AJ Allmendinger’s primary focus for the next two weeks will be trying to snatch Kaulig Racing its first Xfinity Series championship. But he hasn’t been too shabby in the Cup Series in recent months, either.
Allmendinger continued his recent surge in his latest Cup opportunity in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, subbing for Noah Gragson, who is replacing Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Chevrolet.
In Saturday’s practice session, Allmendinger showed speed throughout the 20 minutes, both on the short and long run. The No. 16 Chevrolet ranked seventh in overall speed, but jumped to second on 10-lap averages. His teammate Justin Haley ranked third in the same category.
Come the green flag on Sunday, Allmendinger’s car performed better immediately after a restart. In the opening stage, the No. 16 car moved up from its 10th-place starting position to finish sixth and scored five stage points. On a long run in the second stage, he dropped to 13th.
Allmendinger charged on in the final stage. He found himself inside the top 10 prior to the final caution for Tyler Reddick with 23 laps to go. With a short run to try and chase down Kyle Larson, who dominated the race, he tried to move up from eighth position.
“I think I needed about an 11-lap run to catch Kyle (Larson),” Allmendinger said, following the race.
The No. 16 car had a good restart and made short work of Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin, moving him to third. There, he had a spirited battle with Ross Chastain for second, which resulted in the No. 1 car edging out Allmendinger for the runner-up position.
What a duel from @RossChastain and @AJDinger today. pic.twitter.com/F7dGIXzHYm
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 23, 2022
Allmendinger was credited with third, his best finish on an oval since the summer race at Daytona in 2018. It’s his best ever finish at an intermediate track at the Cup level.
“We’ve got to work on our long run package, just in general,” Allmendinger said with a smile. “That’s something that has been weak on us at Kaulig Racing. Ross and I had a fun battle. Overall proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing to get this Chevy in the top five and have another solid day.”
Dating back to the Indianapolis road course in late July, Allmendinger has six consecutive top-10 finishes in the Cup Series, the longest streak of his career. In 16 starts on the season, he’s got a 50% top-10 finishing rate, and is tied for the third most top 10s he’s had in a single season.
Allmendinger wanted to return full time to the Cup Series next year for Kaulig Racing with a goal of running up front and being competitive.
“We know how it goes in the offseason; a lot of things change and everybody works on the cars,” Allmendinger said. “It’s all about trying to build a notebook and get ready for next year.
“This is just giving us confidence. This is part of the reason I made the decision to go full time Cup, because the group we have on the Cup side can be really good. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it can be really good and I want to be a part of that.”
With the flash of good finishes, the No. 16 team is up to 26th in the owners standings, and within striking distance of 23rd should Allmendinger have solid outings in the final two races of the season at Martinsville and Phoenix.
Martinsville happens to be among Allmendinger’s best tracks on the circuit, with seven top-10 efforts in 22 starts.