Allmendinger races his way into Chase with stunning victory at Watkins Glen
A.J. Allmendinger is finally a winner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Watkins Glen, N. Y. – A. J. Allmendinger raced to glory in the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen, not only winning the intensely competitive 90-lap race at the legendary road-course but also securing a coveted spot in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Adding to his accomplishments, Allmendinger won his first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
The outgoing Californian started off his celebration with a series of burnouts followed by a jubilant victory lane ceremony. In the victory lane, he was greeted by numerous supporters, including car owners Roger Penske and Richard Childress.
Team co-owner and former NBA great Brad Daugherty literally tossed Allmendinger through the air.
The winner drove the Scott Products Chevrolet co-owned by Tad and Jodi Geschickter along with Daugherty.
On the last two restarts, I knew I had to pull every trick out of the bag.
Allmendinger’s run to victory was anything but easy as he had to survive a hard-fought battle with runner-up driver Marcos Ambrose, who had gone into the race as the favorite.
The pair swapped the lead on numerous occasions and at times, they bounced off each other and took turns going through the grass in the turns. They also endured three restarts in the final laps, exchanging the lead at least twice.
At no point did either driver yield to the other, but at the checkered flag, Allmendinger held a 1.160 second advantage.
A.J. Allmendinger comments
Said the happy winner, “This win is important to this race team and to be able to share it with everybody is what rolling into victory lane meant with my family (to include team owners, his parents and girlfriend among others). That’s what it is all about, and I will never forget everyone that came out in victory lane.”
Addressing the race, he stated, “I don’t believe Marcos (Ambrose) is one of the best in the U. S., I believe he is one of the best in the world. To go with him 1:1, he could have moved me out of the way and wrecked me and made it into the Chase, but he didn’t. He leaned on me, and I leaned on him, but we have a mutual respect and know what the limit is. We took it to the edge of the limit and for me, it will be so memorable as to how it ended. A very memorable day for me, and it is pretty awesome.
He got up on the wheel, and I think he is one of the best road racers on the planet
Co-owner Brad Daugherty
“On the last two restarts, I knew I had to pull every trick out of the bag. He’s so good and so good at maneuvering his race car. We bounced off each other and went flying through the grass. On last restart, I held on the outside and made him drive in deep, and I could make the corner and he messes up, I have a good shot at this one. On that last lap when I saw Marcos and him (Kurt Busch) side by side, that was the most perfect sight I had ever seen. This is a dream come true.”
Winning team owners and crew chief comments
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” noted crew chief Brian Burns. “When I wake up tomorrow, it will probably hit me.”
“We were on our game this week,” Jodi Geschickter said. Added spouse Tad Geschickter, “This is such a great sport, and I have such a belief in it. Today, A. J. showed what a great talent he is, and it means the world for me to see him get this win.”
“I have been saying we are a top-20 race team, but we haven’t been able to prove it. We didn’t back into this one. He got up on the wheel, and I think he is one of the best road racers on the planet,” commented co-owner Daugherty. “A great day for us!”
Marcos Ambrose comments
Although frustrated with second place, Ambrose was calm in defeat and accepted the outcome.
“I knew what was at stake, and I had a great race car, led a lot of laps but I came up short,” Ambrose said.
Addressing the late-race lead exchanges, he stated, “My tires were really hot, and I slid off the last turn after I got the lead and he got back by me. That was probably the difference between winning and losing the race. If I could have held the lead when the caution came out, I could have done better on the restart. I did take a couple of chances but they didn’t work.
It is just racing, and that is what it is all about.”
Kurt Busch sat in the cat-bird seat in the final laps, looking to pounce if the two heavyweights knocked each other out.
Kurt Busch comments
Said Busch, “It was a heckuva race for us, and we were in position all day. We ran in top-five and executed well in the pits. I thought our strategy played out well. I knew Allmendinger held his serve and I knew he was a force to be reckoned with. He deserves this one.
I had hoped the two would wipe each other out, and we could get to victory lane. There were a lot of things to overcome, and I just tried to stay focused.”
Rookie Kyle Larson advanced from 23rd to garner fourth place. He gained three spots in the final seven laps. Sonoma winner Carl Edwards finished fifth with Joey Logano in sixth. Seventh through tenth were Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers.
New points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th and now holds a slight advantage over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon.
Numerous drivers didn’t fare well including Jimmie Johnson (28th), Jeff Gordon (34th) and Kyle Busch (40th).
Regan Smith subbed for Tony Stewart and having never driven the car until the start of the race, he held his own until crashing out of the race in the late going when he struck a stranded Johnson.
Pole winner Gordon led the opening 29 laps but his potent Chevrolet lost power on the 52nd lap, triggering a yellow flag. After a prolonged stop, Gordon returned to finish 34th, four laps behind the winner.
In the point tally for the final spots in the Chase field, the non-race winners in order are Matt Kenseth, Newman, Larson, Clint Bowyer and Biffle.
Incidents and delays
Three vicious crashes took place with two of them causing the race to be stopped. In total, the stops consumed one hour and 42 minutes. In the first crash, Cole Whitt went head-on into the first-turn tire barrier. It happened after his brakes failed.
The second major crash on lap 56 was the most brutal, and it started when Biffle went off the track and Ryan Newman crashed hard, collecting Michael McDowell. The latter slammed into guard-rails on both sides of track, tearing off wheels in the process. Alex Bowman and Danica Patrick were also involved. The accident occurred on the exit of turn five.
Although there were no injuries, the ARMCO guard-rails were damaged extensively, forcing officials to stop the race for repairs. The race was red flagged at this point for one hour and 21 minutes.
Newman blasted the safety shortcomings of the track, indicating the guard-rails he hit were antiquated.
In a late-race incident, Denny Hamlin slammed into the sand barrels at the entrance to pit lane, tossing sand and pieces of the barrels in every direction. For the last time, the race had to be stopped, so repairs could be made once more.
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Ambrose falls short of win at the Glen
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|Location||Watkins Glen International|
|Drivers||Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Michael McDowell , Marcos Ambrose , A.J. Allmendinger , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Regan Smith , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Roger Penske , Joey Logano , Cole Whitt , Alex Bowman , Danica Patrick , Kyle Busch , Kyle Larson|