AJ Allmendinger didn’t exactly quell rumors that he recently test drove on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course, fueling speculation the 2.4-mile layout might be used as early as for this season’s NASCAR all-star race.
Allmendinger was asked about the test Tuesday at the speedway’s media tour at the Charlotte Convention Center. After joking at first that he was playing golf in the area, Allmendinger acknowledged that he did test.
“We were out there collecting data and having fun, ” said Allmendinger, a road-course specialist whose only Cup victory came at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in 2014. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m not a decision maker. I enjoyed it. I think it could bring something new to the schedule.”
Track spokesman Scott Cooper said CMS had no comment on whether Allmendinger tested or if changes are in store for May’s All-Star Race or the October Cup race at the track.
The road course snakes through the infield of the 1.5-mile speedway. The Cup series already has road courses at Watkins Glen and Sonoma (Calif.).
Three things we learned
▪ Driver reaction continued to be generally positive about the new points rules announced Monday. Some of the more subtle aspects of its impact were raised, such as Johnson admitting that since he doesn’t generally qualify well it could hurt him early in the race.
▪ Chase Elliott said the biggest takeaway from his rookie season was dealing with how much time there is during a race weekend to prepare for the actual race. “You can certainly mess yourself up if you’re not too careful, ” Elliott said.
▪ The reasons for Carl Edwards’ recent announcement that he is stepping away from the sport continue to be somewhat a mystery. Although Edwards said he wanted to spend more time with his family and be able to walk away healthy, even former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth said he’s not sure of the reason – even after talking with Edwards. “I came away from it probably knowing less than I did than before, ” Kenseth said.
By the numbers
67 Maximum points a driver can earn in a race under new format (40 for winning, 20 for winning both segments, seven bonus points for postseason).
7 Championships in the NASCAR Cup series won by Jimmie Johnson, tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most ever.
10 Championship points to be awarded the winners of the Daytona Duels qualifying races for the Daytona 500.
▪ Johnson is trying to keep his professional and family life in balance by moving his family from Charlotte to Aspen, Colo., for the winter. With travel shortened to early season races in Phoenix, California and Las Vegas, Johnson said that will make it easier for him to spend time with his two daughters. The Johnsons will return to their southeast Charlotte home in the spring.
▪ Sponsorship news: Hooters will be the primary sponsor for Chase Elliott’s No. 24 Chevy. … Furniture Row Racing announced a primary and associate sponsorship with WIX Filters for drivers Martin Truex Jr. and rookie Erik Jones. Liberty University has returned as primary sponsor for Charlotte’s William Byron, who will be a rookie on the Xfinity Series this season.
▪ Joe Gibbs Racing is switching its spotters around after Edwards’ departure. Jason Hedlesky, Edwards’ former spotter, will switch to Kenseth. And Chris Osborne, Kenseth’s former spotter, will go to Daniel Suarez, who is replacing Edwards in the No. 19 Toyota.
▪ Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola said the organization’s decision to drop to one team only made sense. “Now we can put all our resources into one car, rather than do one car and try to piecemeal together a second car, ” Almirola said. RPM elected not to keep its second car after Brian Scott retired.
▪ BK Racing announced that Gray Gaulding will drive the team’s No. 23 Toyota this season, although he won’t make his debut until the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The team doesn’t have a sponsor for Gaulding yet.
They said it
▪ “When a driver has enough gray in his beard, fans begin to let you off the hook a little bit.” A bearded Johnson on the positive reaction from fans he’s received in recent years.
▪ “I don’t think we’re over it yet. But that’s a good thing because it keeps you hungry.” – Martin Truex Jr. on being eliminated from last season’s playoffs in the third round.
▪ “It’s on the floor in the guest room because my wife made me take it down to put up Christmas decorations.”