NASCAR: A.J. Allmendinger’s unexpected role in growing partnership

Kaulig Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kaulig Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

A.J. Allmendinger is set to carry primary sponsorship from CELSIUS in this Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

A.J. Allmendinger wasn’t originally supposed to compete in this Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but plans changed.

Set to drive Kaulig Racing’s #16 Chevrolet, a car which Allmendinger has driven in 14 of the 2022 season’s first 32 races, was Noah Gragson, who had driven it in 10 of the other 18.

But with Alex Bowman still sidelined with a concussion he suffered in a single-car crash at Texas Motor Speedway three Sundays ago, Gragson was called upon to replace him behind the wheel of the #48 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports. In fact, he is set to drive the car in each of the next three races.

The move opened up the #16 Chevrolet for Allmendinger, who is now set to drive the car in not only this Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but next Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the following Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway as well.

And in Sunday’s 267-lap South Point 400 at the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) Las Vegas, Nevada oval, he has a chance to do something that two of his teammates have done: drive a Cup car that carries primary sponsorship from CELSIUS.

CELSIUS, the energy drink which features healthy-energy formulas clinically proven to offer significant health benefits to its dedicated consumers and racers alike, was the primary sponsor of Justin Haley’s #31 Chevrolet at Daytona International Speedway back in August, and it was the primary sponsor of Daniel Hemric’s #16 Chevrolet at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this month.

Here’s a look at Allmendinger’s CELSIUS paint scheme for Sunday.

Ahead of the race, Allmendinger spoke to us about his experience with CELSIUS, which he admitted is a product with which he hadn’t been totally familiar prior to his arrival at Kaulig Racing.

“I was introduced to them through Kaulig Racing,” Allmendinger told Beyond the Flag. “When I first got there, I think it was just product being given to the race team. I 100% don’t even actually know how it started, whether it was through [team owner] Matt [Kaulig], [team president] Chris [Rice], or just a relationship like that.

“But over the last four years, it has grown a lot, just from it being in the shop. It wasn’t even anything to do with the race car really. [We went from] just putting it on the A or B post of the car, to now where all of us as Kaulig drivers have a CELSIUS can in our hand, to now obviously it being the primary sponsorship of the race car.

“I’ve been able to be involved through all those steps of what CELSIUS has been with Kaulig Racing, and I’m really happy that I’m able to drive the car this weekend. Hopefully we have a great run with it.”

Stepping into a car that he wasn’t originally supposed to be driving this weekend, he sees this as an opportunity to continue to grow this partnership.

“I think just like anything — I’ve been around this sport a long time — both partners have to work for each other, right?” Allmendinger remarked. “You can’t have one-sided, where it’s all about race team or it’s all about the sponsor and the race team doesn’t get anything out of it.

“And that’s what’s been fun about Kaulig Racing. We’ve been able to bring a lot of new sponsors in, maybe that even weren’t a part of NASCAR or knew what it was, and grown those relationships. That’s something that I’ve seen over the last couple of years, especially the last two years where we have all the product at the race track all the time, what people actually know about CELSIUS.

“We know about all the energy drinks and things of that nature, and to me at least, CELSIUS, at least through the NASCAR garage, wasn’t really well known. Now? We’ve had to put signs up that it’s just for the race team sometimes because every race team really seems like they come across and they come get the product from us!

“That’s really cool to see it’s grown and see fans have it and things like that, and I think that’s what it’s all about. You get it on TV by trying to run up front, so that’s the first goal: go out there and try to run up front and get CELSIUS on TV a lot during the race. If we can just keep growing the partnership and it’s best for both parties, that’s ultimately what really helps sponsorship and race teams and that’s what it’s all about.”

While CELSIUS won’t be the primary sponsor in the following two races, Allmendinger is looking forward to representing the brand well in those initially unplanned starts also.

“I am doing the next two after this,” he confirmed. “CELSIUS is on the A or B post of all our cars anyway, and then obviously for the drivers, we always have it in our hands. Hopefully that just means more TV time, doing both races!”

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Tune in to NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET this Sunday afternoon for the live broadcast of the South Point 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today if you haven’t already done so!