NASCAR: Former full-time Cup driver not 'scaling back', confirms more races

While A.J. Allmendinger is no longer a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver, his 2024 season is actually busier than his 2023 season.
A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR
A.J. Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, NASCAR / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Just because A.J. Allmendinger is no longer competing full-time for Kaulig Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series does not mean he is in any way "scaling back".

Allmendinger, who discussed with us his long-time and continuously growing partnership with CELSIUS, also talked a little bit about his season so far, which sees him competing full-time for Matt Kaulig's team in the Xfinity Series for the first time since 2022.

The 42-year-old Los Gatos, California native joined Kaulig Racing in 2019 and competed part-time in the Xfinity Series in both 2019 and 2020. He competed full-time in 2021 and 2022, making select Cup Series starts for the team along the way. He earned the team their first Cup Series victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2021.

Allmendinger moved to the Cup Series full-time in 2023, marking his first full season in the series since he spent five years with JTG Daugherty Racing from 2014 to 2018. But after 2023, even after he collected the team's second victory at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, the decision was made to have him compete full-time in the Xfinity Series again in 2024.

Allmendinger was a championship contender in both 2021 and 2022, winning five races each year, and given where Kaulig Racing currently stand in the Xfinity Series, compared to where they stand in the Cup Series, it was believed that Allmendinger could be the biggest asset to the organization by moving back to the Xfinity Series.

"I'm content doing whatever they want me to do," Allmendinger told Beyond the Flag. "I made a point last year, I actually enjoy the Cup car; it's a lot of fun to drive. Sometimes the racing is difficult, just because certain race tracks, how aero sensitive the cars are. I wish we had, sometimes at the bigger race tracks, the mile-and-a-halfs and two-mile racetracks, a little bit more horsepower, so you're kind of out of the throttle a little bit more."

Despite moving back to the Xfinity Series, Allmendinger has still made select starts behind the wheel of the No. 16 Chevrolet (and one in the No. 13 Chevrolet) this year in the Cup Series.

He is actually busier this year than he was last year.

"I do enjoy driving the car, so I have fun with that, especially when we're competitive, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter to me whether I'm full-time Cup or full-time Xfinity," he admitted.

"For me, I always put pressure on myself to feel like I got to prove myself every weekend first, and I feel like if I'm happy with that, then the rest of the team's going to be happy, because I have the highest standard for myself. It's just the belief in whatever they want me to drive, I'm okay with."

Allmendinger, whose most recent Cup Series start came in late April at Dover Motor Speedway, confirmed that he is set to return for the race at Sonoma Raceway next weekend.

"I'm doing that in the No. 16 car at Sonoma," he stated.

While Kaulig Racing have not made any formal confirmations about their plans for the majority of the remaining races on this year's schedule, including Allmendinger's schedule, Allmendinger also noted that his schedule is set to pick up on the Cup Series side moving forward.

"It's funny, because really here the second half of the season on the Cup side, it picks up a lot," he said. "So I don't call it scaling back, because last year I did 41 races; this year I'll probably do 51 or 52 races again, so it's not really scaling back, it's doing more!

"But what allows me to kind of keep pushing is the belief that Matt Kaulig and Chris Rice and all the men and women at Kaulig Racing – but especially Matt and Chris, because they're the forefront of this race team, and obviously Matt being the guy who allows me to do this every weekend – the belief that they have in me on whatever side of it to help kind of keep pushing the race team.

"Last year, it was the Cup side of it, and this year to go back to the Xfinity side of it, to keep trying to make our program better, that belief in me is something that I take with a lot of pride, I take personally. That's why I think if we're struggling, I'm really hard on myself, because I want to keep pushing us to the next level.

"But that's what gives me a lot of confidence, the fact that they believe in me, whether it's Xfinity or Cup, to kind of help keep growing this race team and this organization. "

Allmendinger spoke about some of the other races he is looking forward to running later in the year.

"With the Cup side of it, the mile-and-a-half race tracks and the bigger race tracks that we've been pretty good at," he said. "I think really our short track program on the Cup side of it is where we struggle a lot, and I don't think it's just us as a whole. I think it's kind of a lot of the Chevy cars, we're struggling to kind of find what direction we need to go.

"I look forward to going to Nashville, winning the Xfinity race last year. On the Cup side, we ran in the top 10 all day there, so I look forward to that race track. Iowa's going to be a lot of fun. The crowd's going to be huge there. It's a fun race track. I've only tested on it in a, I call it a past life, it was back in 2007, 2008, so that's going to be a fun weekend."

Aside from those tracks, Allmendinger is just happy to be competing.

"Honestly, it's one of those things that I look forward to every weekend," he continued. "I put a lot of pressure on myself. There are certain weekends where I think we can go win, other weekends I think it's about just trying to improve.

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"The second half of the season's going to be, starting really here at Portland on the Xfinity side of it, but going to Sonoma here on out, I'll be busy. Hopefully we can just kind of keep growing."