All­mendinger loves The Glen

Driver hop­ing to du­pli­cate his lone NAS­CAR Cup win on twisty New York road course

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - JOHN KEKIS WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. —

Three years ago AJ All­mendinger didn’t want the sec­ond Sun­day in Au­gust to end, so he lin­gered in vic­tory lane at Watkins Glen In­ter­na­tional to soak in the at­mos­phere with his crew.

The vic­tory on the road course stamped All­mendinger as a threat to win ev­ery time NAS­CAR’s Cup se­ries vis­its the two twist­ing lay­outs on the sched­ule. With the play­offs loom­ing, he’s 27th in points and needs a vic­tory to qual­ify for the post-sea­son as the se­ries stops at The Glen, his best shot left to pro­duce that needed re­sult.

If there’s any added pres­sure, he says he doesn’t feel it.

“No pres­sure, man. Hon­estly,” said All­mendinger, who drives the No. 47 Chevro­let for JTG Daugh­erty Rac­ing. “I think the out­side world tries to put pres­sure on it. All we can do is go out there and give it our best ef­fort.

“The race­track will al­ways be spe­cial, ob­vi­ously, be­ing my first win, re­liv­ing those mem­o­ries,” said All­mendinger, an ex­pert road racer from his days in open-wheel rac­ing. “But when it comes to pres­sure, it’s in ev­ery week. We’ll see how it plays out.”

That vic­tory in 2014 came in All­mendinger’s 213th Cup start, and he did it by win­ning a two-lap duel at the end with Mar­cos Am­brose, who had emerged as the driver to beat at Watkins Glen. Am­brose had been dom­i­nant in NAS­CAR’s top two se­ries at The Glen, win­ning two straight Cup races and four straight events in the sec­ond-tier se­ries.

The pre­vi­ous year, All­mendinger also won on the road cour­ses at Elkhart Lake and Mid-Ohio in NAS­CAR’s sec­ond-tier se­ries, but suc­cess at the top level has been elu­sive. He en­ters Sun­day’s race at The Glen rid­ing a 107-race win­less streak.

“This year, we’ve been a lit­tle off on speed kind of ev­ery­where we’ve been to,” said All­mendinger, who has one top-five fin­ish and four top-10s in 21 starts this year. “We’re work­ing hard to try to get bet­ter as a race team. We’ll see when we get there on Satur­day what kind of speed we have in prac­tice.”

Sun­day’s I Love New York 355 at The Glen is the sec­ond straight Cup race with a con­densed sched­ule. Teams won’t prac­tise un­til Satur­day; qual­i­fy­ing is Sun­day at 12:05 p.m., three hours be­fore the race.

“With the con­densed prac­tices, to un­load well (is key),” All­mendinger said. “You don’t have that time to re­ally work on your car. Each prac­tice is 55 min­utes long, and if you don’t un­load very well, it’s one of those things that you kind of get be­hind real quick. The last cou­ple of weeks we haven’t un­loaded great and then it’s hard to try and catch up be­cause the time just goes quick.”

Xfin­ity prac­tice on Fri­day gave a hand­ful of Cup reg­u­lars a chance for ex­tra time on WGI’s 2.45-mile lay­out as they pre­pare to race in Satur­day’s Zippo 200 with an eye to­ward Sun­day. Brad Ke­selowski topped the speed charts in the first prac­tice.

As for that pres­sure on Sun­day, NAS­CAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wal­lace fig­ures it’ll be ramped-up for All­mendinger.

“There’s so much a feel of, ‘I’ve got to get it done, I’ve got to win this thing,’” said Wal­lace, a two-time win­ner at The Glen who will work the race as an an­a­lyst. “AJ All­mendinger, he’s com­ing up here think­ing, ‘Man, you know what, I can run good ev­ery­where else, but I can win here and I’ve got to get it done here. I’ve got to win this race be­cause it’s the only shot I’ve got to win all year long.’”

BEN MAR­GOT, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

All­mendinger has gone 107 races with­out a win.

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