It’s not often in the Sprint Cup Series that a one-car team has the opportunity to capture a checkered flag. On Sunday at Martinsville in the STP 500, JTG Daugherty Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger finished second to Kyle Busch for his best finish of the young season.
It was another step in the right direction for Allmendinger and his team as the runner-up finish made him the big mover in the points for the week as he moved up seven spots in the standings to 12th. He now finds himself in the thick of the early season Chase battle and even though a win is the fastest way into the playoff round, there have always been some drivers make the Chase by their position in the points after the regular season of the first 26 races.
While a win on Sunday would have taken the pressure off of Allmendinger and his team in trying to secure one of the 16 Chase spots, the organization knows that its best chances to win and advance to the Chase will be at one of the two road courses at Sonoma or Watkins Glen. Unlike the majority of drivers in the series, Allmendinger has a strong background in road racing that always makes him a threat to win any time the race includes both right and left turns.
Most one-car teams that attempt to compete at the Cup level usually lack the funds to be competitive on race day, but that is not the case with JTG Daugherty Racing. Owners Ted and Jodi Geschickter and former North Carolina basketball standout Brad Daugherty have put together a sponsorship package that features several sponsors all willing to share space on the car and in return they get more exposure for their sponsorship dollar.
The owners also made some personnel changes on the team before the beginning of the season when they brought in former Cup crew chief Ernie Cope to take over as competition director. Allmendinger also got a new crew chief in Randall Burnett, who had been with Chip Ganassi Racing as an engineer. The team has an alliance with Richard Childress Racing that allows it to share information about setups at the track with all three of Childress’s team.
The alliance with Childress should continue to pay dividends as RCR’s Austin Dillon is off to the best start of his young career after his fourth-place finish at Martinsville moved him up three spots to seventh in the point standings. His two top 5’s this season already match his total for his first two seasons in the Cup Series.
Dillon was one of the more celebrated rookies when he came into the series in 2014 as he won the Xfinity Series title in 2013 and the Truck Series title in 2011. It also helps a driver with seat security when the owner of his team just happens to be his grandfather, Richard Childress. Childress wants to return his team back to its winning ways that he experienced when he was fielding cars for the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. when Earnhardt was behind the wheel of the legendary black #3 Chevrolet. Dillon now has the opportunity to return that car to victory lane as last season Childress put the #3 back on the side of his grandson’s car.
PIT NOTES: Kyle Busch’s win on Sunday was the 35th of his career and his first-ever trip to victory lane at Martinsville. He was also able to make the rare Martinsville sweep as he also won the Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday. According to Forbes, Hendrick Motorsports leads all Sprint Cup organizations with an estimated worth of $375 million followed by Joe Gibbs Racing at $256 million. Surprisingly, Stewart-Haas Racing ranks third at $195 million, which puts that organization ahead of both Roush Fenway at $155 million and Team Penske at $140 million. Forbes also lists Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the highest earning driver at $23.5 million, which just barely nudges out Jimmie Johnson at $22.2 million.
Event: Duck Commander 500.
Track: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile quad oval, 24o of banking in the turns)
Date: April 9, 7:30 p.m.
Defending Champion: Jimmie Johnson.