NASCAR driver makes unusual decision before Richmond race

Justin Haley, A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Justin Haley, A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

A.J. Allmendinger is right on the NASCAR Cup Series playoff bubble, but he has opted to start Sunday’s race at the rear so he can compete in the Xfinity Series race.

In his first season competing full-time for Kaulig Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, A.J. Allmendinger finds himself as the highest-ranking driver in the point standings below the playoff cut line.

The driver of the No. 16 Chevrolet sits in 17th place in the standings, 17 points out of the provisional playoff picture, with five of the 26 races remaining on this year’s regular season schedule.

However, instead of qualifying for Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway on Saturday afternoon, Allmendinger is set to compete in the Xfinity Series race at Road America.

The decision means that Allmendinger is set to start Sunday afternoon’s 400-lap race around the four-turn, 0.75-mile (1.207-kilometer) Richmond, Virginia oval from the rear of the field.

Derek Kraus is set to drive the No. 16 Chevrolet on Saturday, though whatever starting position he earns won’t be applicable to Allmendinger on Sunday.

Some NASCAR fans have questioned A.J. Allmendinger’s decision.

They argue that he is prioritizing his desire to compete in a road course race over his full-time role as a Cup Series driver, and that’s not an unfair argument.

Allmendinger is somewhat of a road course specialist. Both of his two Cup Series wins have come on road courses, and 11 of his 17 Xfinity Series victories have come on tracks with both left and right turns.

Additionally, Richmond Raceway is not one of Allmendinger’s strongest tracks. He has finished no higher than 13th place in his most recent 11 starts there, and that 13th place finish in 2015 is his only finish higher than 20th during that span.

But while it’s not as if he feels he can win Sunday’s race, starting in last place certainly doesn’t do anything positive for his prospects of recording a decent finish to help himself in relation to the playoff cut line. So is not making a qualifying attempt the right thing for the 41-year-old Los Gatos, California native to do?

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $100 for betting $5, lists Allmendinger at +20000 to win Sunday’s race.

Odds and availability are always subject to change. Lock in your $100 now before it’s too late!

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Saturday’s Road America 180, for which Allmendinger is the +100 favorite, is set to be broadcast live on NBC from Road America beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET, and Sunday’s Cook Out 400 is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Richmond Raceway beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. If you have not yet begun a free trial of FuboTV, do so now and don’t miss either event!