After yet another wild run at Watkins Glen International that featured a red flag that lasted over an hour, it was AJ Allmendinger and the No. 47 team that stole the show and the victory at the 2014 NASCAR Cheez-it 355 at The Glen.
CHECKERED FLAG! AJ Allmendinger wins the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, his 1st win at WGI, 1st career win in 213 NSCS starts.— NASCAR Stats (@NASCARStats) August 10, 2014
With only four remaining races until the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Sunday’s win locked up Allmendinger's spot in the championship hunt. This was also Allmendinger's first career Sprint Cup Series win. Bob Pockrass of Sporting News was among many to acknowledge that the 32-year-old earned it.
Great run by Allmendinger. He took everything Ambrose had and beat him. First Cup win and in the Chase. #nascar— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) August 10, 2014
"We won a Sprint Cup race. We won a Sprint Cup race," says AJ, sounding a lot like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life."— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) August 10, 2014
Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 car finished second, and Kurt Busch finished third. Kyle Larson and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. Meanwhile, notables like Dale Earnhardt Jr. (11th) and Danica Patrick (21st) failed to crack the top 10.
|11||Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
|13||Martin Truex Jr.|
|20||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|26||Nelson Piquet Jr.|
Perennial road-course contender Jeff Gordon started the race on the pole and led the first 10 laps before the caution flag flew. Cole Whitt and his No. 26 smashed into the tire barrier and forced the cars back into a double-file restart.
The field ran several green-flag laps without incident, but teams began employing pit strategy shortly after by bringing drivers in early. After a complete round of green-flag pit stops, it was Ambrose who overtook Gordon on Lap 33.
On Lap 42, Brad Keselowski reported issues with the brakes in the No. 2 car. He is always a threat to win at Watkins Glen, but he was forced into the garage later in the race to make changes to the car. He finished 35th.
Keselowski used his mid-race down time to tweet:
The second caution of the day came out when Gordon, who was running second at the time, suffered a complete power failure. Car owner Rick Hendrick stated on the ESPN broadcast that it was a battery connection problem that the team went on to diagnose and correct.
Jeff Gordon went into this race leading by 17 points and picked up a bunch more by leading laps,shame what happened to his car.— Charlie Daniels (@CharlieDaniels) August 10, 2014
It wasn’t long after the next restart that the biggest accident of the day took place. Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman made contact coming out of Turn 7, which directed the Newman's No. 31 car into the wall and back into traffic. Michael McDowell tried to avoid the wreck, but he was struck in the rear and sent into the wall hard.
The huge crash brought out the red flag.
The race went back to green with 32 laps remaining, and Allmendinger and the No. 47 car took the lead. Ambrose was stuck in traffic during the restart, but he looked like the strongest car in almost every corner.
Lap 78 brought out the caution flag once again when Josh Wise crashed into the grass, and the restart brought Allmendinger and Ambrose back together. Immediately after the race restarted, Jimmie Johnson was spun and the yellow flew again.
With just six laps remaining, Ambrose made a pass to take the lead, but Allmendinger regained first place as the red flag flew once again for two separate crashes involving Denny Hamlin and Alex Kennedy.
When the green flag fell, Allmendinger was the winner.
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||773|
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' next stop sends drivers and their teams to Michigan International Speedway next week for the Pure Michigan 400. The race will take place Sunday, Aug. 17, at 1 p.m. ET and be televised on ESPN.
Is AJ Allmendinger a serious championship contender?
Jimmie Johnson won the first Michigan race of 2014, and Joey Logano won the 2013 Pure Michigan 400. Each of these elite drivers should be considered favorites heading into next Sunday’s 400-mile battle.
While Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t been consistent at Michigan, he has found success when he finishes the race. After breaking his 143-race winless streak with a victory at Michigan in 2012, Junior has found his rhythm at the track.
With precious few races remaining before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup officially begins, teams are already shifting their attention from the road course at Watkins Glen to the two-mile oval in Michigan.
*Stats via NASCAR.com.