Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: Why is AJ Allmendinger Racing at Road America?

While the NASCAR Cup Series is gearing up to take on the short track of Richmond Raceway on Sunday (July 30), the NASCAR Xfinity Series is heading up to Elkhart Lake, Wis., to take in the four-mile long Road America on Saturday (July 29).

Competing in that race will be AJ Allmendinger, who will then fly to Richmond on Sunday to compete in the Cup Series race.

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Derek Kraus will practice and qualify the car for Allmendinger. But this doesn’t really make sense.

Why not just send Kraus to compete at Road America and let Allmendinger focus on the Cup race? After all, he is just 17 points out of the playoff hunt with several tracks coming up that are in his wheelhouse.

Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Xfinity ride is considered the team’s all-star car, with a number of drivers making starts in the ride, including both Kraus and Allmendinger. It was supposed to be piloted full-time by Landon Cassill until sponsorship prevented the deal from happening.

The No. 10 is in the thick of the owner’s championship, which may be why Allmendinger is competing — he already has two Xfinity wins in the car (Circuit of the Americas and Nashville Superspeedway). The No. 10 team also has another win at Darlington Raceway courtesy of Kyle Larson.

But Kraus hasn’t exactly done poorly in his four starts this year, earning two top 10s. He could likely hold his own at Road America and allow Allmendinger to focus on Richmond and his championship hopes.

Despite Kraus qualifying the car, Allmendinger will have to start at the rear anyway because of the driver change, which will already put him behind the 8-ball on points and makes this move all the more confusing.

In a season where nothing has seemed to go right for Allmendinger, starting at the rear of the Cup field just to go trophy hunting in Xfinity doesn’t seem like the wisest move.

Plus, it seems that Kraus’ performance this season could earn him a legitimate shot at a full-time ride with Kaulig next season if sponsorship comes together. He could use the experience behind the wheel of an Xfinity car to better his chances.

It just seems like a lot of work for Kaulig to send its playoff-eligible Cup Series driver to compete in the Xfinity race in a different state, while letting its less committed driver practice and (pointlessly) qualify the car, then sit the rest of the weekend when he could go try to win an Xfinity race instead.

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One of Kaulig’s biggest joys is trophy hunting, and the team has a more than a fair chance to do that at Road America with Allmendinger.

But the next day at Richmond? With Allmendinger guaranteed to start at the rear of the field, it’ll be a tall order just to make up points on the cutline, let alone find victory lane.

Kaulig is one of the more fun teams to watch. It has a blast when it wins, there seems to be a true family aura to the team, and team president Chris Rice is a great and entertaining spokesman for the team when it comes to media interviews. But this move is certainly a head scratcher.

In the end, this all seems inconsequential in the grand scheme of the season. But if Allmendinger ends up missing the Cup Series playoffs (and by a small margin at that), this weekend might be one that the organization will look back on as a reason why.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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TiminPayson

Here’s a question for Kaulig. Why does gutter protection cost $37. a foot? Lol

Dawg

Let’s be honest here, making the playoffs is a big deal…. If a team has the performance, & the standing, to make a real run at the prize.

W/O a win or two, plus some stage wins & the playoff points that come with it. Then just just getting in on points, makes teams a bit player on that stage. It’s better than not making it, but that attention bump is fleeting. Absent a win in one of the first 3 races, which is a tall order for. anyone who has failed to win in the regular season. The teams that get eliminated in the first round will be ignored, & will get short shift even if they do manage to get a win after being knocked out.

I guess what I’m saying is that if AJ fails to make the PO’s because of starting in the back, might not be as big of a deal as it seems. Unless he fails to win at Road America, then the second guessing will be brutal. If there were a road course in the first round of PO’s then he no way he’d be at Road America.

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