AJ Allmendinger is embracing a new mindset in the return of the NASCAR Cup Series full-time

When AJ Alminder Another full-time race at NASCAR Cup SeriesHe looked miserable.

It wasn’t working well. Any potential of a good race seemed fleeting. The grinding seemed to wear him out.

When he stopped racing full-time in the Cup Series, not many thought he would return to stock car racing full-time.

But he then ran part-time in 2019 and 2020 at the University of Michigan Xfinity series for Kaulig Racing, which convinced him to go to Xfinity Racing full-time.

With so many Sundays off, Allmendinger seemed to find a balance as he sounded hopeful. Winning races has definitely helped.

Next year? He’s back in cup racing full time for the 41-year-old.

And there’s a challenge that goes beyond trying to win Cup races: stay out of misery while trying to raise the Kaulig Racing organization in its second Cup season to the point where it can consistently compete for wins.

AJ Allmendinger driving to Kaulig in 2023

AJ Allmendinger driving to Kaulig in 2023

The last time AJ Allmendinger was a full-time World Cup driver, he seemed to hate it. Bob Pocras asked him how he was going to keep him from feeling that way again when he took over the No. 16 car full-time for Kaulig Racing.

Allmendinger laughs at the question: “How will you refrain from hating life?”

“The most important thing for me is that I am very different from where I am in life,” Alminder said. “The passion that I have and the desire to win is probably more than before because I see… the potential that is there.

“But, for sure, I’m not going to sit here and lie to myself or anyone. There are still ups and downs where I get frustrated.”

The thing is, it probably wouldn’t be funny to the opposition. Allmendinger has run nearly half of the cup schedule this year and has had eight top-10s in his last 13 starts. And while one might argue that he ran mostly his best tracks, he ranked 11th in points scored over the last five races of the year at a variety of tracks.

It’s true to say that 2023 could be his best opportunity to perform since 2013, the year he started with Penske.

Allmendinger’s career is rather remarkable since that opportunity Penske. Fired after failing a drug test for what he said was unintentionally taking an Adderall pill given to him by a friend, Allmendinger rebounded by driving for Penske in Xfinity and IndyCar races as well as Phoenix Racing in the Cup.

He parlayed that into a five-year stint at JTG Daugherty Racing, winning his first Cup race in his first season there in 2014.

Allmendinger did not win another Cup race until 2021, when he captured the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of Kaulig’s part-time effort.

“I am who I am,” Alminder said. “I’m not going to change. It’s about winning. That’s what my life has been about – or at least being the best I can be.”

The difference is that Allmendinger now knows he can consistently win in a stock car. He has won 13 races at Xfinity in the last four years, including 10 in the last two seasons.

AJ Allmendinger defeats Charlotte Roval

AJ Allmendinger defeats Charlotte Roval

In October, AJ Allmendinger passed Ty Gibbs late on to win the Charlotte Roval race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

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This makes him believe he can win again. Not only does the Cup series feature six road courses (Allmendinger has always been strong at road courses thanks to its open-wheel racing roots), but he saw what Kaulig could do in the Cup.

Justin Haley He finished 22nd in the standings as a rookie this year, laying the foundation for a competitive two-car run in 2023.

“What really helped me decide to really want to do it was places like Dover we were going really well, in Bristol we were really fast,” said Allmendinger.

“Except for the start of the year…we have a competitive pace. We just have to keep getting better.”

The new next-gen car is something that seemed to fit in Allmendinger’s wheelhouse, and he had fun racing it. On top of that, he just enjoys the team owned by Ohio businessman Matt Coolig and staffed daily by NASCAR veteran Chris Rice.

“It really comes down to Matt and Chris – I hang out with them a lot, which makes it fun off the racetrack,” said Allmendinger.

“I’m more comfortable in my own skin now and what I can achieve because I’ve been able to accomplish these things in the Xfinity Series. The whole mentality is a little bit different.”

Allmendinger says while there will be times when he gets angry, he doesn’t expect you to control his mood.

“I promise I would never have considered doing this if I really felt it could have gone the same way and felt the same person I was back in the day,” Allmendinger said.

Thinking out loud

Much has been made of it Second Chances to Ryan Preece this weekAnother second chance, however, went a little under the radar.

It’s the second chance Crew Chief Chris Gayle has worked with Eric Jones For a few years before Joe Gibbs Racing chose to pair Jones with someone else.

Jill is assigned to Ty Gibbs For the past two years he has spent his time as crew chief at Xfinity. Gayle wanted to be captain of the Trophy crew and bet himself to perform with Gibbs and return to the Trophy garage that way rather than leave the organisation.

Working with a young driver is no easy feat, and Gael’s track record with Gibbs is strong. It will be interesting to see what he does with his second chance atop JGR’s drill box.

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Today’s stats

The average age of the fourth cup tournament was 29 years, three months and 19 days. It was the smallest since the format began in 2014.

They said so

“This is just the beginning. If it all ends today, that’s fine. Really, if I can’t race a car again, that’s fine. It was all worth it, and I’m really happy.” — Ross Chastain after finishing second in the Trophy Championship

Bob Pokeras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene, and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobocrassand subscribe to FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pokras.

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