Road-course maven Allmendinger attempts to crack Chase at Sonoma

2012 Martinsville2 AJ Allmendinger During QualifyingWin and you’re in.

That’s the ticket to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – and a phrase AJ Allmendinger knows as well as anyone.

The road-course ace scored a surprise victory in 2014 at Watkins Glen International to capture his first-ever Chase berth and first career win. Last year, he was favored at both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road courses – Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen – after winning their poles, but failed to reach Victory Lane and missed out on NASCAR’s playoffs.

Allmendinger, from nearby San Jose, California, returns to Sonoma for Sunday’s Toyota / Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET on FS1) focused on earning one of the remaining six Chase spots.

“Sonoma Raceway is a place where the last two years we’ve been really fast, but have had some bad luck, or self-induced luck,” Allmendinger said. “We’ve been fast enough the last few races. However you want to look at it, we haven’t gotten the job done. Sonoma and Watkins Glen International were always the races that we circled on the calendar to know that those are going to be the chances to win to get in The Chase.”

In seven starts at Sonoma, Allmendinger claims only two top 10s, but has been hurt by bad luck in the last two races there, placing 37th in both. In addition to winning the pole at the 1.99-mile track least season, he started second there in 2014.

On Sunday, the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing driver will attempt to become the 11th winner in the last 12 Sonoma races.

Allmendinger sits 19th on the Chase Grid, 27 points behind 16th-place Ryan Blaney for the final berth in NASCAR’s playoffs. With Kasey Kahne and Trevor Bayne between him and Blaney, as well as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tied with him, a win is Allmendinger’s best shot at landing a bid to The Chase.

“I love Sonoma Raceway; it’s a special place,” Allmendinger said. “You try not to have any race be more special than others, but I would love to go there and win a race. Beggars can’t be choosers, but it’s a hometown race for me and one of my biggest sponsors The Clorox Company… It’s where I grew up so it would be a very big deal if I won there. It would be pretty special.”