Penalty Report: Atlanta

Wednesday, Mar 08

After a weekend in Atlanta, penalties were handed down in all three of NASCAR’s top series.

AJ Allmendinger’s No. 47 Kroger Click List Chevrolet team has received a L1 level penalty for lug nuts not properly installed. At the end of the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, it was discovered that Allmendinger’s machine had only 17 out of 20 required lug nuts intact.

The JTG Daugherty Racing team’s 26th-place finish is encumbered per Section 12.10. No. 47  crew chief Randall Burnett has been fined $65,000 and suspended for the next three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events, which includes NASCAR’s ‘West Coast Swing’. The team has also lost 35 driver as well as 35 owner points.

Under Sections 20.17.3.2.1.2, Kyle Busch’s winning Rinnai 250 machine failed post-race inspection. The No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota’s finish is also encumbered per Section 12.10 and was found to have measurements outside of NASCAR’s allowed tolerances.

Crew chief Scott Graves has been fined $10,000 and suspended from the next NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. Joe Gibbs Racing also loses 10 owner points.

The No. 23 Allegiant Airlines/NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet piloted by Chase Elliott in the Active Pest Control 200 also failed post-race inspection as it was found to have measurements outside of NASCAR’s tolerances. The NCWTS entry also did not have lug nuts properly installed.

Along with an encumbered finish, the team lost 10 truck series owner points. Crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz was fined $5,000 along with an additional $2,500 for the lug nut violation. Stankiewicz has also been suspended from the next NCWTS event at Martinsville Speedway.

When AJ Allmendinger began his career with JTG-Daugherty Racing back in 2013, the driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet only made nine starts. Since 2014, Allmendinger has completed the full 36-race schedule for the race team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The 2016 season was a winless one for the California native. But while he didn’t make a trip to Victory Lane, Allmendinger earned two top-five finishes and nine top 10’s as well as 24 top-20 placings throughout the year. He also led a total of 29 laps in five races.
His best finish of the season came during the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway where he finished second to Kyle Busch, who led a dominating 352 laps. Despite the runner-up finish, Allmendinger was still excited after the 500-lap event. “Man, I hope the fans enjoyed that,” he said after the race in a post-race Team Chevy transcript. “I passed Jimmie Johnson (finished ninth) like five times at Martinsville. That is pretty cool. I just can’t thank this team enough.”
With 12 laps to go, Allmendinger made a move. “I had to get aggressive,” he said. “I thought with 12 to go, we might have a new clock in the shop. Came up a little bit short, it’s pretty cool to be racing Kyle Busch for the win here though.”
Allmendinger also performed well at the two road courses on the schedule. After a 14th-place finish at Sonoma Raceway in June in the Toyota/Save Mart 250, he finished fourth at Watkins Glen International in the Cheez-It 355, a race he won in 2014.
During the regular season, he accumulated top-10 finishes in the Auto Club 400 at Fontana in March and GoBowling.com 400 at Kansas in May. Fontana was no walk in the park after he had to start at the rear of the field when his crew found a burnt gear. “It was a good catch by our crew to see the burnt gear,” Allmendinger said after the California race the Team Chevy transcript. “They caught it and saved our day. “It was tough starting back there, but I didn’t realize I had driven through half the field so quick. The car was fast.”
Although he got into the wall at Kansas, Allmendinger still managed to score an eighth-place finish. “We just kept digging. I caught the wall and we had the fender rubbing the tire,” he said in the Team Chevy post-race report. Despite the issue, he was still able to get back on the lead lap. He gave praise to his pit crew. “The guys did a good job,” he said. “We got lucky it kind of cycled back around and got back on the lead lap. Overall, just a hard-fought night to get a top 10 out of it.”
Allmendinger failed to make the Chase but still ran solid during the final half of the grueling Cup season. Other than a crash during the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway which resulted in a 37th-place finish, the No. 47 Chevrolet driver never finished lower than 17th in the other nine races. His return to Kansas in October netted him another top-eight finish. He felt much better about this run. “It felt like the best 1.5-mile race we put together there,” he said in the Team Chevy post-race report. “I felt like we had about a fifth or sixth place car and we finished eighth with it. Just a solid day.”
Allmendinger went on to pick up top-10 finishes in three of the final five races of the season, including another eighth place at Homestead. He ended the year 19th in the driver standings with 830 points.
JTG-Daugherty Racing will become a two-car organization for the 2017 Cup season. Last year’s Pennsylvania 400 (Pocono, August) winner Chris Buescher will join the team using a charter leased from the No. 16 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford recently vacated by Greg Biffle.  While Allmendinger will return to the No. 47 machine and be looking for top finishes and race victories, Buescher will pilot the new No. 37. After making it as far as the ‘Round of 16’ in the Chase a year ago, the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY champion will be looking for improvement and solid runs. He is also scheduled to kick off the new season in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona next month.

2014 was a dream come true for the No. 47 team. AJ Allmendinger had joined the organization on a part-time basis in the season prior, and he was set to contend for them full-time. Not only did he run well, but thanks to an alliance with Richard Childress Racing – Allmendinger was able to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time in his eighth season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Highlighted by a victory at Watkins Glen in an intense duel with road course ace Marcos Ambrose, Allmendinger’s season was quite impressive. In his first season working with crew chief Brian Burns, not only did he win his first career race, but he also gave the team, crew chief and most crew members their first career Sprint Cup Series triumph.

Although the team’s top story was the win at a road course, Allmendinger did something that the team had not accomplished since 2012 at Martinsville. He earned their first top-10 finish in a non-plate race in 43 events with an eighth-place result at Fontana. Earning five top 10s on the year doesn’t seem astonishing, but entering the season – Allmendinger’s goal was to move the team from a 30th-place organization into the top 20.

Not only was the No. 47 Chevrolet averaging a finish just near 20th-place, but he led over 25 laps in two races.

Inconsistency plagued the small team throughout the season with 11 finishes of 25th or worse. However, Allmendinger became the leader that he was destined for. Being in a smaller environment compared to what he was once within at Team Penske or Team Red Bull, the California-native finished on the lead lap 19 times, which is equivalent to Bobby Labonte’s results with the team in 2012 and 2013.

For the 2015 season, Allmendinger will continue to work with Burns. The two are signed through 2016, and they have potential to become consistent contenders for the near future. Although it might not be the largest organization, the team has steadily come together.

Aspirations were set on making this a multi-car team several years ago, but now they have begun to set their sights on making the No. 47 car a top-tier one. Allmendinger is proving he is worthwhile, and the team should improve in 2015. As their alliance with RCR continues, things could go well with the new aerodynamic package that is set to go in place as Allmendinger is a mechanical driver, which is where his talent will come into play once again like the road courses.