Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Daytona–Post Race–AJ Allmendinger

FEBRUARY 26, 2017

Matches Career-Best Finish in The Great American Race

DAYTONA, Fla., Feb 26, 2017 – AJ Allmendinger finished in third place to lead Team Chevy in the 59th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday. Allmendinger started in row 19 and overcame an early issue with the left front of his No. 47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet SS en route to equaling his best-ever finish The Great American Race.

“We had something go wrong in the left front in the middle of the race,” Allmendinger said. “We had to pit like nine times to figure out what it was. My crew did a great job to figure it out and diagnose the problem and fix it. All in all, I’m just proud of the effort … and more than anything else just to have a good start to this 2017 season. The effort is there. Our equipment is there. We’ve just got to put it together. Hopefully this is a great start.”

Paul Menard (No. 27 Menards/Peak Chevrolet SS, fifth) also finished in the top five for Team Chevy.

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS) finished seventh.

A day that started with so much promise—Chevrolets started 1-2-3—ended with plenty of dented sheet metal and empty fuel tanks. Fourteen of the 16 Chevrolets were involved in some sort of incident throughout the race, and two lost the lead in the final three laps because of fuel.

Pole-sitter Chase Elliott led 39 of the 200 laps and was in the lead when his No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet SS began to run out of fuel with three laps remaining. He ended up 14th.

A lap later, Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS) raced to the lead – only to run out of fuel and fall to 12th. Larson led 16 laps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., a two-time Daytona 500 winner, started second and was running in the top 10 when he got caught up in a five-car wreck on lap 105 after Kyle Busch spun heading into Turn 3. The right-front of Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet experienced enough damage to end his day early. Earnhardt, who started second, earned bonus championship points by finishing fifth during the first stage.

“I don’t know what happened there with the No. 18 (Kyle Busch); he just got turned around,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I tried to get the wheel turned and get down the race track but I lifted off the gas to miss it, and got on the splitter a little bit and the car went straight. We jumped him, and got in the wall a little bit. Wasn’t too hard of a hit. We thought we could get the car fixed, and get back out there and see what we could do with the rest of the day and make up some spots maybe. But, there is just too much damage.”

Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson’s day ended when he got caught up in a 17-car wreck on lap 128. Johnson, the Daytona 500 champion in 2006 and ’13, earned bonus championship points by finishing ninth during the first stage. Ryan Newman, who finished ninth during the opening stage, also experience some damage during the wreck, but he returned to the track within the series’ new five-minute crash-repair window.

“They started running into the back of me off of Turn 2 and didn’t stop until I crashed and took out the field,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what was going on with the pack behind me, but the whole back straightaway I had, I think, the No. 6 (Trevor Bayne) into the back of me. I was just praying that they would let me go and let me get my rear tires back on the ground, and it never happened. Just a lot of aggression way too early, in my opinion.”

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Cessna McDonald’s Chevrolet SS) started third and led 13 laps before his day ended early with a wreck on lap 142. He finished 28th.

Also, finishing in the top 20 for Team Chevy: Brendan Gaughan (No. 75 Beard Oil Distributing Chevrolet SS, 11th); Michael McDowell (No. 95 K-Love Radio Chevrolet SS 15th); Austin Dillon (No. 3 DOW Chevrolet SS, 19th); and Elliott Sadler (No. 7 Golden Corral Chevrolet SS, 20th).

Kurt Busch (Ford) was the race winner, Ryan Blaney (Ford) ended the day in second and Aric Almirola (Ford) was fifth to round out the top five finishers.

Next weekend the series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 on Sunday, March 5th.


THE MODERATOR: We’ll begin our post‑race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series media availability for the 59th annual Daytona 500. We are joined third place driver AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 47 Kroger Clicklist Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing.

THE MODERATOR: AJ, it seemed like you came out of nowhere there in the final lap. Walk through the final laps from your perspective.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, you know, we had a great‑handling car the whole time here. We just didn’t have a lot of outright speed. I kept seeing Ryan and Joey keep making moves. I just knew my car wasn’t very good on the bottom.

I knew my best effort was going to be kind of the last 10, 12 laps, when I kind of got up to wherever I was, running seventh or eighth, to be up top. I started saving fuel. I knew everybody was close. I knew my best chance to have a good result was to sit there and try to run half throttle. Stay in line and not let anybody kind of slide up.

Every time Ryan and Joey would make a move, I tried to keep the gap close. I was just kind of holding half throttle there. And knowing this would probably come down to fuel or if somebody tried to check up in front of us, who could miss it.

So white flag there. I saw as Ryan said they were getting a run on the bottom. I said, All right, I’m going to ride it out up top there, see what happens.

I think the 5 and 27 kind of right in front of me, it looked like they just checked up a little bit. Right there I thought, alright, they’re starting to run out of fuel. I ducked right in the middle. The 42 was out of fuel, which I think checked up the 22, which was next to me. That’s kind of how I got through the pack.

Just solid. We didn’t have the best speed outright since we’ve been here. We put a great effort. The Duels we got a good finish. Unfortunately had the penalty. To come out with a top‑five finish, I think this is the first time since I’ve been with the 47 team we’ve raced our primary car at the 500. That’s a start.

Overall, Kroger sponsoring this event, being a part of this event for 10 years now, to be on our racecar full‑time, all the guests, all the activation they’ve done, it was fun to have a great run for them and to be able to kind of put them in the top three and give them a chance to win this race.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll open the floor up for questions.

Q. What did you make of all the wrecks? Half the field didn’t finish. Was it the five‑minute clock, too much aggression, the stages? What happened today?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yes, yes (laughter).

I mean, to me it seemed like you get five laps to go in the stage, everything would kind of amp back up there. We were running single file in the second stage. Three to go everybody kind of starts getting racing.

I think really the last couple years here, for me I’ve noticed because I’ve always tried to hang in the back, pick a time to make a run. Everybody just gets three‑wide now. It’s hard to make any moves happen.

I think that anticipation level, instead of waiting 20 or 30 to go, you have to go with a hundred to go. You have to get your track position. If you lose it, it’s hard to get it back.

To me that’s the bigger deal. Over the last couple years it’s kind of hard to make moves through the middle of the pack through the field with 20 to go. Everybody was trying to get up there and make sure they got the track position. That’s what happens here.

Q. Is there a concern? Everyone knows at Daytona everybody gets amped up. Is there a concern given the new rules packages that you have with these stages, that this is going to be amped up and kind of what to expect, whether it’s Daytona or short track or regular course?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, I think Daytona and Talladega are going to be the extreme because, you know, it comes down to trying to get your track position. You see people lay back. Now with the stages, there’s points on the line. I think Daytona is the most amped up.

It kind of changes how people race. To me, I don’t think any of the other 32 races that we’re going to go to, we’re all driving as hard as we can every lap anyway. Yeah, you get a caution with eight to go before the stage ends, there’s going to be strategy. Maybe guys on old tires and that that might make some difference when it comes to the stages.

I think it’s the extreme of the Daytona 500 and these plate races, the way we have to race. Now with stages, with points being on the line, things are going to happen like that.

Q. Speaking of Chase, AJ, you’re one who takes losing difficult. Ryan, you know Chase a little bit. He left with his father without talking to any media. He’s obviously very upset right now. Can you understand that?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah. I mean, it’s the Daytona 500. Any race… He’s going to win so many races. Ryan and Chase, all those young guys, they’re going to win a ton of races. Kyle Larson, those types of guys.

It’s hard to know how many chances you’re really going to have at the Daytona 500. It’s Ryan kind of with the Penske effort. Chase, you think, Okay, they’re going to have a lot of chances to win. He had a dominant car. So, I can understand it. It’s hard.

At times, yes, it’s our job. We got to go about it the right way. Sometimes we don’t. In the end it’s our passion, it’s what we live off of. I can completely understand that. At that point, you’re not going to say anything good. What are you going to say, Oh, shucks. Try it next time. Go to Atlanta?

No. So I understand.

Q. Another question about the stages. Danica was mentioning one of the issues was that you had guys out with new tires, old tires racing against each other. I don’t know if that’s what was causing some of the wrecks. Are you concerned going here, not just here, that these stages are going to create some carnage throughout the season?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, I guess I don’t know really how to answer that. Maybe. Isn’t that what we’re trying to do, make some of these races more exciting throughout the middle of the race?

In the past, you’ve seen a lot of single‑file racing. Yeah, we got single file there. Everybody is trying to position themselves to win the race. I still go back to the speedway races are unique because it changes the way you race. It’s not going to change the way we race any other racetrack. We’re going to drive as hard as we can, the speedway races.

Yeah, you get a caution that falls at the right time, maybe some guys stay out and some guys pit trying to get that stage win or points. It might be. Isn’t that what we want? Isn’t that what we’re trying to do, beef up the middle of the races so people stay entertained? That’s what it’s all about. Nobody’s watching, doesn’t matter.

Q. AJ, can you give us any insight into Kurt? You learned about him well over at Penske.


Q. As a driver.

AJ ALLMENDINGER: I mean, he likes long walks on the beach. Sometimes he goes to the symphony after he goes to a baseball game. His favorite flower is the dandelion (smiling).

I don’t know. He’s a hell of a racecar driver. I’ve always said that. I think he’s no secret, kind of like myself. He’s had ups and downs. It’s just cool to see somebody like that, that puts all the effort into it. I mean, we all do.

Sometimes you don’t want to be happy for the person because you’re jealous that you weren’t the one in it. In the end, he did a great job, he deserved the win, and it’s great for that team.

Actually, it’s roses, not dandelions. I was just joking (smiling).

Q. Plate racing is a different animal. Momentum is still a big part of this sport. Both of you are starting into your second full seasons with your crew chiefs. Do you feel like this is going to set you up for a strong run towards the Playoffs?

AJ ALLMENDINGER: Yeah, any time you have a good finish, it’s going to help. Last year we had an okay 500. Went to Atlanta, had a fast car, but had a poor finish. Vegas, I think we ran okay. Next thing you know, you feel like you start pressing a little bit, trying to get a good finish in there, start gaining some points.

This race doesn’t dictate that, Okay, our car for sure is going to be great at Atlanta. More than anything, it does help to know, alright, we got some good points, we don’t have to press like we did last year, we don’t have to do anything crazy, just go do our jobs.

You don’t really know where you stand until about eight or nine races in. By that time, we’ve went to every type of racetrack. You know, alright, where are we strong? Where are we weak? These races are hard to get great finishes in. Any time you get one, you take it. It helps a ton.
The Daytona 500, it’s the biggest. It’s at least a kickstart into Atlanta for our team knowing we don’t have to do anything crazy. We just keep doing what our jobs are and see where we fall into place, see where that is.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks again for the show tonight. Safe travels to Atlanta.