Saturday, June 8, 2013

AJ Allmendinger to share ride with Bobby Labonte for JTG Daugherty Racing beginning at Michigan

AJ Allmendinger at Texas Motor Speedway, April 2012
AJ Allmendinger's meandering career path takes another turn with the announcement by JTG Daugherty Racing that the Dinger will share the No. 47 with Bobby Labonte, beginning next week at Michigan.

Not exactly the same as running seventh in the Indy 500 for Roger Penske, but it's seat time.

Since his return to racing after completing NASCAR's Road to Recovery, Allmendinger has driven eight Sprint Cup races for Phoenix Racing, as well as five IZOD IndyCar Series races for Roger Penske. He also scored a podium finish in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

All he needs now is to make a NCWTS start, then run a couple of winged sprint car races and he'll have just about covered the world of four-wheeled motorsports with perhaps the exception of Global Rally Cars.

While there's been no definite indication that Penske will field any more IndyCar entries for him, it appears Allmendinger won't have any trouble staying busy.

His Phoenix Racing experience played a role in his invitation to drive for the young JTG Daugherty team.

“I have raced for Phoenix Racing some this year and feel confident I'll be able to provide JTG Daugherty Racing with a good comparison," said Allmendinger. "I’m thankful for this opportunity to work with the team and Bobby (Labonte).”

Speaking of Bobby, what does the 2000 Cup champion think of the move?

"Hopefully, this will help Bobby moving forward," said Brad Daugherty, team co-owner. "We're putting Bobby back in the car. This isn't an unseating of Bobby Labonte. We just want to figure out why we're struggling so badly. We believe he's going to embrace it. He's a competitor like anybody else. He doesn't want to get out of the race. But it's the best thing for the team."

Sitting 27th in points with only one top-15 finish this season, Daugherty and the rest of the team management believe that as a single-car operation, the team doesn't have the kind of collaborative input that the multi-car teams have and they hope Dinger can give them some perspective and - get this - help them provide value for their sponsors.

Co-owner Tad Geschickter said, “At the end of the day, the name of the game is to provide value to our sponsors. We are realistic about our position in the garage as a single-car operation. However, we have always been able to punch above our weight to deliver a great value to our partners on and off the track.  We have not been doing that with the new car and this move is an additional step in determining what areas we need to work on to improve our performance."

While those words are not likely to thrill Labonte, they have to be music to Allmendinger's ears.

After all, there were those in the NASCAR garage who said that Dinger's infraction was career-ending. Who would have thought when he fell from grace that in less than a year he'd be called on to help "provide value" to sponsors?

AJ Allmendinger's career is far from over. It's just becoming more diverse.

Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.


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