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NASCAR: AJ Allmendinger aims to build on strong finish at Martinsville

Sprint Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger greets fans during driver introductions for the Sprint Cup auto race at Martinsville Speedway Sunday.
Sprint Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger greets fans during driver introductions for the Sprint Cup auto race at Martinsville Speedway Sunday. AP

AJ Allmendinger is known as one of NASCAR’s better road-course drivers.

So, Allmendinger was asked, did that skill help him Sunday, when he finished second in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, which is an oval, but one of NASCAR’s more distinctively shaped tracks?

“A little bit,” said Allmendinger, whose only career victory came in 2014 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, one of two road courses on the Cup series circuit. “I wouldn’t say if you’re good at road-course racing you’re going to come (to Martinsville and do well). I know the first couple of times I came here, I couldn’t figure this place out to save my life.”

Allmendinger, who drives for one-team JTG Daugherty Racing, said there’s a delicate balance in running Martinsville, which packs two long straightaways and tight corners into its compact layout.

“It’s just a rhythm race track,” he said. “There’s a fine line between needing to be aggressive enough, using the brakes and the things you have to do to be fast, and then overusing them. That’s kind of the way road-course driving is. You can be aggressive, but you’ve got to know that line to where you overstep it.”

Allmendinger finished .663-seconds behind winner Kyle Busch. His runner-up finish was his first top-five since winning at Watkins Glen – 56 races ago.

What Allmendinger is more interested in now is turning any momentum he might have gained Sunday into another victory for his No. 47 Chevy. He said he is generally pleased with how he has performed recently, including an eighth-place finish two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

“I think that’s something that started at the west coast swing and coming through here,” Allmendinger said. “I feel like we’ve been at our best at the end of the races. We’re getting there. There’s ups and downs. The biggest thing, especially with a team like ours, is when you have a good race car, you’ve got to be able to capitalize on it. Fortunately (Sunday) we were able to do that.”

 
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