August 15, 2021
By Chase McCabe
You can call it luck, right place right time, victim of circumstance, whatever you want. The fact of the matter is on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, A.J. Allmendinger and Kaulig racing were in Victory Lane.
A win is a win.
Allmendinger's only other Cup Series win came in 2014 at Watkins Glen when he was driving for JTG-Daugherty Racing. Since leaving JTG-Daugherty after the 2018 season, he's found himself driving for Matt Kaulig's outfit in the Xfinity Series and then this year in a handful of Cup races at the Superspeedways and Road Courses. In the Xfinity Series "Dinger" has won 2 races this season at Las Vegas and Mid-Ohio and is coming off back to back runner up finishes at the Glen and yesterday's race at Indy. He didn't expect to win today, but as always... he'll take it.
"That was fun. Yeah, I mean, it was — that was chaotic. Honestly we didn’t really have a race-winning car on outright speed, probably about seventh to tenth. I sped on pit road, so I just kind of carried on for how I felt yesterday, so put us in the back there, and we were just fighting hard. I thought we probably maybe would get in the edge of the top 10 and have a solid day." Allmendinger said.
"For a makeshift really pit crew — I shouldn’t say makeshift, but a crew that we don’t work with all the time, they did a fantastic job, great pit stops.
But yeah, once that chaos started happening and we started getting close to the front, I had a really good restart on the front. I think we were restarting 17th with eight to go and was able to get to seventh through all that mess and thought, all right, now we’re at least in shouting distance of it."
Matt Kaulig had been a long time sponsor in NASCAR with his company Leaf Filter. In 2015 he began his own race team in the Xfinity Series. Fast forward to 2020, he entered his team into the Daytona 500 and then a handful of races this year. In April of this year, he announced he would go Cup racing full time next season and in June he purchased two charters from Spire Motorsports. He'll field a full time ride of Justin Haley and a part time ride for Allmendinger.
Today, he's a Cup Series winning owner.
"Well, it’s a really surreal situation. I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid. I lived in Cincinnati, grew up in Cincinnati and then lived in Chicagoland, so we’d come down to the Indy 500 every year, and just to be — and I was at the very first — the Brickyard 400, that inaugural race, I think, back in ’94. So I’ve been to several of those." Kaulig Said.
"To actually be the team that gets to do that is just — it’s actually surreal. Even just sitting in front of you guys right now and looking at the empty track and knowing that we were just out there and have this trophy now is just — I’m really excited for these guys that have been doing this.
These guys have been doing this their whole life. I’ve been doing it for six years. Just really proud of you guys and all of our teammates that have made racing their life and NASCAR their life.
So the fact that we were able to deliver this is really cool."
The race was crazy. The curb came up, damaged a bunch of cars and ultimately changed the outcome. So in that sense, it wasn't a good day for NASCAR, but as they look to grow and bring in new teams and owners, having one win for the first time was a good thing. I believe they have what it takes to win at this level, not just in a lucky situation. Haley is a good young driver who already has a Cup win under his belt (again, a little luck never hurts). Having Allmendinger as the veteran on the team is also a positive. They'll have their growing pains, but Kaulig looks at today and this season as a whole as a place to build.
"No, I’m really proud of the team. We went into this season knowing that we were going to run a handful of Cup races, maybe eight or ten. We’re running the road courses, we’re running the superspeedways.
One of the reasons that Chris and I talked about doing that is just to get — just almost to get familiar with the Cup Series. It’s a little bit different than the Xfinity Series, and the garage is different and people — we wanted people to know who we were and what we’re all about." Kaulig said.
"We knew putting AJ in the car every week at these road courses would actually give us a chance to run really well, and so I don’t think it’s — it’s not an announcement to the sport or to other teams that we’re here. I mean, we’ve been here — we feel like we’ve been here and growing towards winning this championship in the Xfinity Series and then being able to compete in the Cup Series.
But you know, what it does allow us to do is it more legitimizes us as a successful race team so that you get — it’s better for your employees, it’s better for your drivers, it’s better for your crew chiefs and engineers. It allows you to get more and better people. It allows sponsors to trust that you’re going to show up and be great.
So for me, it shows that more than anything, and that’s what I’m really happy about. All the success that we’re having on the track, I get happy for all of our teammates, but I’m really — it’s growing our business as Kaulig Racing. So that’s really exciting."
NASCAR needs these teams to be successful because as they win more potential owners will be interested in joining the sport. That could also lead to more manufacturers as well.
As for Allmendinger, could he change his mind and potentially run a full season in Cup?
"I’ve retired. I’m done."
His owner responded to that with "He’s done."
"Before Matt answers, I will do whatever they want me to do. I’ve told them that from day one. Whatever they feel like I can help raise the organization and help push it, I’ll do that, whatever that may be. Whatever program we’re on, like I’m enjoying it.," Allmendinger continued.
It may have started something though.
"Yeah, and we’re working on it, and he does say that, and he has said that, and he truly will. We’d have to make sure whatever the situation is — we would like to run two full-time Cup cars next year, and we’re working out the details as far as drivers and sponsors and just how all of that looks," Kaulig said.
This prompted Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice to say "You opened up a can of worms, by the way."
All kidding aside and whatever the future holds for Allmendinger, today was a good day for not only Kaulig racing, but also NASCAR in a sense that the new teams can come in and be competitive. Kaulig will bring the proper resources to the series to be competitive and with the new car, that will help as well.
As for the road course at Indy... we'll see. I'm a traditionalist and would like to see them still race on the oval, but we'll see.