AJ Allmendinger eyes success with new sponsor in Las Vegas


AJ Allmendinger has goals for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

AJ Allmendinger is back in the #16 Cup Series entry at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was a late change as Noah Gragson replaced the injured Alex Bowman, but it provided Allmendinger with the opportunity to present a CELSIUS scheme for the first time.

“What’s great about Kaulig, really since I’ve been here, is that we have the opportunity to work with a lot of different partnerships and new sponsors, and I hope, in a way, to help to grow those relationships into bigger and better things,” Allmendinger told Heavy before heading to Las Vegas. “So we’ve had a lot of success launching new cars. So hopefully we can do the same [on Sunday].”

According to Allmendinger, he has had some success with new partners during his Xfinity Series and Cup Series career. He has won wins with Digital Ally, C2 Freight Resources, Ellsworth Advisors, Hyperice and Ramco Specialties. Now he wants to deliver a solid performance for CELSIUS.

Several Kaulig Racing drivers have featured CELSIUS as a primary partner as the beverage company has taken on an expanded role within the team. Justin Haley showcased the company in the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway while Daniel Hemric joined in the fall race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Haley crashed and finished 28th at Daytona after sudden rain sent the majority of the field into the wall and into each other. Hemric finished 30th at Talladega due to a surprising electrical issue in No. 16.

Now Allmendinger will be looking to put in a strong showing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a track where he has 10 Cup Series starts and five top 20 finishes. Allmendinger also finished sixth in the 2015 season.

Allmendinger will use this new opportunity to prepare

AJ Allmendinger

GettyAJ Allmendinger will advance to the Cup Series in 2023.

Based on the previously announced schedule, Allmendinger was not scheduled to compete in the Cup in the remaining races. However, he will take over #16 while Gragson will replace Bowman in #48.

It’s a sudden change that didn’t give Allmendinger much time to prepare for his first paid start at a mile-and-a-half track in the Next Gen era. He only had about an hour on the simulator. However, he embraced the change due to another recent announcement.

Allmendinger and Kaulig Racing revealed Oct. 5 that he will return to the Cup Series full-time in 2023. He will join Justin Haley in the roster while chasing his third career win at NASCAR’s top tier. This additional start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will help prepare for this comeback.

“I think that’s the biggest challenge for me, just trying to get – with 15 or 20 minutes of practice – just a sense of what these cars look like,” Allmendinger said. “You know, Vegas is a mile and a half really fast. So trying to look at the in-car footage from the first race here this year, kind of the way the race went, things like that.

“I’m just trying to get a sense of…I’ve always talked to Justin and Daniel, but for me, I think it’s always trying to visualize what the car [is doing], listen, and then feel it itself. So, you know, the conditions will be a little different because it will be a little warmer than when you are in March. So that could somehow change the behavior of the car as well.

Allmendinger’s approach will be different than it was during the Xfinity Series race. He’s not in the playoffs, so he won’t have to worry about getting stage points. Instead, his focus will be on delivering a strong performance and building momentum for 2023.

Although if there’s a chance to steal a win, he’ll definitely take it. After all, Kaulig Racing has the “trophy hunt” mantra, and Allmendinger won one for the team during the 2021 Cup Series season.

The Next-Gen era led to Allmendinger’s move

There have been many conversations about the Next Gen car during the 2022 season. There have been comments about safety issues, random fires and the level of competition on road courses and short tracks.

There have also been conversations about improving the action on the middle trails. Fans, drivers and members of the media highlighted how the new cars have revitalized Auto Club Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and other tracks.

Allmendinger has driven the Gen 5, Gen 6 and Gen 7 Cup Series cars, so he has considerable experience with a variety of horsepower and aerodynamic packages. He knows the current version isn’t perfect, but he still chose to race full-time in the Cup again because of the fun potential.

“There is a challenge, I think we have to make it a bit less aero sensitive behind the other cars, where we can overtake a bit better at some circuits,” Allmendinger explained. “But that said, I really enjoyed driving the car. And that’s part of the reason why I decided I wanted to [go full-time] because I had fun driving the car. And I think we can stay on this path of just making the car better and more fun to drive.

“…So that was a big factor. Because why do it if you’re not even going to enjoy the car you’re going to be in? Right? So that’s something that really entered my thought process as we were going through all of this, like, “Hey, I’m really enjoying this car.” I’ll be the first to say, last year’s aero package on the mile and a half and the biggest racetracks – the low horsepower, the big spoiler – If it was still that I probably wouldn’t be in the Series Cup because I just didn’t think it was much fun.


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