AJ Allmendinger emerged from the chaos Sunday in the 2014 Cheez-It 355 at The Glen to seize his first checkered flag of the season, and one that secures his spot in the Sprint Cup Chase.
NASCAR's Twitter account captured the moment:
Fox Sports caught up with the winner in Victory Lane:
To say the triumph is impressive is an understatement, as the ability to overcome the physical and mental hurdles of a wreck on Lap 57 that produced a red flag speaks volumes to his ability:
It was a flag-happy affair overall, but Allmendinger rose to the occasion to fend off Marcos Ambrose, who had dueled with him late down the stretch and lost out on a season-defining win by 1.160 seconds.
Here is a look at the top 10 finishers from Sunday's action:
Full results can be found at NASCAR.com.
Let's take a look below at the updated standings before things head to Michigan as well as other notable results from Sunday's race.
2014 Sprint Cup Series Driver Standings
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||773|
2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Grid
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||773||3||10||15|
Analyzing Notable Finishers
A man who sat 25th in the standings entering Sunday and the owner of just five top-10 finishes on the season, Allmendinger's ability to overcome the field and capitalize on plenty of stoppages bodes well for future showings.
While true that The Glen is a favorable course for his skill set, he had never finished better than fourth at the track.
He had spoken before the race about his desire to land a "defining moment," as noted by John Kekis of The Associated Press:
I don't know if we have had our defining moment yet this year. We have had some good runs. Sonoma I felt like we did everything right to have a chance to win the race and it just wasn't meant to be. I was thrilled with the way the team went into that weekend and everybody had their head down and we did the job.
They now have that defining moment. Allmendinger moves up to sit in spot No. 12 thanks to the triumph and has plenty of momentum to ride into the coming weeks.
Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson
What Kyle Busch did not need Sunday was a poor performance when his grip on a top-10 slot in the Sprint Cup Chase Grid was very much slipping.
What he got was a horrific chain of events that ruined his day in a hurry. He had tire issues, a windshield dilemma and, in one of the day's more entertaining moments, managed to leave his pit stop with a gas can still in his car. Fox Sports noted that rules state the gaffe is subject to punishment:
Shortly after the mishap, Busch was involved in a minor wreck that broke a frame, sending him to the garage. USA Today's Jeff Gluck put it best:
The ramifications as far as the standings go are obvious. Busch must find a way to put two consecutive horrific finishes (42nd at Pocono last week) behind him if he is to fight his way back up and make a go at the Chase.
Things seem just as dire for one Jimmie Johnson, even if he is near the top of the standings. He entered Sunday having placed 42nd or worse in two of his last four starts and did not fare much better thanks to similar bad luck.
Johnson was banged up like much of the field and even had the lead at one point around the time of the major crash, but it was all downhill from there after the restart:
While he was able to use additional flags late to get work done during pit stops, Johnson still wound up in 28th and once again searching for answers rather than feeling confident as things hit a critical stretch of the season.
Sunday had the look of something special for Jeff Gordon before a rather strange occurrence knocked him from first place.
Remember, Gordon entered with a first-place finish at The Brickyard 400 just three races ago and a top-10 finish just a week back in Pocono after he led 63 laps. The winner of the pole this week, Gordon was in the lead for a chunk of time and was sure to duel Johnson right down to the checkered flag, but then it happened.
"It" was something he and his crew were unable to decipher. Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network illustrates the moment:
“We can’t find it, the car just lost power,” team owner Rick Hendrick said to ESPN, per Chris Estrada of MotorSportsTalk. “Everything’s dead. We put the batteries in it, but it’s lost power. Some connection, somewhere. We just don’t know where it is.”
Gordon did enter the fray again later, but his chance had expired by that point, and he wound up in 34th.
As the rest of Sunday's field must do, Gordon must now wipe the slate clean and focus on the impending Pure Michigan 400, which is 200 laps of entertainment that has provided quality action since 1969.
The storylines there abound. Joey Logano, who finished sixth Sunday and could use the help on the leaderboard, won the event last year. One Kyle Busch is not too far removed from his triumph, winning the event in 2011.
As the schedule continues to wind down and naturally sort out the Chase itself, the event in Michigan could not be more important. Like Sunday's wild ride, it is not one to miss.
2014 NASCAR Schedule After Cheez-It 355
|Sunday, August 17||1 p.m. ET||Pure Michigan 400||ESPN|
|Saturday, August 23||7:30 p.m. ET||Irwin Tools Night Race||ESPN|
|Sunday, August 31||7:30 p.m. ET||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series August Atlanta Race||ESPN|
|Saturday, September 6||7:30 p.m. ET||Federated Auto Parts 400||ABC|
|Sunday, September 14||2 p.m. ET||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series September Chicagoland Race||ESPN|
|Sunday, September 21||2 p.m. ET||Sylvania 300||ESPN|
|Sunday, September 28||2 p.m. ET||AAA 400||ESPN|
|Sunday, October 5||2 p.m. ET||Hollywood Casino 400||ESPN|
|Saturday, October 11||7:30 p.m. ET||Bank of America 500||ABC|
|Sunday, October 19||2 p.m. ET||Geico 500||ESPN|
|Sunday, October 26||1:30 p.m. ET||Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500||ESPN|
|Sunday, November 2||3 p.m. ET||AAA Texas 500||ESPN|
|Sunday, November 9||3 p.m. ET||Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500||ESPN|
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