Allmendinger Scores First Cup Win At WGI
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – A.J. Allmendinger didn’t want to talk during the third and final red flag of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 At The Glen at Watkins Glen Int’l. He knew what he had to do: Hold off Marcos Ambrose for two laps.
Allmendinger made it happen, and collected his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup win in the process. It’s also the first win for JTG Daugherty Racing.
Allmendinger led 30 of the race’s 90 laps, and didn’t let negative thoughts seep into his mind as he sat in his car during the red flag period. Only a win would clinch Allmendinger’s berth in the Chase.
“I just wanted it so bad for this team, they deserved it, they worked so hard,” Allmendinger said. “I wasn’t going to let Marcos take that from me.”
Allmendinger’s No. 47 Chevrolet SS made contact multiple times with Ambrose over the final two laps – once losing the lead – but he was out front when it mattered.
Ambrose finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Carl Edwards.
“Congrats to A.J., he really deserved that win,” Ambrose said. “I gave him all I had, and tried to rattle his cage. (The last restart) didn’t make a difference. We raced each other to the line, and he was the winner.”
Several big-name drivers suffered disappointing finishes. A hard crash on lap 55 necessitating a red flag left Ryan Newman in 41st. Defending Watkins Glen winner Kyle Busch had tire issues as well as pit-road problems, and wound up 40th.
Regan Smith substituted for Tony Stewart after Stewart opted to not race in light of the fatal sprint-car accident in which he was involved Saturday. Smith was caught up in a late wreck while running in the top 20 and wound up 37th.
Jeff Gordon entered the race in the points lead, but lost the top spot due to his 34th-place finish. Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 11th and assumed the points lead.
He wasn’t the only – or the biggest – beneficiary on Sunday.
Allmendinger got help from two late cautions, one a wreck involving Denny Hamlin and the other involving Jimmie Johnson, that prevented him from running out of fuel. The Los Gatos, Calif. native wasn’t sure if he had enough fuel to make it to the finish without cautions.
Couple that with the stress of sitting by himself in his car on the backstretch under caution, and Allmendinger didn’t want to hear anything on his radio. He unplugged it and only plugged it back in as the race prepared to resume. Allmendinger went back to work and let those behind him fight for second.
“I hope the fans enjoyed it here and at home, because it was fun for me,” Allmedinger said. “I knew that if (Ambrose) could get to me, he’d move me out of the way just like I’d move him. I knew if I could get a gap and get them racing behind me, it was game over.”