AJ Allmendinger offered full-time ride with JTG Daugherty Racing
By Lee SpencerFoxSports
AJ Allmendinger has agreed to a full-time deal to drive the No. 47 JTG Daugherty NASCAR Sprint Cup car in 2014.
Sources say the team has scheduled a news conference for Saturday.
Allmendinger, 31, has competed in NASCAR, IndyCar and Grand-Am this season. With his experience in a variety of different series and manufacturers, JTGD brought Allmendinger in for the Michigan June race to provide a second opinion on what areas the needed improvement with the car – mechanical, aerodynamic or engine. At that time, the team's current driver Bobby Labonte was 27th in the standings.
Labonte’s current average finish in the No. 47 this season is 27.76. Allmendinger, who will make his fourth start with the team this weekend at Atlanta, posted an average finish of 17th in the No. 47 – including earning JTGD’s first top-10 finish of the season when he finished 10th at Watkins Glen.
Allmendinger has spent the last year on a comeback tour after failing a drug test at Kentucky Speedway in June 2012. Allmendinger was released by Penske Racing, but after completing NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program, he was picked up by Phoenix Racing last fall and ran a limited schedule in the No. 51 Chevy which continued through this year.
Team owner Roger Penske also provided the affable and talented driver with a second chance – first in IndyCars and then in the Nationwide Series. Allmendinger enjoyed tremendous success in Champ Cars, winning five races in 2006 before jumping to NASCAR, but that’s the last time he had competed in open wheel before testing one of the Penske Racing cars in February. While he finished 19th in his return at Birmingham and had a mechanical failure at Long Beach, Allmendinger realized a childhood dream when he qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in May. Allmendinger qualified fifth and led 23 laps before his safety belts came loose and he was forced to pit. However, Dinger recovered to finish seventh.
Allmendinger’s introduction to NASCAR was far from smooth. With little prep time in the feeder series, he was thrust into the brand-new Red Bull Racing team, which struggled to make races with Allmendinger or with Brian Vickers, who had abundant seat time in stock cars. Still, Allmendinger worked his way up the NASCAR ladder finally earning a Sprint Cup ride with Penske Racing in 2012.
And it was with Penske where Allmendinger would finally post his first breakthrough win in the Nationwide Series in June. After earning his first pole in the Nationwide Series at Elkhart Lake, he won the race in just his ninth career start. Allmendinger backed up his NNS performance on August 17 by starting on the front row at Mid-Ohio and winning his second race.
Allmendinger’s best finish in Cup came with Penske Racing last year when he finished second to Ryan Newman at Martinsville Speedway. In Cup, Allmendinger has two poles, five top-five and 30 top-10 finishes in 185 starts. His best finish in the standings came in 2011 when finished 15th with Richard Petty Motorsports and crew chief Greg Erwin.
Although team owner Tad Geschickter has offered Labonte a position within the company, the 49-year-old former Cup champion told FOXSports.com on Aug. 24 that he had not made a decision regarding his 2014 plans. On Wednesday, Labonte suffered three broken ribs during a cycling accident and was transported to a hospital where he was held overnight for observation, according to a release. Labonte was scheduled to drive for Phoenix Racing this weekend at Atlanta.