Allmendinger wins wild Cheez-It 355 at the Glen
A.J. Allmendinger survived a late-race battle with Marcos Ambrose to win his first career Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen.
Allmendinger and Ambrose swapped the lead several times with some door-to-door racing in the final laps. The California driver came out with the lead on the last restart and pulled away from Ambrose for his first Cup victory in 213 starts.
"To be able to have to go with him basically one-on-one there and I've always respected him," Allmendinger said. "I respect him so much now because he could of easily wrecked me. He moved me out of the way and he leaned on me and I leaned on him back. So, to have that mutual respect where we know where the limit is and have such a great finish for us, it's just a memorable day and I hope I win a lot more."
Ambrose has two Cup wins at Watkins Glen and nearly won three in a row there last season until the No. 9 car stayed out on track when a caution came out while everyone else pitted under green-flag conditions. He had been in contention for the win at Watkins Glen every year and Allmendinger spoke highly of the former V-8 Supercar champ.
"I don't believe he's one of the best road racers in NASCAR, I don't believe he one of the best in the U.S.," Allmendinger said of Ambrose. "I believe he's one of the best in world."
Ambrose came close again to winning at the Glen, but fell short on Sunday with a runner-up finish. Richard Petty Motorsports tested at the 2.45 mile track a few weeks ago. One RPM car is already in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with Aric Almirola winning at Daytona last month.
"We threw everything we could at it," Ambrose said. "We knew what's at stake and we had a great race car, led a lot of laps, but just come up a little bit short."
The Australian native won Saturday's Zippo 200 and looked to become the first driver to sweep the Watkins Glen weekend. Unofficially, Ambrose moves up to 16th in points, but still has some ground to make up if he wants to make the Chase through points. The No. 9 team will have to win one of these next four races to secure a spot in NASCAR's playoffs.
Along with Allmendinger and Ambrose, pole-sitter Jeff Gordon appeared to have a good car. The four-time Cup champ led the first 29 laps before losing the lead on a cycle of green flag pit stops to Ambrose. Gordon was starting to cut into Ambrose's lead, until both batteries were drained on the No. 24 car. He would return to the track and finish 34th, three laps down.
With Gordon's misfortune, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. unofficially takes over the points lead and is five markers ahead of Gordon. As the points run right now, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer would be the four drivers that make the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"I'm super proud of my team and myself," Larson said of his effort Sunday. "I was extremely down on myself after practice. I was terrible. I was at best maybe a top-30 car. Just worked really hard all day long, tried to stay out trouble in the beginning and hit my marks consistently and we able to get a top-five."
Larson's weekend didn't start off to a great start after having two speeding penalties and a 15th place finish in the Zippo 200. The Sprint Cup rookie improved on Sunday with a fourth-place finish. Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards finished third and fifth respectively to round out the top five.
Today's race was also highlighted by three big wrecks. Rookie Cole Whitt locked up the right-front tire and went straight into the tire barrier in turn one. The scariest wreck on the day was on lap 56, when Ryan Newman made contact with Martin Truex, Jr. and the No. 31 car blocked the track. Michael McDowell had no place to go and tagged Newman and hit the inside opening where the exit of Watkins Glen's "boot." McDowell slammed into the guardrail and NASCAR had to red flag the race for over an hour. A similar accident happened at Watkins Glen in 2009 with Sam Hornish, Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton.
There was hard racing throughout the entire race as drivers tried to gain as much track position as possible. Allmendinger's crew chief, Brian Burns, made the call on lap 47 to bring in the 47 car was timed perfectly as Jeff Gordon stalled on the track to bring out the caution.
"We had the strategy that we went with that was different than the rest of the guys out there," Burns said. "We went with a three-stop deal, had to catch that caution right after the second stop and we did it perfectly. Only had a lap on the tires, so when the caution came out, we did fuel only after watching the Nationwide race yesterday."
Allmendinger becomes the 12th different winner of the 2014 season and is practically guaranteed a berth in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is also eligible to compete for the 2015 Sprint All-Star Challenge.
One other note: Tony Stewart didn't compete today after last night's events that took place at a dirt track in Canandaigua, New York Saturday night. Regan Smith subbed for Stewart.
Cheez-It 355 at the Glen Results
1. #47 A.J. 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 Nemechek
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
Currently, I’m a journalism student in college who enjoys the sport of racing. I've been following NASCAR in-depth since 2001.
Along with my love of racing, I’m also into baseball, football (college & pro), and college basketball.
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