AJ Allmendinger Earns First Win In Cheez-It 355

AJ Allmendinger celebrates his first career win at Watkins Glen. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America.
AJ Allmendinger celebrates his first career win at Watkins Glen. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series visited Watkins Glen for the second and final road course race of the season, and a new face visited Victory Lane. Jeff Gordon was the early leader after starting on pole and had momentum for much of the early running of the race. It was only interrupted once when there was a caution on lap eleven when Cole Whitt went into the tire barriers in turn one. Following pit stops, Marcos Ambrose took over the lead around lap 29.

Ambrose was able to keep his momentum until lap 51, when the caution came out again both Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski developed electrical and brake problems respectively. Jimmie Johnson was the leader after the restart, but he wasn’t able to enjoy it for too long as there was a scary crash on lap 56 involving Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Danica Patrick, Alex Bowman, and Michael McDowell. Due to the severity of the accident and the damage to the guard rail, there was a red flag period of nearly an hour and a half for clean-up and repairs.

The restart finally came on lap 58, the race saw Carl Edwards leading but that didn’t last long as AJ Allmendinger quickly took the lead by lap 60. Allmendinger was able to put some distance between himself and second-place runner Marcos Ambrose, but that lead evaporated on lap 78, when Josh Wise stalled on lap 78.

Allmendinger was able to hold off Ambrose for the next few laps after the restart, but the final cautions of the day came with four to go when Denny Hamlin and Alex Kennedy crashed. Due to the damage, however, there was another red flag to clean up the debris and make repairs. On the restart, Allmendinger was able to stay in front of Ambrose and gain his first career Sprint Cup win as well as the first win for his team JTG Daugherty. The win puts Allmendinger in the 12th position in Chase standings.

“I just knew the restart – if he could get to me he’d move me out of the way just like I’d do to him,” Allmendinger said. “It wasn’t rough. He didn’t try to wreck me, he just moved me so I just leaned on him into the next corner. I knew if I could get a gap and get them racing behind me, it was game over, so that’s what I did.”

Ambrose may have come up short with a runner up effort at the Glen, perhaps his best shot at making the Chase Grid.  Still, the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion was gracious in defeat.

“First off, congratulations to A.J.,” Ambrose said. “Because he really deserved that win. I gave him everything I had to rattle his cage and he withstood the pressure.”

With embraces from former car owner Roger Penkse as well as current team ally Richard Childress, Allmendinger showed some appreciation for the moment in Victory Lane.

“That just means more than anything to me to have those guys being such a big supporter of mine,” Allmendinger said. “Obviously Roger and the whole Penske Racing organization for what they did for me last year and R.C. for this whole alliance. He’s opened the doors to this race team, given us everything we can have to go out there and compete and we won a race. We won a Sprint Cup race.”


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