A.J. Allmendinger won his way into the Chase in this race, one year ago. In 2015, he's back in the same position once again.
Just five races remain before the 16-driver Chase field is set for the 2015 Chase. Eleven drivers have already punched their ticket with Kyle Busch on the brink of making it twelve.
Last year, A.J. Allmendinger came out on the winning end of a thrilling battle with Marcos Ambrose. The victory was the first of his Sprint Cup career and earned both he and JTG Daugherty Racing a coveted spot in the postseason. Allmendinger went on to end the year 13th in the standings.
It doesn't matter whether somebody needs a win or not. He or she are going to go out there and do whatever they have to do to get the win
A.J. Allmendinger on the competition this weekend
"It was pretty cool driving into the race track yesterday and remembering the last time I drove out of this place," he said. "The amount of joy that I had - those are memories no matter what happens the rest of my life, I'll always have them. It was something that I had worked so hard for in the eight or nine years of being in the Cup Series.
A.J. has to do it again
Despite plenty of talk surrounding last year's triumph, Allmendinger has his eyes forward and knows that he and the No. 47 team are in the same boat once again. "To get that win was really special but with that said, we're in a new year here and we're kind of in the same situation. We want to come here and experience it all over again. The only difference from last year is having the confidence that if it comes down to crunch time like that again, I'm able to go out there and make it happen."
We definitely have to get better. The great thing is the pipeline of race cars that we have through the rest of the year, for the most part, is pretty new cars
Allmendinger currently sits 23rd in points, roughly 100 markers shy of the Chase cutoff. He has to win and his best shot is right here, this weekend. He returns to the Glen with a familiar machine under him. It's the same car he earned the Sonoma pole with in June and the same one he took to Victory Lane at the Glen in 2014.
It won't be an easy feat
Some fail to see any formidable competition for Allmendinger, feeling that with Marcos Ambrose out of the picture, this race is his to lose. The California-native was quick to dismiss that. "There's a lot of great race car drivers and you can't just single out one or two of them that are going to be tough." Four-time Glen winner Jeff Gordon dominated this race last year before issues and the winningest driver in WGI history (Tony Stewart) is back in the field for the first time since 2013.
"The thing I've learned about Sprint Cup is that it doesn't matter whether somebody needs a win or not. He or she are going to go out there and do whatever they have to do to get the win.
"Whether it’s pressure to make the Chase or win the race, it is no more pressure than what I add to myself. I believe in myself, more importantly my team owners and my team believe in me. That is all I need to go out there and feel confident.
"If it's meant to be, it's meant to be and if not, then it doesn't happen."
"I think as a team we are a lot closer," Allmendinger said of his second full season with JTG. "We believe in ourselves even through the downs. It’s one of those things that we know we have to stick together.
"We definitely have to get better. The great thing is the pipeline of race cars that we have through the rest of the year, for the most part, is pretty new cars. Last week (finished seventh) was a brand new car. I think next week at Michigan is going to be a brand new car. So, our equipment is going to be a lot better if we have the opportunity to get into the Chase than it was last year.
"Last year I think we were all kind of trying to figure out even which direction we were going. That win has helped a lot and it’s made us believe in each other and trust each other. Even in the down times so far this year that we have had at times we have stuck together a lot better and we have worked in the right direction. Whether it’s from Tad (Geschickter) all the way on down to everybody in our race shop just that trust factor is way better.
"Even if the points don’t show it right now we are a lot better of a race team than we were at this time last year.”