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After Watkins Glen win, JTG Daugherty’s NASCAR team builds hope

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/10/20/27/tAf2L.Em.138.jpeg|235
    Tom Pennington - Getty Images
    WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 10: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane with champagne after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 10, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/10/20/27/oEgf5.Em.138.jpeg|474
    Tom Pennington - Getty Images
    WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 10: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 10, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/14/19/45/1lpsDz.Em.138.jpeg|442
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    NASCAR Fan Vote winner and Sprint Showdown runner-up A.J. Allmendinger on Friday, May 16, 2014 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/14/19/45/j4G3R.Em.138.jpeg|453
    John Atashian - ESPN
    Brad Daugherty

It’s about the little team that did.

When Brad Daugherty bragged earlier this season that his JTG Daugherty Racing team had a chance to win the Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma, Calif., he could sense the skepticism.

“When you’re a smaller race team and you tell people, ‘Man, we should have won that race,’ and you haven’t had the success, they discard you,” he said.

“They say, ‘Yeah, you’re just dreaming.’ 

Sometimes dreams do come true.

A.J. Allmendinger’s victory in last weekend’s Cup race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International was the first in his career and the first for the single-car JTG Daugherty organization.

With NASCAR’s new format for the Chase this season, the victory also ensures a first trip to the championship Chase for both the driver and the team.

“It’s so hard, this business, the racing business. So many talented people once you get to the top. It’s very difficult,” said Daugherty, an ESPN TV analyst and former basketball star with the North Carolina Tar Heels and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

“We’re a smaller team as everyone continues to talk about, so it’s a little bit harder for us.”

Small, yes, but the results on Sunday spoke volumes.

JTG Daugherty failed to make the field in its first attempt to make a Cup series race in 2007 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with driver Ken Schrader. It failed again later that year to make the field at Kansas with driver Jon Wood.

The organization’s Cup program appeared a much more difficult undertaking than first thought. But Marcos Ambrose got the No. 47 team into the 2008 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it was off and running.

Since then, Ambrose, Bobby Labonte and Allmendinger have all driven for the team but only last weekend did the team finally get to celebrate in Victory Lane.

“I think of just the 40 people (at the shop). We always talk about sometimes the sling and a stone and great faith is enough to slay the giant, and they work together as a team every day and work so hard,” said team co-owner Tad Geschickter.

“Then I think we’re really blessed to have sponsors that have stuck with us for 20 years through thick and thin. There have been some thin times, and I just think of them and what it means to bring them to Victory Lane.

“It’s just gratifying.”

JTG Daughtery had won races in the Nationwide Series and fielded entries in all three of NASCAR’s national series, but the Cup series victory comes with potentially the biggest payoff.

The exposure for a team competing for the series championship – let alone remaining in the hunt for the title to the final race – could potentially be worth millions of dollars.

“I think that we have more in us. We go to race tracks like Atlanta, we go to places like Martinsville, Bristol – (Allmendinger) is good at those race tracks,” Daugherty said.

“I think we’ve got a chance. If the dominoes fall correctly, we’ve got a chance. So we’ve got to put all of our eggs in one basket. We don’t want to just be there as a back marker.

“We want to make some noise.”

And why not?

Sometimes dreams do come true.

Utter: (704) 358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.
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