SPEEDWAY, Ind. — In a race marred by issues with the racecourse in the closing laps, AJ Allmendinger likely scored the biggest win of his life on Sunday in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.
Allmendinger had finished second the day before in the Xfinity Series race to Austin Cindric.
“I was so mad yesterday,” Allmendinger said. “This is unbelievable. In all my dreams I never expected this is how it would play out. We had to fight hard. I just won at Indy!.”
The race, scheduled for 82 laps around the IMS road course, had a clean start with Tyler Reddick winning both of the first two stages after the leaders pitted for tires and track position for later in the race.
Throughout the race, issues started to develop with the curbing in Turn-Six of the road course. During cautions that happened during the race, track crews were working each time on repairing the curbing.
The issues came to a head on a restart with five laps to go in the race, when Martin Truex, Jr went over the curbing and damaged his car. NASCAR did not call a caution at that juncture. On the next lap, several cars went over the curbing and utter chaos ensued with several cars wrecking.
The race would drag on and endure two red flags periods and 16 extra laps under caution, all while track repairs took place which included the curbing being removed altogether and even IMS President Doug Boles helping sweep debris off the race track.
“It was survival of the fittest,” Allmendinger said. “Those restarts were insane. The great thing is Matt Kaulig (his car owner) just said to ‘go get it’!”
On the final restart, Denny Hamlin, battling for the points lead in the regular-season championship, was in the lead. Chase Briscoe was running second and was pushed off the course into Turn 1. He ended up cutting the corner to rejoin the race, which resulted in a penalty.
That penalty unbeknownst to Briscoe, he fought hard for the lead and ended up spinning Hamlin out coming to the white flag.
“The 14 cut the track and took the lead for a second there,” Hamlin said. “I mean, it’s just a lack of situational awareness. You’re obviously going to have a penalty if you cut the race track.”
“I didn’t even know we had a penalty until we got to turn ten,” Briscoe said. “I get why (Hamlin) is upset, but Denny’s been in my situation. I’m sorry it ruined his day but I didn’t know I had a penalty. If I had known I never would have tried to make that pass.”
The altercation opened the door for Allmendinger who was running in third at the time. He took the white flag in the lead and led the final lap to win the race.
The win is Allmendinger’s second Cup Series win, his last coming at the Watkin’s Glen road course in 2014.