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Allmendinger Wins The Glen, Likely Chase Berth

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 10 2014

AJ Allmendinger became a Sprint Cup winner on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Two of NASCAR’s best road course wheelmen duked it out for both the race victory and a berth in the Chase over the final laps of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at the Watkins Glen International road course.

When the checkered flag finally fell, putting an end to the race and gripping door-to-door action over the final laps, it was with AJ Allmendinger edging away from Marcos Ambrose for the win and the likely berth in the playoffs, which are now just five weeks away.

“Honestly the Chase doesn’t mean anything to me,” Allmendinger, who left The Glen sitting 24th in points and, hence, well within the top-30 cutoff, said. “It’s cool once we sit down and think about it, but just to everything I’ve went through all I’ve wanted to do for the last how many years is win a Sprint Cup race. It’s so hard. Jimmie (Johnson) makes it look too easy he wins so many.”

The victory was the first for Allendinger in 213 Cup starts and also the first for his one-car JTG Daugherty team. The victory margin was 1.1 seconds.

“My gosh, I can’t believe we won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race,” Allmendinger said. “I wasn’t going to let Marcos take that from me. I hope the fans love that race here and at home because it was fun in the race car.”

Ambrose finished second and that likely denied Richard Petty Motorsports a second berth in the playoffs as teammate Aric Almirola had won earlier in the season.

“I was giving it everything I had to rattle his cage,” Ambrose, who led 19 laps, said afterward. “He withstood the pressure and congratulations to him.”

Kurt Busch finished third, rookie Kyle Larson fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.

Jeff Gordon started from the pole and led the first 29 laps.

He lost the lead to Ambrose, who started from the No. 2 spot on the grid, during green flag pit stops.

Gordon moved to second after the pit stops and appeared able to stay with Ambrose until Lap 50 of the 90-lap race. On that lap, Gordon’s car lost power and began to slow. It finally stopped and had to be pushed back to his pit stall by a tow truck.

“The car just lost power,” team-owner Rick Hendrick said. “Everything’s dead. Some connection somewhere. We just don’t know what it is.”

Ambrose led the majority of the field into the pits during the caution brought out by Gordon’s misfortune. He led that group of pitted cars back to the track but the lead shifted to Jimmie Johnson, who led a group of drivers who did not pit.

Behind Johnson on the Lap 55 restart were Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

Ambrose restarted the race eighth.

Shortly after the restart a huge crash involving Michael McDowell and Ryan Newman brought out a red flag but not before several other cars sustained damage while driving through the debris field.

The McDowell and Newman cars were destroyed, as were large sections of the fencing and armco barriers.

“I am not sure what happened,” McDowell said. “I saw the 16 get wide and the 39 come back across the track. I didn’t have time to adjust or move. I tried not to hit Ryan in the door there. That was pretty much it. I was just along for the ride.”

After being released from the infield care center, Newman ripped into track and NASCAR officials for not doing all that should be done at Watkins Glen to protect the drivers.

When the race went back to yellow after 81 minutes of red flag stoppage, Johnson and most others pitted for fuel.

Not pitting was Carl Edwards, who assumed the lead.

Ambrose pitted and restarted eighth.

With 30 laps to go, Allmendinger blew past Edwards for the lead. Behind him Ambrose was making passes and with 25 laps to go, he got past Kurt Busch and into second place. From there, he had 1.7 seconds to make up on Allmendinger, who, like Ambrose, began his career on road courses.

The margin held fairly steady but the bigger worry for Allmendinger, Ambrose and many other drivers was  their fuel supplies.

With 13 laps to go, however, the yellow flag waved when Josh Wise left the track and stalled. That allowed the front-runners in fuel trouble to conserve their supplies and gamble by not pitting.

When the race restarted with nine  laps to go, Allmendinger led, Ambrose was second, Kurt Busch was third, Carl Edwards was fourth and Kevin Harvick was fifth. Allmendinger got a quick jump and was leading when a caution waved again – this time when Johnson was spun in Turn 1.

The race restarted again with five laps remaining.  When it did, Allmendinger and Ambrose went door-to-door for the first several turns before Ambrose broke free and took the lead.

Allmendinger fell in behind, then pulled even on the front stretch. Allmendinger then eased ahead in Turn 1 to take the lead. Just as he did, the yellow flag again waved for a wreck back in the field. The race then went red for the second time to clean up the track.

When the race restarted with two laps to go, Allmendinger again got the advantage on the restart. But Ambrose stayed close, went low and pulled even, banging doors as they headed to the white flag.

Allmendinger was able to break free at the white flag, then break away to a 10-car lead. Ambrose then had nothing left.

“Yeah,” Allmendinger said, “I mean I knew our car was slick on restarts on the tires and I knew Marcos was going to try to move me out of the way if he had the opportunity. To his credit he didn’t wreck me. He just moved me like he should have. I went down into the next corner and leaned on him a little bit to see if I could get a gap and get them racing behind me. I knew if I could just get a three or four car length gap they weren’t going to get back to me. That was just a fun race. Thanks to the fans for enduring two red flags, the track workers for putting the track back together a couple of times. Everybody at home if you didn’t love that you are not a fan of racing.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Cheez-it 355 at The Glen

Watkins Glen International

Watkins Glen, New York

Sunday, August 10, 2014

1. (6) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 90, $214173.

2. (2) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 90, $192745.

3. (5) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 90, $133450.

4. (23) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 90, $142470.

5. (16) Carl Edwards, Ford, 90, $127150.

6. (11) Joey Logano, Ford, 90, $133906.

7. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 90, $128598.

8. (28) Greg Biffle, Ford, 90, $127715.

9. (8) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 90, $130801.

10. (12) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 90, $117865.

11. (7) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 90, $92040.

12. (30) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 90, $98065.

13. (25) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 90, $109448.

14. (14) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 90, $113354.

15. (22) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 90, $104523.

16. (31) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 90, $123451.

17. (15) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 90, $101048.

18. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, 90, $114926.

19. (26) David Ragan, Ford, 90, $97773.

20. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 90, $114340.

21. (43) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 90, $84965.

22. (33) David Gilliland, Ford, 90, $94162.

23. (39) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 90, $76290.

24. (17) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 90, $84015.

25. (34) Boris Said, Ford, 90, $76390.

26. (32) Nelson Piquet Jr., Ford, 90, $72640.

27. (24) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 90, $110406.

28. (3) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 90, $126201.

29. (41) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 89, $74590.

30. (40) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, 89, $81440.

31. (42) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 88, $71790.

32. (20) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 87, $98779.

33. (38) Alex Kennedy, Chevrolet, Accident, 86, $71415.

34. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 86, $129426.

35. (9) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 85, $116548.

36. (36) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 85, $70960.

37. (13) Regan Smith(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 81, $104983.

38. (37) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 78, $65830.

39. (35) Ryan Truex #, Toyota, Suspension, 69, $61830.

40. (19) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 69, $105671.

41. (10) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Accident, 55, $61830.

42. (29) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 55, $49830.

43. (18) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, Accident, 9, $46330.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 90.123 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 26 Mins, 48 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.160 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 17 laps.

Lead Changes: 5 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J. Gordon 1-29; K. Kahne 30-32; M. Ambrose 33-51; J. Johnson 52-57; C. Edwards 58-60; A. Allmendinger 61-90.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): A. Allmendinger 1 time for 30 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 29 laps; M. Ambrose 1 time for 19 laps; J. Johnson 1 time for 6 laps; K. Kahne 1 time for 3 laps; C. Edwards 1 time for 3 laps.

Top 16 in Points: D. Earnhardt Jr. – 773; J. Gordon – 768; M. Kenseth – 703; B. Keselowski – 696; J. Logano – 671; C. Edwards – 658; J. Johnson – 650; K. Harvick – 645; R. Newman – 645; K. Larson # – 635; C. Bowyer – 634; G. Biffle – 626; K. Kahne – 622; A. Dillon # – 616; Kyle Busch – 615; M. Ambrose – 584.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 10 2014
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