The new aero package with lower downforce, the cold weather, and rain on race morning, all factored into a race day at Atlanta with little grip. A fact that, as all of the announcers pointed out, made the Folds of Honor Quicktrip 500 a “drivers” race. Drivers would have to a be a good “wheelman” to be successful. These scenarios bring to mind drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards. Absent from that list were AJ Allmendinger and Brett Moffitt – a fact that made their seventh and eighth place finishes all the more sweet.
AJ Allmendinger, who took over the No. 47 for JTG-Daugherty Racing when the team was looking for more success, won a race at Watkins-Glen last year, made the Chase and has been impressive in somewhat underfunded equipment. The 33 year-old driver from California, is seemingly carrying that momentum into the 2015 season. After a solid eleventh place qualifying effort, Allmendinger ran in, or close to, the top-ten most of the day on the 1.54 mile quad-oval. An impressive feat when you consider the number of drivers that were struggling with the lack of grip.
Allmendinger was asked about the new rules package, he responded, ““It’s racy for sure. You have to keep the momentum up. A place like this if you get loose and stuff it kills you. There is a lot to learn for me.”
Brett Moffit’s story is quite different. Moffit is a graduate of he NASCAR K&N Series and made his Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend driving the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Aarons Toyota Camry. The car is usually driven by Brian Vickers who is sidelined due to medical reasons. Team owner, Michael Waltrip piloted the car at Daytona, and Moffitt was chosen to drive for one race as Vicker’s is scheduled to return next weekend at Las Vegas.
As Allmendinger, Moffit ran well staying in the top-ten most of the day. The 22 year-old from Iowa held his own against Cup series veterans. In a late race restart, on old tires, Moffitt’s car snapped sideways. He was able to chase the car up the track and make the save. It was as if he had been driving these cars for years. Moffitt definitely made the best of the opportunity, likely earning himself another chance to compete with the best drivers in the world very soon.
Given the tough conditions, the impressive runs by Allmendinger and Moffitt should have raised some eyebrows this weekend.
The series now heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 8 for the Kobalt 400.