bit more of a difference, but in the end I think and I hope that my guys know, even if I’m down, that I’m giving everything I’ve got. I’m down because I want to get more for them. It’s just like everything else, its ups and downs. I’m trying to learn how to be better about kind of staying middle of the road. I’m definitely not there yet, for sure, but that is the biggest thing. I just try to make sure my guys know how much I care and how much I want it for them and for us.”
Not far behind: “Yeah, like I said, we know when we show up we are going to have an opportunity to win the race if we go do the right things,” Allmendinger said. "The biggest deal is it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing scenario, which it has been the last two years. The last two years we could have gone there and finish second or so, but it wouldn't have done anything for us because we were so far out of the top 16 in points. It was win or bust at Sonoma Raceway or Watkins Glen International. No matter how you try to look at it, there is more pressure doing that. I drove like it knowing that I had to win the race to make any kind of difference for our season. This year, of course the ultimate goal is still to win, but if we go finish in the top five it’s a good day. It’s going to be good in points. It’s going to help us out. That is kind of the mentality that we’ve got to have. In the end, you see how Friday goes and see how Saturday goes, see what kind of race car you have and what kind of expectations you have for Sunday.”
On the brain: “Racing will always be on my mind,” Allmendinger said. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the upcoming race, especially Sonoma. It was good that we had an off weekend, more so for our guys to get away. They work so hard, especially our crew guys that are here because we don’t have a lot of people. They have to be here all weekend and then go home on Monday and start tearing apart the car and getting the next car ready and so on. It’s good for everybody to get a break and be able to spend some time with their family or just get away. For me, I’m going to go play some golf in Pebble Beach (Calif.) and have a good time. There won’t be a moment that I’m on the golf course that it’s at least not on the back of my mind. That is what I have to be better about, is doing the right things whether it’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday leading into Sonoma making sure I’m still taking care of myself and focused on the prize, which is going there and being the best that I can be when I get to the racetrack. That is the biggest thing. It will be there on my mind, it’s just how good am I about not letting it get to the front of my mind until I pull into Sonoma on Friday. I guess we will wait and see about that. We will see what the golf scores are.”
Career Starts: 278
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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AJ Allmendinger Sponsor Appearances:
Saturday, June 25th
Sonoma Raceway Hospitality
Sunday, June 26th
Sponsor Meet & Greets at two locations at Sonoma Raceway