Allmendinger Chimes in with First NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Victory at Watkins Glen International
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - A.J. Allmendinger dug in and relied on his finely-tuned road-racing skills during the closing Watkins Glen International laps to earn his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) victory by outdueling Richard Petty Motorsports' wheelman Marcos Ambrose.
Allmendinger's triumph marked JTG Daugherty's first visit to a NSCS Victory Lane and was well-earned after the nine-year series veteran expertly negotiated three caution restarts in the closing 11 laps while out maneuvering the aggressive Ambrose through the challenging 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course.
The No. 47 JTG machine advanced to lead on Lap 61 of 90 ahead of Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards and would lead the remainder of the series' 22nd event this season. Allmendinger warded off Ambrose's final challenge that followed the race's second red-flag delay that started when Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin wrecked his No. 11 car entering pit road.
Ambrose and Allmendinger battled for the last time during the closing two circuits. Allmendinger advanced the No. 47 to the lead through Turn 7. Ambrose nudged his No. 9 ahead at the exit of Turn 9, but the No. 47 used its inside line in Turn 10 to lead the lap and race away to a 1.160 seconds victory.
"I can't believe we won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. I just wanted it so bad for this team. They deserved it. They worked so hard," Allmendinger said following his second top-five and fourth top-10 finish of the season. "I wasn't going to let Marcos take that from me. It was fun in the racecar.
"I just knew, on the restart, if he could get to me, he'd move me out of the way, just like I'd do to him. I wasn't rough. He didn't try to wreck me, he just moved me. I just leaned on him in the next one. I knew if I could get a gap and get them racing behind me, it was game over."
The effort moved Allmendinger to the 12th position on the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup Series grid with four races remaining until the 10-event championship race off begins. He's 24th in the overall standings and the 12th different series winner this season.
Ambrose, who earned his two NSCS victories at Watkins Glen International, will enter Sunday's Michigan International Speedway event sitting 16th in the overall standings and 50 points outside the 16th and final Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup spot after charting his third top-five and fifth top-10 finish of the campaign.
"I can't remember much of it, but I know there was a lot of door banging going on, a lot of corners we went round side by side," Ambrose said of the tense closing moments. "I got my tires really hot during that and I slid coming off Turn 11 after I got the lead and he was able to get it back before the caution dropped. That was probably the difference between winning and losing the race right there.
"If I could have held the lead when the caution came out, I would have probably had the advantage on the restart and been able to fend him off. But that's just racing, it's what it is, what it's all about. You try to land him on a restart, take a couple of chances. I'm pleased we got through the S's side by side without wrecking the whole field because it could have easily happened out there.
"Thrilled for AJ, his first big win. Disappointed for me, though, I've got to tell you. We threw everything we could at it. We knew what was at stake, and we had a great race car, led a lot of laps, just came up a little bit short."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., maintained his hold on the top spot in the series points standings with an 11th-place Watkins Glen International finish. He'll hold a five-point edge on Jeff Gordon when the green flag flies in The Great Lakes State's Irish Hills.
Gordon, who started from the pole position and led the second-most race laps with 29, registered his second-worst finish of the season at 34th when his car lost power on Lap 87.
Racing returns to our speedway Sept. 19-20 with the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 and the ARCA Racing Series (ARS) Zloop 150.
Single-race tickets, ticket specials, weekend packages and campsites can be purchased through the respective pages of this website, by calling (859) 578-2300 or by visiting the Kentucky Speedway ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive in Sparta, Ky., just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 N.
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