A.J. Allmendinger clarifies Kaulig Racing deal

A.J. Allmendinger spoke about his deal with Kaulig Racing for the 2022 NASCAR season and what that means for him as far as the Cup Series is concerned, noting that nothing has been confirmed.

In one of the biggest moves of NASCAR silly season pertaining to the 2022 Cup Series season thus far, Kaulig Racing confirmed that they had purchased two charters from Spire Motorsports and now plan to run full-time in the Cup Series next year.

One of those two charters is currently used to run Spire Motorsports’ #77 Chevrolet and one is currently leased to Trackhouse Racing Team to run their #99 Chevrolet.

Kaulig Racing also announced that current Xfinity Series driver Justin Haley is set to drive one of the team’s cars on a full-time basis next year and that fellow Xfinity Series driver A.J. Allmendinger is set to join him in the second car in select races.

The Matt Kaulig-owned team currently compete in the Cup Series, but with just one car and in just six of the seven road and street course races and the four superspeedway races. Allmendinger is the road and street course driver while Kaz Grala is the superspeedway driver.

While it was assumed that Allmendinger’s deal for next year would include at least the road course races and the superspeedway races, the 39-year-old Los Gatos, California native told Beyond the Flag that a specific schedule for him behind the wheel of the team’s second car has not been confirmed.

In fact, he isn’t even sure if he will be called upon to compete in the Daytona 500, a race in which he hasn’t competed since 2018.

“I don’t know that yet,” Allmendinger told Beyond the Flag. “When it comes to the Cup Series next year, I will say Matt Kaulig does love superspeedway races. That’s something that he’s always enjoyed.

“So I think some of it comes down to the new car coming in, like how many parts you have for the car — spare parts, or do you have enough parts to have a second car, things of that nature, I think are going to dictate a little bit, especially at the start of the year, what races we’re going to run.

“But with his background, he loves superspeedway racing, he’s always enjoyed it. Obviously my background is road course racing, and there are more and more of those on the schedule, so I love doing that. That’s something that I love.”

He did say that his schedule would probably include a mix of superspeedway races and road courses, as many have assumed.

“I would say there’s probably a mix of superspeedway races and road courses, kind of what it looks like,” he said. “But the schedule remains to be seen and I really do believe that a lot of it has to do with this new car and how many parts, spare parts, and parts that we have for a second car, because the main focus is going to be on Justin Haley full-time next year in the Cup Series for Kaulig Racing. And we’ll figure out what our schedule looks like from there.”

As far as beyond 2022, Allmendinger isn’t worried about whether or not he ends up back full-time in the Cup Series. He last competed full-time at NASCAR’s top level in 2018 for JTG Daugherty Racing.

“I wouldn’t say necessarily that I have to be full-time in Cup,” he admitted. “That is not like the outset goal in my head, ‘I need to be back in the Cup Series to be happy’, or whatever. Really it comes down to the partnership that I have with Kaulig Racing. I love all the men and women that work for the race team. To be able to drive their race cars every weekend, I’m truly enjoying it, in the Xfinity Series and then the Cup Series when I do get to run it.

“Next year, I’m going to have the best of both worlds again, running full-time Xfinity and whatever the amount of Cup races we decide to run with myself and the team. That kind of remains to be seen. So yeah, I love what I’m doing. If it works out that I am full-time in the Cup Series in the future, then that’s great. If not, it’s not a huge priority in my life. I love being a part of Kaulig Racing and that’s really my main focus; whatever really helps the organization keep growing and is best for the organization, I’m happy being a part of it.”

He also spoke about his current pursuit of the Xfinity Series championship. He sits in second place in the championship standings behind reigning champion Austin Cindric of Team Penske with two wins, one at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and another one at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, through the first 18 races on the 33-race 2021 schedule.

He knows that as good of a first full-time season he has had thus far, he and the #16 team will need to improve before the playoffs and perform at a high level once they roll around to contend for the title.

“I think at most races, we have a lot of speed,” Allmendinger said. “Some part of it is this is my first year full-time in the Xfinity Series; a lot of these race tracks I’ve never run at in the Xfinity car. I haven’t been to many in three years, dating back to when I was full-time in Cup. So I think some of it has to do with what I want in the feel of the race car, keep working on that.

“Some of these race tracks, as we build the notebook, we come back to a second time; I think we’ll be better. So I think it’s more just consistency. I don’t pinpoint one type of race track or certain area where we need to get better. I think it’s more than anything just continually working hard on what I need in the race car.”

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t comfortable with how he and the team have been running.

“I like where we’re at; of course, you’d like to have more wins, but we’re running top five every week,” he said. “This past weekend at Atlanta, we ran second to Kyle Busch in both stages and were right there. The strategy just didn’t play out. I would really say those races that we haven’t finished inside the top five or top 10, it’s been strategy or a mechanical [issue] or getting wrecked. So we can be top five every weekend.

“I think it’s just kind of finding that speed every weekend to be fighting for race wins. More importantly, getting in those playoffs and being at our best when we hit those seven races in the playoffs to know that we have a shot to win the championship.

“And that’s really what we’re focusing on these last seven or eight races before the playoffs, is making sure that we have everything in line of where we need to be to start the playoffs and hit it running and be at our best.”

The next race on the Xfinity Series schedule is scheduled to take place this Saturday, July 17 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and it is set to be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Allmendinger has never competed in an Xfinity Series race at the four-turn, 1.058-mile (1.703-kilometer) oval in Loudon, New Hampshire.

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