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AJ Allmendinger Earns First Career Win And Chase Berth In Epic Finish At The Glen

AJ Allmendinger Earns First Career Win And Chase Berth In Epic Finish At The Glen

by August 10, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

WATKINS GLEN, NY – For the first time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, AJ Allmendinger stood in Victory Lane and celebrated with his team after winning the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International Sunday afternoon.

The Glen is notorious for exciting finishes and Sunday’s race was no different. JTG Daugherty Racing’s, AJ Allmendinger and Richard Petty Motorsports’, Marcos Ambrose entered the Cheez-It 355 with absolutely everything to lose, as far as their Chase berths were concerned. The two drivers are great road course racers and they needed a win to solidify their spot in this year’s edition of the Chase.

Allmendinger led the final 30 laps, but it didn’t come easy for the 32-year old, because the “Tasmanian Devil” (Marcos Ambrose) was right on his bumper and alongside rubbing fenders in the closing laps. The race appeared that it was going to be determined by if Allmendinger had enough fuel to get to the finish or if Ambrose could run him down and make the pass for the win. However, when Josh Wise had issues and stalled in the interloop bringing out the caution on lap 79, that bunched the field back up and threw the fuel concerns out the window.

On the restart, Jimmie Johnson spun in turn one, collecting Regan Smith who was subbing for Tony Stewart. Matt Kenseth and Kyle Larson were involved, as well. The pressure at that point had already boiled over, and for Allmendinger, he was sitting pretty being able to control the restart once back to green.

As Ambrose and Allmendinger rounded turn seven following the restart, Allmendinger was able to get underneath Ambrose for the race lead. Just seconds after making the pass, the caution came out for an accident involving Denny Hamlin spinning and taking out the barrels at the entrance to pit road.

“He put a great move on the restart,” Allmendinger said. “I thought Kurt was behind me enough that he couldn’t cut under me. And Marcos made a great move – we went side-by-side through the esses which you are not supposed to. Clean racing and he kind of had his tires used up. He got loose into the last corner – I got back around him and the caution came out. At that point, I didn’t think it really mattered who controlled the restart, it was going to be a battle to the finish.”

Ambrose said, “I can’t remember much of it but I know there was a lot of door banging going on and a lot of corners where we were side-by-side. I got my tires really hot during that and slid coming off turn 11 (some may refer to as turn seven) after I got the lead and he got it back before the caution dropped. That was probably the difference between winning and losing. If I could have had the lead when the caution came out I probably would have had the advantage on the restart and probably would have been able to fend him off. That is just racing. That is what it is all about.”

After a lengthy red flag, the field went back to green with only two laps to go, and from there, it was an absolute fight to the finish. Allmendinger held the race lead, but Ambrose was able to put a bumper to him entering turn five. The two drivers leaned on each other entering turn six and with Allmendinger having the advantage on the low side, he was able to exit the corner and take off.

“I ran him really hard up off turn one,” Ambrose said. “I was on the outside and tried to run side-by-side through two and had to pull back in line. I knew that I didn’t have long to try to get the lead back and he had a really bad run through the bus stop and got loose and out of shape. I had a shot at the inside thinking he would slide up the hill. He tried to check it and we got into each other and I was able to slide under him to take the lead. I had to give him some room on the outside too because I knew he would come back on the track and he leaned on me getting into turn 10 or six, whatever you want to call it. He pushed me wide and I shook the front tires and ran wide. That was my bad. It was just tight racing. We were running on worn out tires and racing for a lot. You just do whatever you can to try to get the lead and rattle the guys cage.”

As the leaders exited turn seven, Kurt Busch was alongside of Ambrose for second, and that allowed Allmendinger to separate and hang on to capture his first career victory in 213 series starts. Although only 24th in points, the win catapults him into the top-16 once the Chase gets underway. The win comes just two days after the team announced a contract extension through 2017 with sponsor, Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

“My gosh, I can’t believe we won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race,” Allmendinger said. “With this whole No. 47 team. Tad Geschickter and Brad Daugherty and all the great sponsors we have; our first Cup victory together, my first Cup victory, I love these guys. I just wanted it so bad for them and this team. They deserve it. They work so hard. I wasn’t going to let Marcos (Ambrose) take this from me. I hope the fans loved that race here and at home, because it was fun in the race car.”

Marcos Ambrose can still make the Chase if he can win in the next four events. He’s currently sitting 16th in the point standings, so if he doesn’t get a victory, he can race his way in.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the “Irish Hills” for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, August 17. Live coverage of the race will air on ESPN, the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and NASCAR on Sirius radio at 1 p.m. EST.

Cheez-It 355 at The Glen Results:
1.) #47 AJ Allmendinger
2.) #9 Marcos Ambrose
3.) #41 Kurt Busch
4.) #42 Kyle Larson
5.) #99 Carl Edwards
6.) #22 Joey Logano
7.) #4 Kevin Harvick
8.) #16 Greg Biffle
9.) #20 Matt Kenseth
10.) #55 Brian Vickers
11.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12.) #5 Kasey Kahne
13.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.
14.) #1 Jamie McMurray
15.) #13 Casey Mears
16.) #3 Austin Dillon
17.) #51 Justin Allgaier
18.) #43 Aric Almirola
19.) #34 David Ragan
20.) #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21.) #10 Danica Patrick
22.) #38 David Gilliland
23.) #36 Reed Sorenson
24.) #11 Denny Hamlin
25.) #32 Boris Said
26.) #77 Nelson Piquet Jr.
27.) #15 Clint Bowyer
28.) #48 Jimmie Johnson
29.) #40 Landon Cassill
30.) #66 Joe Nemecheck
31.) #7 Michael Annett
32.) #27 Paul Menard
33.) #33 Alex Kennedy
34.) #24 Jeff Gordon
35.) #2 Brad Keselowski
36.) #23 Alex Bowman
37.) #14 Regan Smith
38.) #98 Josh Wise
39.) #83 Ryan Truex
40.) #18 Kyle Busch
41.) #31 Ryan Newman
42.) #95 Michael McDowell
43.) #26 Cole Whitt

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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